10 Things to Know About Bottlefeeding

Everything new moms need to know about bottlefeeding your baby.

  • Linda Farwell

    Bottlefeeding = bonding

    Let go of any guilt you feel over not breastfeeding. All that skin-to-skin contact -- and those goo-goo-ga-ga sounds you coo at baby -- will bring the two of you closer.

  • iStockphoto

    If baby's crying, she needs to calm down before eating.

    Tears often mean she's been hungry for a while. It's better to feed baby before the waterworks start, so look for hunger cues. These include flailing arms and legs, or making an expression that looks like rooting -- she'll open her mouth as if she's searching for something.

  • Juice Images/Veer

    Choose a quiet space.

    Since a baby gets all his nutrients from milk, mealtime is vitally important. And a light-on-the-noise feeding makes it easier for baby to concentrate on eating. Of course, that's not to say you can't give him a bottle at the mall or in a crowded waiting room. But at home, turn off the TV and don't answer the phone.

  • Linda Farwell

    Burp baby. A lot.

    If she's spitting up, it's usually not an allergic reaction but because she's swallowed too much air, says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, a professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Each time she's drunk about 2 ounces, help her get the air out -- this should keep her from spitting up. (It can also cut down on the gas that comes out the other end.) Positions to try while patting her back: over-the-shoulder, tummy down, or sitting on your lap. Or try this trick from Lisa Shenton, of Farmington Hills, Missouri: "We sat our son upright, then used one hand to support his chin and belly and the other hand to rub up and down his back. Babies tend to straighten their backs and let the burp out. It worked for our preemie, our 7-pounder, and our 9-pounder!"

  • Linda Farwell

    Baby will stop feeding when full.

    Your child knows when he's had enough. "There's an expectation that a baby should empty the bottle, but he may not need to, in fact," says James Keating, MD, director of diagnostic medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital. If your baby stops feeding, don't force him to eat more. "Pulling away from the bottle is a red flag that he's done or needs to burp," says Sarah Kreiger, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "Always try burping first. If the baby doesn't want to feed after that, he's had enough." A lot of childhood weight problems start early on because of overfeeding, so letting your baby decide when and how much he wants to eat is the best way to keep his weight in check from the beginning.

  • Bryan McCay

    Measure!

    Mixing the wrong ratio of formula and water can have very big nutrition and weight consequences. Follow the directions on the label exactly, and use fluoride-free water when possible (too much of the mineral can discolor teeth). Also prepare what you need only when you need it -- mixed formula that sits around, even in the fridge, can be unsanitary. If baby wakes you up to eat, try this tip from New York City mom Michele Bender: "I'd measure the formula and keep the powder, water, and bottle on my night table. I could mix it right there rather than having to go to the kitchen. It sounds minor, but at 3 a.m., one less step is great."

  • Linda Farwell

    Enforce this rule: No bottles in the crib.

    Even if her teeth haven't started growing in, putting baby to bed with formula or juice can lead to dental decay and more potential problems that go on and on. Preventing this is easy. Just make feeding the first part of baby's bedtime routine. If your child needs help falling asleep, give her a paci or lovey.

  • Store Breast Milk Safely
    Store Breast Milk Safely
  • Bryan McCay

    Don't microwave.

    If you give baby a cold or room-temp bottle from the get-go, she may prefer that. But if you know she likes warm bottles, you can run one under warm tap water for a few minutes, place a bottle in a pan of hot water (but first remove the pot from the stove), or try a bottle warmer. Don't use the microwave; it might create hot spots that can burn baby's mouth.

  • Linda Farwell

    You can be a combo mom.

    Lots of moms breastfeed and bottlefeed, or pump breast milk for once-in-a-while use in a bottle. However, know that your milk production will decrease. "I breastfed my son Max until he was 15 months, but he had bottles every now and then," says Amy Collins, who lives in Elmira Heights, New York. "When we got a sitter, I used formula to make things easier."

  • Linda Farwell

    If Mom nurses, let Dad help.

    Sharing feedings gives both of you the chance to bond with baby and also to have some alone time. "I'm a breastfeeding mommy, but sometimes I need a break, even if it's for 10 minutes to take a shower," says Nicole Vieu, of Chicopee, Massachusetts. "My husband will feed our 3-month-old son so I can have that time and keep my sanity." Katie Neitz, of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, adds: "I have so much more freedom since I'm not the only food source. Sam's dad can feed him, and when other friends and relatives are over, they can feed him too."

    Originally published in American Baby magazine.