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The Facts About Bottle-Feeding

Glass or Plastic Bottles?

Your baby may give clues to which he likes best. Some things to consider: Plastic bottles are lighter than glass and are shatterproof. But they may not last as long as glass. In the past, some parents chose glass to avoid a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) that is used in some plastic bottles. Now, all plastic bottles sold in the U.S. are BPA-free.

What to Know About Nipples

Most nipples are made of silicone or latex and come in various shapes. They sometimes have different "flow rates," based on the size of the nipple's hole. You may want to try several types to see what your baby likes best. Check nipples regularly for signs of wear or cracking. Replace any that are worn or discolored.

Sterilize Bottles Before First Use

Sterilize new bottles and nipples in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. After that, you can wash them with detergent and hot water -- by hand or in the dishwasher -- each time you use them. You may prefer to wash bottles by hand, as there have been some studies that show chemicals leak from plastic when exposed to heat.

Stick to Breast Milk or Formula

Give your newborn only pumped breast milk or formula in the bottle -- no water or juice. Mix formula exactly as the label says. Adding too much water thins the formula, skimping on nutrition. Too little water may be hard for your baby's stomach and kidneys. Your baby may have special circumstances that require special mixing or addition of cereal, but that should be done under the guidance of a pediatrician. 

How to Choose a Formula

Most parents start with one made from cow's milk. You can also buy soy and hypoallergenic formulas. Make sure you use one that's iron-fortified. You can buy formula in powdered, concentrated, or ready-to-use forms. By 6 months, your baby should be drinking between 6 and 8 ounces per feeding.

Warm or Room Temperature?

It's fine to give your baby a cool or room-temperature bottle. If he prefers warm formula, put the filled bottle in warm water or run hot tap water over it for 1-2 minutes. Don't use the microwave. It can cause hot spots that could burn your baby's mouth. Shake the formula and put a drop on the top of your hand to test the temperature. Don't test it on your wrist -- it's less sensitive to heat.

How to Hold Your Baby

Put a bib on your baby and have a cloth ready to clean any spit-up milk or formula. Now, cradle him with his head a bit higher than the rest of his body. Hold the bottle and watch him eat. Watching your baby will help you know when he’s finished. If your baby slows his eating, try burping him.

Keep a Grip on the Bottle

When you're tired, it can be tempting to prop up the bottle on a pillow and let your baby feed herself. But there are all kinds of benefits from holding the bottle while your baby eats. In addition to some great bonding time, keeping a grip on the bottle is simply safer. Leaving your baby with a propped-up bottle increases the risk of choking and tooth decay. It can also cause ear infections. So enjoy your bottle time!

How Do You Know When Baby's Done?

Your baby will let you know when she is finished feeding. She may stop sucking, turn away from the bottle, or, if she's old enough, push the bottle away. You may want to give her a chance to change her mind, but don't make her finish what's in the bottle.

How to Burp Your Baby

If your baby needs a burp during or after feeding, hold her on your lap or rest her on your shoulder. Gently pat or rub her back. You can also lay her tummy-down on your lap, supporting her head, while you pat her back. Your baby may spit up some milk, so have a cloth handy. If she doesn't burp after a few minutes but seems content, don't worry. Not every baby burps after every feeding.

Cut Down on Spit-Up

If your baby spits up a lot, try burping her every few minutes during feedings. Don't lay her down or play with her for 20-30 minutes after eating. Spitting up often gets better when a baby starts sitting up. If you're worried about how much she spits up, or if she is fussy when spitting up, talk to your pediatrician.

Should You Switch Formulas?

If your baby spits up a lot or is fussy, you may blame the formula. Sometimes, babies can have reflux, or allergies that can cause things like diarrhea, vomiting, bloody stools, fussiness, or dry, red skin. If you see this, talk to your baby's doctor. He or she will tell you if you need to change formulas -- and if so, how to do it best. Don't make a change without talking to your doctor first.

How Long Can You Store Milk?

Formula left over in the bottle should always be thrown out. Immediately refrigerate opened packages of liquid formula, and use them within 48 hours. If you have mixed formula from powder, it can be stored for 24 hours in the fridge. If formula is left out more than 2 hours, throw it out. Make formula as needed -- don't mix big batches.

Freshly pumped breast milk is good for 5 hours at room temperature. Refrigerate breast milk for use within 5 days. Or freeze it. It can last 5 months at a temperature of -5 degrees, or 1 year at a temperature of -20.

Supplemental Feeding: What You Need to Know

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on December 16, 2013

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