The “breast is best” pendulum has swung so far in favor of breast feeding infants that parents who choose to (or have no choice but to) bottle feed their babies feel stigma and guilt. Although just a half century ago, bottle-feeding was the norm in the United States, times and trends have changed and breast feeding is the accepted “best practice” for infant feeding. Still, according to physicians, bottle feeding is a healthy and satisfactory choice, and a reasonable substitute for breast feeding. In other words, bottle fed babies are healthy and develop just fine. Here are some bottle feeding tips on how to feed our baby and shake the bottle-feeding guilt!
It is important to know that infant formulas on the market are regulated in terms of their content. They are manufactured to resemble human breast milk as closely as possible. So, there is not significant difference in the constitution of different brands of formula. What a parent will find is that formula is available in cow-based or soy-based. Most physicians recommend trying the cow-based formula first. Then, if a reaction or allergy develops, try a soy-based formula. Check with your physician or pediatrician for suggestions. He or she may have suggestions based on your genetic history, or updated information on products available.
Formula is available in powder, liquid concentrate and ready-made packages. The powder is the least expensive and must be mixed with water. The liquid concentrate is more expensive and must also be mixed with water to make it consumable. The ready-made cans or “bottles” are the most expensive and can be served to the baby “as is.” These are great for travel and visits. Be sure to read the expiration dates on formula cans as they do have a finite shelf-life. This is especially important for parents who like to “stock up” to save even more money. Make sure you’ll be able to use the formula before it expires.
Once formula has been prepared, it can be stored for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Some parents prefer to make up a day’s supply of formula so it is ready – either in individual bottles, or in a sterilized container in the refrigerator. Bottles can also be made up one at a time. A parent can even measure out the exact amount of powder into bottles and add water later – this is also handy for families on the go. As a rule, your baby will be consuming about 2 1/2 ounces of formula per pound of weight during a 24 hour period. A ten-pound infant will be eating approximately 25 ounces of formula each day.
Although sterilization was once a major chore for new parents, the latest theory is that after initially sterilizing newly-purchased bottles, nipples and covers – washing and sterilizing in a hot dishwasher is just fine. You can purchase a handle little basket that fits in a dishwasher and holds nipples, rings, covers and other small items so everything can be washed with ease. You will still want to rinse bottles after use and a bottle brush is an essential cleaning tool.
There are many choices available to parents regarding bottles and nipples. A trip to your local department store or baby supply store will be an educational experience. Some parents find their babies are not the slightest bit picky and will take formula from any source – but many parents need to do some experimenting to find the feeding system that is the best fit for their particular child.
The actual feeding-time experience can be quite similar to breast feeding – except that others (father, siblings, grandparents) can be involved in the wonderful, bonding that can occur during a feeding. Set aside time to relax, focus and enjoy feeding the baby. A comfortable feeding position or special chair are a big help. Hold the baby close (skin-to-skin contact is known to improve bonding), support the baby’s head and hold in an upright position, and tilt the bottle so that the baby can feed without sucking in air. If the baby sucks so as to create a vacuum in the bottle (the nipple will flatten and baby won’t be getting any formula), gently move the nipple in the baby’s mouth to release the vacuum.
Take time to burp the baby during a feeding and never prop a bottle or leave a baby alone during feeding. This can cause choking.
Bottle-fed babies tend to feed less often than breast fed babies, but this is by no means a rule. Each infant is an individual and just when you think you’ve gotten into a routine, things are likely to change with a growth spurt or developmental change. Like breast-feeding, it is best to feed “on demand” and let your baby tell you when he or she is hungry and ready for a feeding.
As you develop confidence in your bottle-feeding choice, you will feel less susceptible to the comments of strangers and family members who believe breast is best. Most bottle-feeding parents develop some “pat answers” for comments, such as “We all enjoy feeding the baby,” or “Bottle feeding works really well for our family.” You probably won’t want to get into philosophical debates about the merits of breast vs. bottle. After all, the focus is on your growing, thriving, healthy baby!