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Breastfeeding Overview

How to Bottle-feed

Knowing how to bottle-feed can spare your baby an upset stomach. Learn how to select a baby formula and how to prepare a baby bottle.
Knowing how to bottle-feed can spare your baby an upset stomach. Learn how to select a baby formula and how to prepare a baby bottle.
Publications International, Ltd.

Mothers have fed their babies formulas for years. In the past, evaporated milk was the main component of formula. Doctors would recommend various additions to it in an attempt to make the formula more complete.

Many different types of baby formula are available. Formula manufacturers continually improve their products, trying to make them closer to breast milk. A number of special formulas are also available for babies with certain health problems.


Most formulas use nonfat cow's milk as their base and source of protein. Many different fat sources are used: Soy, coconut, and corn are the most common. Various vitamins, minerals, and trace elements are also added. There is, however, no way to duplicate the antibodies found in breast milk.

For babies with a milk allergy or intolerance, formulas are available with soy protein in place of nonfat cow's milk as the main source of protein.

Babies with digestive problems or acute, severe diarrhea often need formulas that are very easy to digest and absorb. These formulas use casein as their protein source. They are usually used for only a few days, until the baby recovers from the diarrhea.

Selecting a Formula

All the milk-based formulas currently available are similar in composition and nutrient value, with only minor differences between them. Despite this, some babies seem to do better on one milk-based formula than on another. If your baby has gas, vomiting, or bowel problems with one formula, consult your doctor regarding a possible change in formula.

Most formulas are available either with or without supplemental iron. The iron is necessary to prevent iron deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends iron-supplemented formulas only.

Through television and print advertising, formula manufacturers encourage use of their brand of formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes this type of advertising because your doctor is best suited to help you decide which formula is best for your baby if you do not breastfeed.

Formulas come in three forms: ready-to-feed, concentrate, and powder. All three forms contain the same protein, fats, and other nutrients. The type you select is a matter of price and convenience. The most convenient, but most expensive, is the ready-to-feed in individual baby bottles or quart cans. The powder and concentrate are less expensive but can be more of a hassle to use.

The only difference between the three forms of formula is the water you need to add to the concentrate and powder forms. If your water contains fluoride, then you may not need to give your infant a fluoride supplement. If you use a ready-to-feed, then your baby may need the additional fluoride.

Bottles, Nipples, and More

Using formula means you need bottles, nipples, and other paraphernalia. There's really little difference between plastic and glass bottles except glass bottles break more easily. The size you select is a matter of convenience. And some parents find special bottle/liner systems handy.

Nipples come in many different sizes and shapes. Some makers of nipples claim theirs are "more like mother" because of their shape. What's really important is not what the nipple looks like in the package but how it works when your baby sucks on it. If you find a nipple that meets your baby's needs, stick with it.

If your water supply is safe and clean, you do not need to sterilize or boil bottles and nipples. Clean them with hot, soapy water and then rinse and thoroughly dry them. Some parents put the bottles in the dishwasher.

Mixing and Storing Formula

With the concentrated and powdered formulas, you must add water before you use them. Except when told otherwise by your doctor, never add more water than the instructions say. Over-diluting formula on a regular basis leads to malnutrition.

Again, if your water supply is clean and safe, you don't need to boil the water before you add it to the formula. As a general rule of thumb, if you can drink the water without problems, so can your baby. If you have concerns regarding water quality, check with your local water or health department, or discuss your concerns with your baby's doctor.

If you mix one bottle of formula at a time, you can just add cold tap water to the powder, mix it well, and feed your baby. In areas with fluoride in the water, you won't need to give your baby supplemental fluoride. Avoid using hot tap water -- any lead in the plumbing is more likely to leach into hot water.

You can safely refrigerate mixed or open formula for 24 hours. When you travel, the most convenient form of formula is the powdered type. You simply add water, and you're ready to feed your baby. You should be extremely cautious, however, if there is any question about water quality.

Bottle-Feeding a Baby

It isn't necessary to warm bottles of formula. Some babies will take the formula straight from the refrigerator. Obviously, giving a cool bottle of formula is a lot quicker and easier than trying to warm up a bottle when your baby is screaming. If you wish to warm the bottle, just hold it under hot running tap water. Then, shake it well to mix the formula, and test the formula to be sure it isn't too hot for the baby. Do not heat your baby's formula in a microwave oven. This method has too many potential dangers.

When you feed your baby, always hold your baby and the bottle -- never prop the bottle. Your baby shouldn't lie down and feed. He should always be semi-upright or sitting up. Bottle propping causes four problems-increased ear infections, increased cavities, feeding longer than necessary, and decreased emotional and physical satisfaction from being held.

The nipple hole should be large enough that the formula drips out at a steady pace of two drops per second. A flow that's too slow may increase the amount of air your baby swallows. If the flow is too fast, he may choke.

Regardless of whether you breastfeed or bottle-feed you will have to develop a feeding schedule for your baby. We will cover this in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.