Essentials of Formula Feeding
Deciding to formula-feed is in itself a significant decision, and actually carrying it out in practice can seem like a daunting task! But don’t worry; our tips will make formula feeding seem completely effortless!
New moms are usually bombarded with images of babies suckling away happily at their mother’s breasts, while mom looks on smiling and content. While breastfeeding is definitely the best and worth the effort it requires, some circumstances are not conducive to breastfeeding and may require an additional source of nutrition for the baby. This is where formula feeding comes in.
Why use Formula?
Deciding to formula feed is not an easy decision, but in some cases, it is the only option. This could be when the mother is either mentally or physically ill or is taking certain medication that could be harmful to the baby. If a woman gets pregnant while breastfeeding, she might be advised to stop if the health of the fetus is at stake. Sometimes in spite of their best efforts, mothers can’t seem to produce sufficient milk to feed their babies. In such a scenario, they are advised to use formula as a top feed along with milk from the breast.
Although the benefits of breast milk are legendary, formula feeding has its conveniences – it is excellent for travelling, it keeps the baby fuller for longer, requiring less frequent feeds, and can be done by anyone – perfect for bonding time with dads!
But formula feeding also comes with its unique set of challenges, which can be confusing to say the least!
Expert Tips to Formula Feeding
- Choose the right formula: Most formula brands contain the same components, although some of them might have additional iron or Vitamin K fortification. Talk to your doctor to find the best fit for your baby. Babies with allergies require special consideration. But stay away from cow’s milk; it is not digestible for a child under 1 year.
- Choose the right bottle: A bottle that you will use to feed your baby will be differently designed from one that the baby can hold himself. Choose an appropriate style and size depending on your current needs. Always be sure to sterilize bottles and teats after every feeding. You can sterilize bottles at home by boiling or use suitable steam sterilizers. They are available in different variants. Exclusively formula-fed babies will also require more bottles, so stock up in advance.
- Prepare the formula correctly: Whether you’re exclusively formula feeding or using it as a top feed, ask your doctor about the amount of formula your baby needs. He will require more as he grows, so monitor his hunger cues. It is crucial to prepare the formula as per package instructions, since this could affect your baby’s health. Formula that is too thick can cause dehydration and constipation while too thin formula can mean that your baby’s not getting enough food. If your baby is sucking to the point of throwing up, you might want to cut down a little, and see if it makes her more comfortable.
- Hold the bottle and baby at an angle: It’s best to feed formula in a way that is closest to breastfeeding, to ensure a more natural experience for you and your child. It is recommended to hold the bottle with one hand at a 45-degree angle while supporting your baby in the crook of your other arm. The baby’s head should be slightly raised, to minimize chances of choking and ear infections. For the same reasons, avoid leaving your baby with a bottle propped up; prolonged sucking can also lead to nursing caries (a form of tooth decay) and harm her teeth.
- Don’t reheat formula: Formula milk has limited shelf life; check the formula packaging to know more. Most brands strictly forbid reheating formula and give it a shelf life of one and a half to three hours. If you have formula older than the stipulated shelf life, throw it away and prepare a fresh mix. When travelling, carry water and formula separately and prepare when required; this is safer than carrying pre-mixed formula in the bottle.
- Start weaning at 12 months: At 1 year of age, your baby’s body is ready to digest cow’s milk, but a sudden transition from formula to milk can be met with resistance. Start by mixing a small amount of cow’s milk into formula, and then gradually increasing it so that your toddler has time to get accustomed to the new taste.
It is normal for formula fed babies to have bowel movements that look and smell different from those of breastfed babies; formula-fed babies usually have firmer bowel movements. In case your baby cries while feeding or throws up after every feeding, consult your doctor. The baby might have an allergy, or the brand you are using is making her gassy. Your doctor will be able to suggest an alternative.