Bottle Feeding Your Newborn – Facts and Advice
Most experts on newborn babies strongly advocate that “breast is best”. But there are a number of reasons that you might choose to bottle feed your newborn baby. And sometimes the decision is made for you by medical conditions or an insufficiency in your breast milk. There should be no shame in bottle feeding Baby – you’re doing your very best as a new mother and it’s not up to anyone to judge you.
Plus, advances in modern baby formulas mean that it offers almost all of the same benefits as breast milk. This article deals with a number of different facets of bottle feeding including the possible reasons for choosing to bottle feed and some of the myths around breast vs. bottle feeding. We also give practical advice on bottle feeding from birth, bottle feeding expressed breast milk, combination feeding, and transitioning between the breast and the bottle.
Breastfeeding Vs. Bottle Feeding – The Facts
There is no doubt that breastfed babies get benefits that synthetic formulas can’t emulate. Breastmilk is the perfect food for baby mammals and usually contains all of the nutrients he or she needs for the best start in life, particularly in the early stages, when they are being fed colostrum.
However, sometimes bottle feeding in the best or only option. Some of the reasons you might choose (or be forced to choose) bottle feeding over breastfeeding are:
A medical condition which prevents you from breastfeeding:
There are a number of different medical conditions which can prevent you from being able to breastfeed, including HIV, some strains of Hepatitis, and conditions which cause you to have to take strong medications. If you have a condition, your specialist will advise you about the best course of action.
Previous breast surgery:
Some women who have had breast surgery (either elective or due to breast cancer or other medical condition) are simply not able to breast feed.
Baby having difficulty latching on:
Sometimes, even after extensive coaching from a lactation consultant, the baby is just not able to latch properly. The most important thing is that the infant is getting the nutrients he or she needs and switching to the bottle may be the best option.
Insufficiency in your breast milk:
Occasionally, women are not able to produce enough quality breast milk for some reason. In this instance, a synthetic formula is the healthiest option for the baby.
Pain or infection while breastfeeding:
Breast infections such as mastitis or severe pain while feeding can make nursing unbearable. And in some cases, the milk will dry up. Your specialist may advise that you switch to bottle feeding.
Convenience and/or flexibility:
There are lots of different ways this can be a factor in modern families. Perhaps the mother is the higher income earner and will be returning to work while the father takes parental leave? Whatever the reason, it is up to the parents and not anybody else.
If you are able to breastfeed but choose not to, one balancing solution could be to breastfeed for the first fortnight or so to give your baby the immune and development benefits of colostrum and then switch to the bottle once your mature milk comes in. By choosing a mixture of breastfeeding and bottle feeding together, you and your baby get the best of both worlds. Scroll down for more information on how you can combination feed successfully.
The Advantages of Bottle Feeding
It’s a horrible situation – you put a bottle to your baby’s lips and a friend says, “oh, you’re bottle feeding? I breastfed my baby until she was a year and a half. It’s better for their development, you know.” You want to disappear under the floorboards. While experts in child development do recommend that you breastfeed for at least the first six months, there are a number of reasons you might bottle feed your baby. And no one should make you feel guilty or inadequate for it. So, next time someone’s being judgemental, here are a few benefits of bottle feeding you can tell them about:
- Myth: Bottle fed babies do not bond with their mother as well as breastfed babies.
- Fact: You are a loving mother and have a deep natural bond with your baby, no matter the method of feeding them.
- Added Bonus: Bottle-feeding gives Dad a wonderful chance to bond with Baby, instead of hovering about feeling like a third wheel.
- Myth: Bottle fed babies do not get the same antibodies as breastfed babies.
- Fact: There is a grain of truth in this one but new research suggests that the difference is not significant enough to make bottle feeding a negligent decision and your reasons are likely to far outweigh the disadvantages. After all, no loving mother would make the decision lightly. Modern formulas are improving all the time and are a complete, healthy alternative for breast milk.
- Myth: You’re just not trying hard enough!
- Fact: This is a really hurtful thing to say to a mother who’s bottle-feeding her baby. The choice is personal and the reasons must have been strong for her to make that decision.
Read on for advice on bottle feeding a newborn, bottle feeding a breastfed baby, transitioning between the breast and the bottle, and more.
Bottle Feeding Newborn
For at least the first month of your baby’s life, you should feed ‘on demand’, rather than trying to set a feeding routine for your baby. These bottle feeding tips should help you to get started:
- Keep your bottle feeding positions as close to what you what you would use for breastfeeding as possible: Cradle your baby close to your skin as you feed them – it’s a beautiful bonding opportunity!
- Offer the bottle every 2 to 3 hours: In the first four weeks, babies need to eat as often as they seem hungry. You can usually tell because they start to make sucking motions or have a reflex to turn their heads and try to nuzzle into the breast when their cheek is brushed. As a rule of thumb, a newborn baby should be drinking every two to three hours. Don’t worry about trying to set a regular routine until Baby is at least 4 weeks old.
- Make sure that the feeding bottle nipple you are using is suitable for a newborn: there are different nipples designed for different age groups, as the sucking reflex and swallowing capability develop. Make sure you choose a newborn nipple for your newborn baby. This can help prevent excessive wind or reflux in bottle fed babies.
- Ensure that the milk is the right temperature for your baby – more on this below!
Bottle Feeding Problems and Their Solutions
There are some particular problems that come with baby bottle feeding. But, luckily, for every problem, there’s almost always a solution! Here are some of the most commonly asked questions from readers and our solutions to the problems:
Do bottle fed babies tend to gain weight faster than breastfed babies?
This is a good reason to try and get into a feeding routine more quickly than you might if you were breastfeeding. After around four months, try and make the times you give your baby a bottle more regular – this way you can control and keep track of how much they are drinking and how regularly.
Do bottles need sterilizing? Is there a best way how to clean feeding bottles?
Different people give different advice on this. Some say that water quality in the western world is so good these days that sterilization is no longer necessarily. Others say that you should still sterilize the bottle to be on the safe side. Our advice is to take the middle road – give the bottle a thorough rinse and then immerse it in boiling water to kill any stubborn bugs. It has the same effect as sterilization and you don’t have to buy a fancy machine.
Should the water be sterilized?
It’s a yes to this one. Especially for a newborn baby without a fully developed immune system. But sterilizing water is not as hard as it sounds. Simply boil water for the bottle and allow it to cool before mixing the formula. All it takes is a little forward planning.
How do I know if the temperature is correct? How do I heat or cool it?
The milk you feed your baby should be exactly body temperature – breast milk is kept perfectly at this temp but we have to test bottle milk. The best way to test is by putting a drop on the inside of your wrist – if you can’t feel it, it’s at body temperature and ready to drink. If it needs heating or cooling, simply stand it in a container of warm or cold water and then test again after a few minutes. Do not be tempted to use the microwave to heat the bottle – the heating is too unpredictable and there can be nasty bugs lurking in your microwave oven.
Is a glass feeding bottle better than a plastic one?
There are some concerns around plastic baby bottles and many parents swear by glass ones. As long as you ensure that you buy a high-quality plastic bottle that doesn’t contain BPA, it should be fine. Also, ensure that plastic bottles are not deteriorating due to being immersed in boiling water. It pays to replace plastic bottles every three months or so, whereas glass bottles will last forever. Check out some of the best feeding bottle brands here.
Bottle Feeding Breast Milk
There are a number of reasons you might choose to express breast milk and bottle feed your baby. It may be that you want to take a break from breastfeeding, that you want your partner to have a chance to feed the baby, or that you want to start getting the baby used to drinking from the bottle in preparation for formula feeding. Whatever your reasons, there is a particular art to expressing breast milk and it can take some effort to get used to it. Find out more about how to comfortably express breast milk and store it safely here.
Combination Feeding: Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding
Some women choose to feed their baby a combination of breast milk and formula. If the mother is the person going back to work, it is possible to work out a routine where both bottle feeding and breastfeeding can work together. It is also an excellent solution if you’ve got a super hungry baby and you just can;t seem to make enough milk! This solution gives modern families the best of both worlds. Here are a few tips from women who’ve used combination feeding successfully:
- Set a routine about when you’ll bottle feed and when you’ll breastfeed. Many women find it best to breastfeed in the morning and evening and to bottle feed during the day.
- Once you’ve chosen your routine, stick to it. At first, you may find your breasts leak a lot. But your body is very clever and will soon adjust to when you need milk and when you don’t. As long as you don’t confuse it by feeding randomly outside the routine.
- Make sure the formula you choose is appropriate for your baby’s age and dietary needs. Talk to your pediatrician if you’re unsure.
- Some mothers find it easier to get Baby used to the bottle by giving them expressed breast milk first and then slowly transitioning to formula.
Transitioning from Breastfeeding to Bottle Feeding
Lots of mothers transition between breast milk and formula when their babies are between six and twelve months old (especially when they start getting teeth!). It’s best to start off using the combination feeding tips above (e.g. breastfeeding in the morning and evening and bottle feeding at night) rather than to make a “cut-off date” and switch entirely from one to the other suddenly. The choice about when to start bottle feeding is entirely personal and will be different for each family’s circumstances.
You may find that your baby refuses the bottle at first and would rather have breast. Be patient. Perhaps take an afternoon off and leave Dad with Baby and bottles. It’s likely that the little rascal will happily take the bottle when he or she can’t smell your breastmilk. You may also notice changes in your baby’s complexion, moods, weight, or bowel movements. As long as your baby is not obviously unwell and is not constipated, these symptoms should be temporary and are just part of the transition period. But, as ever, if you’re worried you should consult your pediatrician.
Do You Have Questions we Haven’t Answered? Feel Free to Contact us
If you have any questions about bottle feeding, breastfeeding, or anything else to do with pregnancy and babies, we’re always happy to help out. Either post your question in our comments section or send it privately through our contact us page.
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