You may start bottle feeding on day one, with either pumped breast milk or formula, or you may start with the bottle several weeks or months later. There is no one right way to feed a baby. When the time does come to offer a bottle to baby, there are some important tips to remember.
Wash and Sterilize All Bottle Parts
Wash and sterilize all bottle parts as recommended by the manufacturer. A general rule is the sterilize bottle parts before the first use. You can do this by submerging them in boiling water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the parts and let them air dry on a clean towel. After the first sterilization, washing bottles by hand in hot soapy water, or in the dishwasher, should be just fine. I use a bottle sterilizer after each hand washing, just because I like to know that everything is as clean as can be.
Start Slow with a Small Bottle
Baby’s tummy is just the size of a cherry when they are born. So bottles given the first week don’t need to be more than 2 oz. Babies will often take just 1-2 oz every 3-4 hours initially. Start with a small bottle, the 2 oz or 4 oz sizes are optimal for the beginning.
Check the Nipple Flow Size
Bottles nipples are available in sizes 1-4. Size 1 has a small hole to help with a slower flow of milk or formula. It is recommended for babies 0-6 months. Sizes 2-4 increase the speed of the flow as baby gets bigger. Just because baby is bigger, it doesn’t mean that they need the bigger flow size though. If you are breastfeeding and bottle feeding, you may want to stay with sizes 1-2 because the breast fed baby will be used to the slower flow. If you give them the quicker flow from the bottle, they may start to wean earlier than expected because they want the faster result. Also, babies that aren’t ready for the quicker flow may cough and choke. If this happens, just switch back to the smaller size and you can try again in a week or two.
Always Hold the Bottle
No matter how tired or busy you may be, it is never a safe decision to prop a bottle. Babies could choke and must ALWAYS be supervised when drinking from a bottle. Aside from the very real danger of choking, propped bottles lead to ear infections and tooth decay. It may seem overwhelming and like you are constantly feeding your baby, but the feedings get shorter and further apart with each passing month. Just know that it will get easier and there will be a time that you wish for the long quiet feedings to come back.
Watch for Air Pockets
Air pockets in a bottle mean air pockets in a baby! Watch that you keep the bottle tipped at an angle so that the nipple remains filled with milk or formula. If your baby swallows a lot of air, it will lead to gas and discomfort. Babies who get fussy during a feeding, may be in a need of a good burping. Always burp baby after a feeding as well.
Just as you would switch sides for a breastfeeding baby, take turns holding baby on the left and right sides. This will help keep you from getting sore and stiff muscles (well, it will make it a little less painful at least!). It will also allow the baby a chance to see new scenery!
Enjoy the Bond
There is always a line out the door when it comes to volunteering to feed a baby in my extended family. How can you resist the chance to get some sweet baby cuddles? Feeding a baby with a bottle allows for you to savor that time gazing at their little faces while you snuggle them as they get sleepy finishing their bottle. By giving baby lots of eye contact and skin to skin touch, you can help increase baby’s brain development. Extra cuddles with an adorable baby and a brain boost? You can’t beat that!