Formula-Feeding Basics

Feeding time is a wonderful time for you and your baby to bond. If you’re using formula, other people in your baby’s life can share this special experience too. If you’re like a lot of mothers, though, you have many questions about feeding your baby.

Which Formula Is Best?

Babies younger than a year are not ready to drink regular cow’s milk. Baby formula is specially made to meet their nutritional needs. Unless your baby has an allergy, an iron-fortified formula made from cow’s milk is best. It has been prepared to resemble breast milk and is easier for babies to digest. The added iron helps ensure normal growth and development.

Formulas come in three forms. Which one you choose depends on your budget and lifestyle.

  • Ready-to-use formula is the most convenient—and the most expensive. Open the can and pour the formula into a bottle. This can be great for certain circumstances, such as when you’re traveling.

  • Concentrated liquid is less expensive than ready-to-use formula. Mix the liquid with an equal amount of water.

  • Powder formulas are the least expensive option. Mix one level scoop of powder with two ounces of water and mix well.

How Do I Prepare the Formula?

Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before making bottles. When you mix the formula, follow the package directions exactly. Measure carefully and never add more or less water than instructed, which can cause diarrhea or constipation.

There’s no need to warm formula. If your baby seems to prefer it warm, put the bottle in warm water for a few minutes. Check the temperature before feeding. Never heat the bottle in a microwave. This can cause hot spots that can burn your baby.

What Other Equipment Do I Need?

Besides formula, you need bottles and nipples. Avoid clear plastic bottles or those that have the recycling number 7 and the letters PC imprinted on them. These may contain BPA, a chemical that may be harmful. Instead, use bottles made of opaque plastic, which does not contain BPA, or the recycling number 2 or 5. You may want to use bottles labeled as BPA-free.

Sterilize bottles and nipples before their first use by boiling them in water for five minutes. After each feeding, wash bottles, nipples, and caps in hot, soapy water. You can also put them in the dishwasher.

How Often Should I Feed My Baby?

Each baby is different. With time you will understand your own baby’s needs. Most are satisfied with 3 to 4 ounces of formula every three to four hours during the first month. Increase that by about 1 ounce per month until your baby is eating 7 to 8 ounces about four or five times a day. If your baby always wants more or less than this, talk with your doctor. Most babies shouldn’t have more than 32 ounces in 24 hours.

When feeding your baby, hold the bottle so the formula fills the neck and covers the nipple. This will keep your baby from swallowing air. Above all else, though, just get comfortable, relax, and enjoy this special time.

Online Medical Reviewer: DeRosiers, Florence MD

Date Last Reviewed: 4/6/2010

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