Bottle Feeding Basics

Sixty-one percent of babies are formula-fed by the time they're three months old. Jessica Hartshorn, Sr. Lifestyles Editor for American Baby Magazine, has some tips for making bottle feeding easier.

While new moms often hear that breast feeding is best, Hartshorn says the reality is that most children are both bottle and breast fed. "A lot of women start out breast feeding and then turn to bottle feeding if they go back to work," says Hartshorn. Breast feeding is often supplemented with bottle feeding as well. "One out of every three breast fed infants get formula occasionally," says Hartshorn.

Much like nursing, it's important to find a quiet place to bottle feed your baby. A child is less likely to focus on feeding if there is a lot of noise or visual distractions around them. Bottle feed your baby on their regular feeding schedule - about two to three hours, according to Hartshorn. "Really pay attention to them; that's sort of your bonding time," says Hartshorn. "Feeding - whether you're nursing or bottle feeding - is a really close and sweet experience."

One thing that will change with bottle feeding, though, is how often you burp your baby. Air bubbles get trapped inside the bottle which can make baby more gassy. Hartshorn suggests burping your child every few ounces to alleviate this problem.

Also, pay attention to your son or daughter's hunger cues. When a baby breast feeds, they'll unlatch from your breast once they're done feeding. With a bottle, parents sometimes feel the need to put the bottle back in their mouth even if they're no longer sucking. Don't force your child to eat after they're full. "You don't want it to all come back up," says Hartshorn.

When preparing your baby's bottle, be sure to read the instructions carefully. The ratio of water to formula is carefully calculated; any change can alter the formula's nutritional content. "I met a mom recently who said she switched from the powder to the liquid and hadn't realized that the ratio of formula to water changes if you change even what type of formula you're using," says Hartshorn. Follow all directions carefully.

It's also important not to put your child to sleep with a bottle. Not only will he or she associate sleeping with feeding, but you could be setting your child up for future teeth troubles. "Milk has sugar in it, and formula has sugar in it," says Hartshorn. Juice can also cause harm to your baby's newly forming teeth, even if they haven't broken the gum line yet. If your baby needs to be fed before bedtime, be sure the feeding is finished before you place them in their crib.

One plus to bottle feeding? Dad can pitch in with feedings, too. "If you are breast feeding, you can pump milk and give it to dad and he can bottle feed baby," says Hartshorn. This can give father and child some bonding time and mom some much needed rest.

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By Erin Petrun