Whether you’re formula feeding, pumping breastmilk for when Baby is in childcare, or allowing your partner to get a chance to bond with Baby during feeding time, bottle feeding is a safe and positive feeding option. These tips will make bottle feeding as intuitive and comfortable as possible.
- Respond to your baby’s needs
Even if it feels like all Baby does is eat, when they seem hungry, it’s probably time for their next meal. Some parents choose to follow a strict feeding schedule, while others prefer to be more guided by their child’s hunger cues, but no matter the style of feeding you choose, make sure Baby is getting enough to eat. Babies have little tiny bellies — their stomachs are the size of cherries when they’re a few days old, an apricot when they’re a week old, and still only about the size of an egg between one and two months old. This means any feeding routine is bound to include lots of little feeding times, at least for a while. Pay attention to your newborn’s reactions — if they stop drinking after a couple of minutes they might be gassy! Make sure to burp them often to bring up those bubbles and relieve Baby‘s discomfort during feeds.
- Use the right tools for the job
There are three different grades of nipples, based on the size of the holes in the nipples, which determines the speed at which the milk comes out. When Baby is in their first few weeks, the slowest-flow nipples will probably work best for them. These are often, but not always, the size that bottles come with, though bottles often come with a range of nipple sizes. If your little one is particularly gassy, there are also bottles specifically designed to try to keep them from ingesting too much air.
- Make sure your baby has a good latch
Much like with breastfeeding, it’s important that your little one is well latched onto the nipple of their bottle, but sometimes it can be difficult to tell whether or not Baby is feeding correctly. If you hear noisy sucking, just like with breastfeeding, it may mean that they’re taking in too much air. And if your baby can’t do more than bite the tip of the nipple or gags when the entire nipple enters their mouth, then it might be time to try a different nipple shape.
- Cradle your baby
Whenever you are feeding your little one, placement and support are key. Bottle feeding also gives parents a wider variety of positions to choose from. You can place them on your upright knees facing you, or more traditionally hold their head in the crook of your arm. Each of these positions allows the feeder to bond with Baby using eye contact. Most importantly, feeding your baby when they are lying down can cause the formula to flow into their ears and cause an infection, which is why feeding your baby when they’re upright or have their head tilted up, is generally the way to go.
- Switch it up
Although bottle feeding is certainly different from breastfeeding, mimicking some of the movements from the latter is often a good idea. Switching sides midway through a feed allows for your little one to experience different positions and stimulates eye development. It also allows for better connection between the feeder and child and prevents Baby from developing a side preference, which could negatively impact a mother whose child is using a combination of breast- and bottle-feeding when they switch back to the breast.
- Don’t push it
Make sure to allow your baby to take the nipple into their own mouth rather than forcing it in. As much as you might want to be in control, Baby should take the lead when it comes to mealtime. Allowing your little one to pace the feed and take breaks is great. (If you plan to go back and forth from breastfeeding to bottle feeding, mimicking the slower pace of breastfeeding can be especially helpful.) There are, however, little tricks you can use to encourage them to feed, such as stroking their tiny lips to prompt a rooting response, allowing them to latch onto your nipple. And remember — you should generally stop feeding as soon as your little one starts dozing off or squirming away from the bottle, although if they have just started to feed, it’s not a bad idea to offer the bottle just one more time, since they could also have just been startled away from feeding by something external, like a noise or change in lighting.
- Timing is everything
Warnings about “nipple confusion” and what will happen if a newborn is fed with a combination of breast and bottle are often not based in reality. However, if you’re hoping to feed Baby with a combination of breast and bottle feeding, it can be a good idea to wait 2 to 4 weeks to introduce the bottle or until you both feel comfortable breastfeeding. This way, your milk supply is fully established. On the other hand, parents who wait longer than a month and a half or so to introduce the bottle can have a harder time convincing their babies to give the bottle a try.
Bottle feedings is a great option for so many families. We hope these tips help make bottle feeding go that much more smoothly for yours!
- Sue Iwinski. “Feeding On Cue.” La Leche League International. La Leche League International, October 1 2008. Web.
- Lisa Marasco. “How to Get Your Milk Supply Off To A Good Start.” La Leche League International, March 26 2013. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Feeding your newborn: Tips for new parents.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, April 17 2015. Web.
- E. Zimmerman, K. Thompson. “Clarifying nipple confusion.” Journal of Perinatology. 35(11): 895-9. Web. November 2015.