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How to bottle feed a baby

No matter if it’s using formula, doing a bit of both or bottle feeding expressed breast milk, it’s important now how to bottle feed a newborn baby properly. As a new parent, this can seem like a challenge but we have everything to make you feel more comfortable and at ease about it. It's not just the mother who should learn how to bottle feed. It's important that partners and other family members also get involved

Newborn bottle feeding & formula

If you start using bottles right from the start of your baby’s life, they should adjust to it very quickly. This comes naturally to the majority of newborns and should be quite an easy process. It can become a little bit more challenging for parents who decide they’d like to breast feed and bottle feed as your baby can take a little longer to adjust. However, it’s important to not give up, your baby will work this out eventually.

Newborn babies tend to only drink very small amounts in their early stages of development. As they get bigger, they will require more milk to keep up with their development. Bottle feeding is a good way of seeing how much your baby is consuming.

how to bottle feed a baby

When to introduce a bottle to your newborn baby

If you decide to only bottle feed your baby throughout their development, you should get them used to a bottle right away. This can begin from birth and will allow your baby to adjust quickly.

If you decide to breastfeed your newborn baby, it’s also important to introduce them to a bottle too. This is because you might not be in the position all of the time to breastfeed your baby so they will need to drink your expressed break milk from a bottle. When you have your baby, you should focus on just breastfeeding for around 3 weeks. This is to get your baby used to doing this before introducing any other ways. 

If you introduce a bottle too soon, it can interfere with the progress of breastfeeding and it may cause your baby to feel confused. However, if you leave it too long before you introduce a bottle, your baby will get too used of the breast and will struggle to feed with a bottle.

Timing is key, it’s important that you don’t leave it too long or change up the routine too much in the early stages. Make sure you also use the same formula for your baby. Your baby will get used to what they're drinking and changing the formula can complicate things.

How do I know if my newborn baby is hungry for milk?

It’s some parents worst fear. How will you know when your baby needs feeding and how do you know they’re satisfied? There are signs you can look out for that will tell you if your baby is getting hungry. You shouldn’t wait for your baby to cry to be fed as these two actions can start to be associated with each other. We’ve listed a few ways you can tell if your baby needs feeding:

  • Rubbing or pushing up against your breasts
  • Sucking on fingers 
  • Sticking their tongue out – this can be because they are sucking on their tongue
  • Making noises with their lips
how to bottle feed a baby

How to bottle feed a newborn baby

We’ve told you how you’ll know when your baby is hungry and how quickly you should introduce a bottle to them, but now you need to know how you actually feed them. It’s not a silly question, if you’ve never done it before then how would you know what to do? It may look simple when you see others do it but all babies are different.

Some will easily take to a bottle right away but others can take a little longer to grasp onto it. This is normal and doesn't mean your bottle feeding technique is wrong. We’ve got some great tips for you to follow.

Bottle feeds: Do…

  • DO stroke your baby’s cheek to encourage them to root.

Familiarise your baby with certain actions that will tell them they are about to be fed. A good one to try is stroking their cheek with your finger or the top of the bottle. This will encourage them to turn their head in the direction of the stroke and grasp onto the bottle. If your baby doesn’t turn her or his head, trying putting a drop of milk on their lips to let them know what time it is.

  • DO hold the bottle correctly.

When you feed your baby, you need to make sure you tilt the bottle enough so the whole nipple is filled with milk. If you allow gaps of air to fill the nipple, your baby can start swallowing this air and make them extremely gassy. This isn’t any fun for babies or parents as it makes the baby feel incredibly uncomfortable. 

There are angled bottles available to help you avoid this problem with air bubbles inside the milk. However, another good way of avoiding it is to keep your baby properly propped up during feeding instead of laying down. This will allow you to see the bottle more clearly and to identify if ther are any air bubbles in the nipple.

  • DO check to see when your baby has had enough.

The last thing you want to do is overfeed your baby, this can make them feel uncomfortable and will ruin the bottle feeding routine for the rest of the day and night. If your baby goes to sleep straight away after a feed, it is a sign that they have had enough.

However, if they begin turning away from the bottle, it may be a sign that they need to be burped. If you are successful in doing this but your baby still turns away from the bottle, it probably means they are full. Do not try and feed your baby when they do not want it, this will only make them restless.

  • DO check that you’re using the correct bottle.

As we’ve said before, all babies are different and require different things. Not all babies will work with the same bottles. If you notice that you baby is spluttering during feeding or it’s coming out the sides of their mouth, it probably means the milk is flowing way too fast for them to drink. However, if your baby looks like they are working hard to feed, it might mean the milk is too restricted and hard to get out. You can adjust the tightness of the bottle cap to try and help these problems but you may need to buy a new bottle nipple altogether.

  • DO make the most of the experience.

Your newborn baby will not bottle feed forever and it’s a great way to bond with them in their early stages of development. Make the most of this time with your baby as it can improve the quality of bonding and relationship that you both have.

This doesn’t just apply to the mother of the baby. It’s important that the whole family gets involved with bottle feeding to allow the baby to make bonds with everyone.

how to bottle feed a baby

Bottle feeds: Don’t…

  • DON’T heat bottles in the microwave.

Lots of parents do this and for the majority of the time, it works just fine. However, it can come with risks. Using a microwave can heat the bottle unevenly and can mean that some parts will be extremely hot and others very cold. This means that you rick burning your baby’s mouth which can be extremely uncomfortable. 

Instead, heat your baby’s bottle by placing it in hot water for a few minutes. This will allow the milk inside to heat evenly. It also allows you to control the heat a little bit more. If you prefer your babies’ bottles to be a little bit cooler, just add some cold water into the sink. 

You can test the temperature of your baby’s milk before you give it to them. One common way of doing this is to squirt a few drops on your wrist to see whether it’s too hot. If so, run the bottle under some cold water. You want the milk to be lukewarm and ready to drink.

  • DON’T put a bottle in your baby’s cot.

This can pose many risks to your baby. If your child is old enough to hold their own bottle, allow them to do so sitting up and out of the cot or bed. By giving your child a bottle in their bed, it increases the risk of choking. 

  • DON’T ignore formula instructions.

There is a reason that your baby should only have so much formula in one bottle. If you choose to put more or less in that it says to do so, it could put your baby’s health at risk. This also applies to the amount of water you add to the formula. It needs to be watered down enough to hydrate your baby but not too much to pose risks. 

How much milk should my newborn baby have?

Your baby will start out slow at the beginning of feeding. This is because they won’t require a lot of food during feeds to help their development. They will start with consuming around 1 or 2 ounces per feeding and will gradually build this up over time. 

Remember to still only give your baby how much she or he wants during their development. If they haven’t finished their bottle but are turning their head away, they might be full already. Overfeeding can cause problems for your little one.

A common rule that some parents go by is to take your baby’s weight and multiply it by 2.5. This will give you the number of ounces your baby should consume over 24 hours. However, if you’re still unsure about this, contact a paediatrician for their advice.

We hope that our tips have made you more comfortable when it comes to bottle feeding your little one. It’s important to have patience during this time and to remember that some babies can take a little longer to get the hang of it. If you ever have any concerns about your baby and feeding, you should contact a paediatrician to get their advice on what to do next. Don't forge to check out other blogs on feeding. A great one to take a look at is 'Should I wake my baby to feed?'.

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