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Bottle Feeding and Formula: Expert Q&A

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WebMD Feature

From how to hold the bottle to how much to feed, new parents havemany questions about feeding. Here are some answers from board-certified pediatrician Renee A. Alli, MD, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics in practice in metro Atlanta.

What's the best way to choose a formula?

Your pediatrician may suggest a formula or it may be given to you at the hospital. Unless you've talked to your pediatrician about any milk-based allergies or soy-based allergies that you or an older sibling might have, it will be a milk-based formula from one of the major manufacturers.

How do you know if you should change formulas?

If your baby has a rash or you see blood or mucus in your baby's diaper, tell your pediatrician. Those could be signs of a milk-protein allergy. If your baby is fussy when you're feeding him, spits up a lot, or has symptoms of reflux (arching his back, fussiness after eating, spitting up with most feedings), those may also be signs you need to change your formula.

How should you switch formulas?

If the symptoms are serious -- like blood or mucous in your baby's stool -- you would switch cold turkey. If it's a rash or your baby's spitting up or cranky, you can do it gradually. Your baby's doctor will help you figure out a plan. 

Is my baby more likely to be colicky with formula?

We don't know the reason for colic, but we know it happens in a baby's first three months. It can happen in both breast- and bottle-fed babies.

How much should I feed my baby at each bottle feeding?

Formula-fed babies usually drink about 2-3 ounces (60-90 ml) every 3-4 hours for their first two months. By 4-6 months they drink about 6 ounces and are up to a maximum of 8 ounces by the time they're 6-8 months old. All babies drink different amounts so be sure to check with your pediatrician during well visits to make sure your baby is gaining the right amount of weight. One tip: Make sure you wake your newborn to eat in the first month if she sleeps more than four hours.

How should I feed my baby?

Make sure you're holding your baby and he's not lying down. Don't prop up the bottle and be sure the nipple is filled with milk and not air. Mix the formula according to the directions on the can or bottle. If it's labeled "ready to feed" or "ready to use," don't dilute it. Make sure it's not too hot or cold. You don’t want to microwave bottles because hot spots can form. The best ways to heat the bottle are by running warm water over it or you can use a bottle warmer. Or, if you're mixing up a bottle, just use warm water.

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