Introducing the bottle to babies

If you’re going back to work, or you haven’t been able to breastfeed, you might want to consider bottle feeding. Some babies take to it straightaway, others need a little gentle encouragement. You can give your baby either expressed breast milk or formula. If you do switch to formula feeding, your body will take time to adjust and make less milk – so wear a well-supported bra and keep some breastpads handy. If your breasts become too full with milk, just express a little to relieve them, but don’t express too much as that will over-stimulate them and cause your breasts to produce even more milk.

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Tips to help your baby take to the bottle

If your baby doesn’t take to the bottle straightaway, try letting someone else give the first few feeds. Your baby won’t associate them with breastfeeding, so may settle down more quickly. If that doesn’t work, you could always try one of these tips:

  •  Don’t wait until your baby is very hungry – if the bottle causes upsets, your baby will only become more frustrated
  • Try different teats of different shapes or designs
  • If you’re moving to formula, try using expressed breast milk first as this is a familiar taste and will help your baby get used to the bottle
  • If your baby is six months or older, try using a lidded cup or beaker.

Of course, it can be upsetting for you as well as your baby if bottle-feeding doesn’t go smoothly. If your baby makes a really big fuss, leave it a couple of days and then try again. Eventually your baby will get used to feeding from the bottle. 

Combination feeding

Introducing a bottle whilst continuing with breastfeeding is known as ‘combination feeding’. Some mums consider adopting this approach in preparation for returning to work. If you decide to introduce a bottle, try and keep to a routine – feeding from the breast or bottle at the same times each day - to help your baby get used to it.

Switching to formula

One of the first things you’ll think about is how much formula to give your baby. Babies, just like the rest of us, have different appetites and they change as time goes by. Look out for a growth spurt around 10 days, six weeks and three months when your baby may be hungrier than usual. The table below gives you a rough guide as to how much to feed, but your baby will always give you the ‘I’m full’ signs by letting go of the teat or falling asleep.

Suggested feeding table for SMA First Infant Milk. Birth-12 months
Approximate age of baby Approx weight of baby

Preparation for single feeds
Cooled, freshly boiled water

Feeds in 24 hours
kg lb Level scoops ml fl. oz. (approx)
Birth - 2 weeks 3.5 7 3/4 3 90 3 6
2 - 4 weeks 4.2 9 1/4 4 120 4 6
2 months 4.7 10 1/4 5 150 5 5
4 months 6.5 14 1/4 7 210 7 5
6 months 7.5 16 1/2 8 240 8 4
7 - 12 months - - 7 210 7 3

 

Please note, this table should not be used if your baby is premature.

Storing and using formula

Ideally a powdered formula feed should be made up as and when you need it. However, sometimes preparation in advance is necessary, for example, when taking your baby to nursery. Once you’ve prepared the formula, use it within two hours. If you’re storing made up formula, ensure it is cooled rapidly and stored at the back of the fridge at below 5°C – but discard after 24 hours if not used. When reheating a bottle never leave a bottle warming for more than 15 minutes. Warm the feed in a bottle warmer or place in a container of warm water. Don't use a microwave to warm a bottle as it unevenly heats the feed and may burn your baby's mouth. Shake the bottle before giving it to your baby so there are no hot spots and remember to always test the temperature on your wrist first too. If it feels hot, it’s too hot for your little one.

 

Formula on the go

  1. Take a bottle of formula you’ve chilled in the fridge for at least one hour
    Pack it in a cool bag with an ice pack
    Feed your baby within four hours
  2. Fill a vacuum flask with boiling water
    Measure scoops of formula into a sterile container
    Mix the formula in sterile bottles using the water, providing it’s still hot – but don’t use if it’s tepid or lukewarm
    Cool the milk and use within two hours, testing it on your wrist before feeding your baby
  3. Use SMA ready to use Easy Feed Bottles – liquid milk supplied in a re-sealable bottle. Attach the SMA pre-sterilised and ready to use teat or spout (sold separately) and feed your baby

“It’s so funny when his little eyes roll and he goes all milk-drunk.” 

Bottles and teats

It’s only once you start to look, that you realise how many different types of bottles there are; big bottles, little bottles, anti-colic bottles, disposable bottles. And that’s before you’ve even got into teats.

If your baby has colic, you may want to try an anti-colic bottle and teat. These have air vents, tubes or collapsible bags to reduce how much air your baby takes in. A variable flow teat may also be helpful.

Other options for teats are orthodontic teats, which can be helpful in encouraging correct oral development, and nipple shaped teats which are useful for breastfed babies who are combination feeding.

You can buy silicone or latex teats. Silicone last longer, but latex are softer (but don’t use if your baby is allergic to latex). Finally there are different flow rates – slow is more suitable for newborns, medium for three to six months and fast for older babies.

Check the hole in the teat is the right size for your baby. Too big and the milk will come out too fast, causing gulping, wind and colic. If the hole is too small, it’ll take too much work to get the milk out, leaving your baby tired, irritable, full of wind and hungry. Don’t worry, you’ll work out what’s right between the two of you, below is a quick guide.

  • Slow - suitable for newborns
  • Medium - suitable for babies of 3-6 months
  • Fast - suitable for babies from 6 months
  • Variable flow adjusts to the baby’s sucking action and is suitable for thicker or special feeds

Do note though, all teat manufacturers have their own flow system.

Baby » Nutrition

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