This article has been produced in partnership with Fatherly.
The first few months of parenthood are a chaotic flurry — there’s no real way around it. Babies don’t come with manuals and they have seemingly simple, but surprisingly confounding needs. These include sleeping (where? when?), being held (is this right?), having diapers changed (like this?), and of course, eating.
About that: the good news is that the feeding, in this case bottle-feeding, will soon be one of the most laid back—and cherished—times you have with your infant. But before you dive into this, here are some bottle-feeding tips on how to choose a formula, prepare a bottle, support your baby during feeding, and troubleshooting hiccups (literal or otherwise) to help you along the way.
Talk to your child’s doctor about the need to use cooled, boiled water for mixing with infant formula. Also, ask your doctor if you need to boil clean utensils, cups, bottles, and nipples in water before use.
- If your doctor says the water should be boiled or sterilized, bring the water to a rolling boil for one minute in a clean pan on the stove, then immediately let the water cool to room temperature (about 75 degrees Fahrenheit) or less before mixing.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them well before preparing formula. Follow the instructions on the powder formula label to be sure you are using the right ratio of water and formula. Measure the water first, then add it to the feeding bottle, add the powder on top of the water, and shake well to mix.
5 Steps to Making Your Baby’s Bottle
The nitty-gritty of bottle-making can seem a little daunting, but once you get the procedure down, it will become second nature. Here are steps for doing it right.
- Step 1: Wash Your Hands. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them well before preparing formula or drinks. Proper hygiene, preparation, dilution, use, and storage are important when preparing formulas or drinks.
- Step 2: Follow the label instructions. A lot of people don’t realize that if you are using powder, you put the water in the bottle first and then the measured powder. Some powders need to be packed into the scoop while others are unpacked—look on the label for directions and always use the scoop provided.
- Step 3: Shake well. To create optimal consistency and make sure your baby is getting all of the important nutrients, shake the bottle until it is mixed. Never heat the bottle in the microwave, as this can cause burns
- Step 4: Look out for Concentrate. Liquid formulas may seem easier to use, but that’s not always the case. Some are ‘ready to feed’ and require no water, but others are concentrated formulas. If the label says ‘Concentrate’ it needs a 1:1 dilution with water. Follow all labeling very carefully.
- Step 5: Err on the side of caution. An error in preparing your baby’s bottle can result in the wrong proportions, leading to hunger or tummy trouble, so if you are tired and believe you have made a mistake, the best rule of thumb is to throw that feeding away.
Getting Into Position
- First things first: find yourself a comfortable seat that supports your back so you can relax and focus on baby bonding. Yes, those expensive gliding rockers you see in baby stores are as insanely comfortable as they look— glide on, dad.
- Next, cradle your baby in the crook of your arm, keeping their head higher than their middle. Use your upper arm as support that they can rest their head on. If it’s chilly, throw a lightweight blanket or towel over both of you. The idea here is to get everyone comfortable. For your child, it gives a sense of security. For you, it’s a reminder that this is a special time, not to be rushed, but to be savored.
- To start bottle-feeding, press the bottle nipple against your baby’s lower lip — this triggers a feeding reflex that makes them open their mouth. Tilt the bottle toward your baby’s mouth. It’s ideal to keep the bottle in this position during the entire feeding to keep the nipple filled with milk (moving the bottle back and forth from vertical to sideways will get air into the nipple which can cause gas).
- Pro bottle-feeding tip: It’s not always obvious with a baby whether a cry means they are hungry—or just fussy, tired, need a diaper change, or a million other possible wants. Look for signs of hunger such as opening their mouths, sucking on their fingers, or moving their heads from side to side.
- Once you get the hang of the position, it’s time to pay more attention to exactly how your child feeds. This will help you avoid gas especially— something that leads to an uncomfortable (and sleepless) child. Once your baby has latched onto the bottle’s nipple and sucked, slightly withdraw the nipple (still leaving the tip in their mouth). This lets them suck the nipple back in for more nourishment as one would during breastfeeding.
- To aid with fussiness or gas, check that the nipple and cap are on secure but not so tight that sucking causes the nipple to collapse, as extra air during feeding is a prime culprit. If that doesn’t do away with the gas, look to burping.
- To burp a fussy baby, hold them upright or across your lap and gently pat or massage their back. If that doesn’t do the trick and your baby is still fussy and gassy, they may be experiencing a sensitivity to cow protein or lactose.
- If this is the case, look for formulas for sensitive tummies like Enspire Gentlease, which has easy-to-digest proteins and about one-fifth the lactose to routine formulas. It is designed to be easy for developing digestive systems.
- Pro bottle-feeding tip: You can check the flow of formula from some nipples by turning the bottle upside down. Formula should come out one drop at a time and quickly, but not in a steady stream. Formula that flows too fast can cause your baby to spit up. Formula that drips too slowly can cause your baby to have gas and/or spit up. To adjust the flow, tighten or loosen the nipple ring until the formula drips quickly when turned upside down.
It’s natural for new parents to focus on making sure their child takes in enough nutrition, but for the most part, babies self-regulate when they are hungry or full. Worry less about how much they are eating, and spend more energy forging your bond.
Look into your newborn’s eyes as you hold them, and whisper words of encouragement (“You got this!” and “What a special baby you are” are good places to start.) Gently stroke their cheek or subtly rock them back-and-forth, letting them know you are so happy to have this time together. This will, above all else, help you remember and appreciate this time.
Formula’s Ingredients, Explained
There are a lot of infant formulas out there. How do you tell one from the other? Making something that is similar to milk is not an easy task and requires some confusingly named ingredients (thanks, science). Here are the ones to look for:
- Lactoferrin: One ingredient to look for in formula is Lactoferrin. It’s the second most abundant whey protein in human milk and supports a healthy gut and immune system.
- Milk Fat Globule Membrane: With new technology aimed at understanding worldwide breastmilk composition, formula innovation with key components such as milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) has become a new advancement in infant feeding. MFGM is a naturally occurring fat and protein mixture found in all mammal milk, and it supports your child’s brain development.
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): A specific omega 3 fat that also plays a role in infant brain development.
Finding Your Rhythm with Bottle-Feeding
Any new parent will tell you it’s just about impossible to create a steadfast schedule with your baby. They eat when they feel like eating, poop when they’re ready to poop, and sleep when they feel like it. Nevertheless, you can expect in your newborn’s first few months that they will have somewhere between 2 and 4 ounces of formula, six to eight times a day.
- Pro bottle-feeding tip: Once formula is prepared, it may be kept at room temperature for up to two hours, or one hour if you have warmed it or started feeding. Also, Enfamil prepared powder formulas can be made and stored in the refrigerator for 24 hours. If you are using a liquid infant formula, cover it and keep it safely in the refrigerator for 48 hours.
That’s not much of a routine, we know, but at least it’s something to go by. Check in regularly with your doctor to be sure your baby’s weight is good. As they get older, they’ll consume a little more formula at each feeding, and feed fewer times throughout the day.
Once you begin bottle-feeding, use it up or discard the rest within one hour. It’s tempting to save whatever they didn’t eat for the next feeding, but if your baby ate out of that bottle, bacteria from your baby’s mouth will contaminate the feeding. Saving yourself 10 minutes of cleanup and prep work is not worth the risk of having to deal with a sick infant.