Bottle Feeding Guide — Things You Must Know

When you feed your baby, you will be providing him with more than nourishment. You will also be giving him love, warmth, intimate human contact, and a feeling of security. Close physical contact, especially skin-to-skin, as well as cuddling are extremely important in the psychological and physical development of a baby.

Neither propping a bottle nor sitting your baby in an infant seat and holding his bottle provide these necessary elements. Even when your baby can hold his own bottle, he should not be left alone, as this can be dangerous and can also lead to dental problems. He will still need to be held and cuddled when he is fed.

Special Feeding Time

Make each feeding time special by cradling your baby close to you in the bend of your arm (the nursing position) and not rushing the feeding. Talking and singing to your baby make feeding time sociable and pleasant for both of you. Alternate arms at each feeding. Babies who are always held on the same side develop different strengths in their eyes. The eye that is closest to your breast will not receive adequate stimulation and will become weak from nonuse.

Bottle Mouth Syndrome Doctors heartily discourage putting a baby to bed with a bottle. If unattended, the baby could choke. If you do choose to give him a bottle in bed, give him plain water. Formula and juice contain sugar that can remain on the baby’s teeth while he sleeps and can lead to bottle mouth syndrome, which is evidenced by extensive cavities. Better yet, hold and rock your baby as he enjoys his night feeding and then put him to bed without a bottle. This not only prevents tooth problems, but gives him that extra love and cuddling that every child needs.

Types of Formula

The type of formula that you use will probably depend upon your pediatrician’s preference. Formula is made from cow’s milk or soybeans, and modified to resemble mother’s milk as much as possible. Some babies do not tolerate certain formulas. They may become constipated or suffer digestive upsets. If your baby is allergic to cow’s milk-based formulas, your pediatrician may try a soybean-based one. The signs of allergy include rash (eczema), diarrhea, chronic cold symptoms, colic, and asthma. Occasionally, a baby is so allergic that he can tolerate only breastmilk.

Properly Preparing the Formula

Formula comes in several forms. The single serving ready-to-feed bottle is the easiest to use, but is also the most expensive. Liquid formula concentrate, which you need to mix with water, should be refrigerated once the can is opened and then it should be used within 24 hours. The powdered type does not need refrigeration until it is mixed with water, but once it is mixed, it also needs to be used within 24 hours.

Make sure that you follow the directions on the can for preparation. Adding extra water to stretch the formula or not adding enough water is dangerous to your baby’s health and development. Formula should be given at room temperature because overheating destroys important vitamins. Never microwave a bottle of formula. While the bottle may feel cool, the formula will continue to heat. Microwaving can also produce hot spots, which can bum your baby. Overheating might even cause the bottle to explode.

Basics of Bottle Feeding

Many doctors now say that bottles and nipples do not need to be sterilized if they are washed in a dishwasher. They should be sterilized before their first use, however. After each use, nipples should be washed in hot soapy water and rinsed well, making sure the nipple holes are open. You will need to have about eight nipples and bottles. Plastic nurser bags are convenient because they are sterile and disposable.

Bottle Nipples

Nipples come in many shapes and varieties. Be sure that your baby will accept a certain kind of nipple before you stock up on it. Make sure that the hole in the nipple is the correct size. When you hold the bottle upside down and shake it, the formula should drip easily, one drop at a time. If your baby takes a long time (over 30 minutes) to finish a bottle, or if he becomes fussy or tired before finishing, the hole may be too small. If he takes in a lot of air or finishes the bottle very quickly, the hole is probably too large.

Bottle Feeding Tips The following tips should help make bottle feeding a healthy and rewarding experience:

  • Alternate the side you hold the baby on so that both of his eyes will be equally stimulated.
  • Remember to check the expiration date on every can of formula.
  • Always hold your baby while he is feeding.
  • Do not heat bottles in the microwave.
  • After an hour, throw out any formula that was left in the bottle to prevent contamination.

[raw]Your pediatrician may have other tips to add to this list. [/raw]

Feeding Start

When you feed your baby, cradle him in your arms in a semi-upright position. Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle so that the milk always fills the nipple. Otherwise, the baby will take in a lot of air. Burp your baby halfway through and at the end of each feeding. If he cried hard before being fed, or if he gulped his milk, he may need extra burping. Place a diaper over your shoulder to prevent stains on your clothes. If you do get a stain, you can soak it out in a solution of baking soda and water, or vinegar and water.

Formula Spoiling

Do not place an unfinished bottle of formula in the refrigerator for later use. The baby’s saliva will already be working on the formula and may promote the growth of bacteria. Do not save formula for reuse if it has been out of refrigeration for several hours. With “ready to feed” bottles, you will not have to worry about formula spoiling. Contaminated or spoiled milk can cause vomiting and diarrhea, which in turn can lead to dehydration, a serious problem in infants because of their size.

Canned Liquid Formula

Canned liquid formula should be stored at temperatures below 72°F. If it was stored in a hot warehouse during the summer, it may have curdled. Do not use canned formula that smells “funny” or that has separated into layers with an oily yellow substance on top that cannot be dispersed by shaking. Also, check the expiration date, especially if you bought the container when the store was having a sale.


Feed your baby every 2 to 4 hours, or whenever he seems hungry. Begin with about 3 ounces of formula in the bottle. If he falls asleep during a feeding, he has probably had enough. After feeding and burping him, place him on his right side or in a sitting position to help his digestion.