We all know that breast is best, but really, it’s fed that’s best. Statistics from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey shows that, while 96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, less than half (39%) of babies are still being exclusively breastfed at 3 months. By 5 months, its less than a quarter (15%. (less than 4 months) and less than one quarter (15%) to 5 months. These statistics show that most mothers are transitioning their babies to a bottle at some stage, whether it’s due to personal choices or circumstances. However, zero information on bottle feeding is provided to new mums, so here’s what you need, and what you need to know about bottle feeding.
I was paid by Philips for this post but all opinions in this article are my own. If you are seeking guidance please see a doctor or GP, etc.
What you need for Bottle Feeding
It’s important to find the best baby bottles for your baby. If your baby has been breastfed at any time, then you’ll find it easier to transition your baby onto natural shaped bottle teats. These teats will usually be labeled ‘best for breastfeeding’ or something along that line. They will mimic the shape of a breast and the milk will flow when they use a breastfeeding style latch. If you are combination feeding and want to avoid ‘nipple confusion’ where the baby struggles to feed, then this is what you need to look for. You may find that you need to try a few types of teats to find the right one for your baby.
If your baby is going straight to the bottle, then it’s less necessary to have a breast-shaped teat. You are fine to go straight to the classic style teats. Once again though, you might find your baby has a preference for a specific teat and won’t take another. Or they might feed from any teat given to them. Every baby is different, every mother is different, and every feeding journey is different.
You’ll also want a lot of bottles. I’d say at least 8-10. New babies are going through six a day, so you’ll be washing a lot! You want at least a day’s worth, plus a few extra.
If you are bottle feeding you will need a baby bottle steriliser. While newer research says that you don’t need to sterilise anymore and can just use hot, soapy water, most mothers still choose to sterilise for young babies. Sure, once your baby is crawling around licking the floor then there isn’t much point, but in those first few months, we want everything as clean as it can be. The two most popular steriliser types are the electric steriliser and the microwave steriliser. They both use heat and steam to kill the germs. Yes, you can also sterilise in a saucepan, but be aware you may melt the bottles if you aren’t watching. I’ve done it myself!
Your baby will need their bottle warm. If you are heating breastmilk, then you want to warm it to about 37 degrees Celsius – body temp. Formula is around the same. It should feel warm when you squeeze it on to your skin, but not hot. You can stand a bottle in hot water for around 15 minutes but be careful it doesn’t get too hot. The benefit of a bottle warmer is it can defrost breastmilk and also warm your bottle to perfect in three minutes, which is a lot quicker when you have a screaming baby!
What you need to know about bottle feeding
So, you have all the equipment but what are you supposed to do? Well, the most important thing to know is that there is a big difference between bottle feeding a baby breastmilk compared to formula.
Bottle feeding breastmilk
Breastmilk can be frozen and then thawed, heated and fed to baby. However, once it has been thawed and heated you will need to throw it out after four hours. It cannot be reheated. If you haven’t heated it, it can be left at room temp for four hours. It can last four days in the fridge and six months in the freezer.
A breastfed baby can’t be overfed. If your baby wants 12 bottles a day, they can have it. Breast milk varies in thickness and nutrients throughout the day, so you may find that baby gets fuller on breastmilk expressed in the morning than the milk expressed in the afternoon or evening. If it is hot, then breastmilk naturally thins to contain more water for hydration. So, your baby can have as much breastmilk as it wants, straight from you or from a bottle. Oh, and never, ever add anything to the milk. Don’t water it down, it doesn’t need it. Your baby will not dehydrate drinking breastmilk.
Bottle feeding Formula
If you are formula feeding then there are some guidelines that need to be followed. Formula is a consistent meal – the same every bottle. It is made up of the same amount of water and formula every feed and you can overfeed a formula fed baby. The basic rule is that your baby will need 150ml to 200ml of formula per kg of their body weight, every day. So, if your baby weighs 3kg, they will need between 450ml and 600ml of formula over a 24-hour period. When your baby is aged 3-6 months, she needs around 120 ml of formula per kilogram of body weight. So, a five-month-old baby who weighs 7 kg might have 840 ml of formula a day. When your baby is aged 6-12 months, he needs around 90-100 ml of formula per kilogram of body weight. Your baby can also start eating solid food between 4-6 months.
One of the key differences between formula and breastfeeding is that you can’t soothe a crying baby using a bottle of formula every time. They can be overfed, and this can cause excess weight gain, poor sleeping, constipation and tummy pain. So you’ll need some other soothing tricks.
Formula must be mixed with cool boiled water and then heated. Don’t warm it in the microwave. It’s also essential not to mess with the formula/ water ratio on the side of the tin. You can’t water formula down or your baby will not get enough nutrition. If you are unsure how to make up your bottles, read the chart on the side of your formula tin. It will explain everything.
How to choose the right formula
If you are formula feeding it can be hard to even know where to start with formula brands. You are best to start off with a basic cow’s milk formula (you can go organic if you like) and see how baby takes it. Most babies have no problem with this, but some may need to be transitioned to soy or goats milk formula if they prove to be lactose intolerant. Some babies also suffer from reflux, this may mean your baby needs a special prescription formula.
If your baby seems unsettled after feeding or shows any unusual symptoms then it’s important to take them to see their doctor immediately.
Good luck with your feeding journey!