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Everything you need to know about bottle feeding

There’s hardly anything more important to your baby’s health and comfort than a safe, satisfying feeding. Here are some bottle feeding tips to consider as you prepare for your new arrival.

Q: How do you know when they’re hungry?

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A: It can be hard to decode all of their squeaks, mewls and cries as you get to know them. So how can you tell when he needs a diaper change and when it’s a meal he’s craving? Look for the signs. Hungry infants instinctively root for their food (turning their heads and opening their mouths). They may also make sucking motions and bring their hands to their mouths. In time, you’ll come to recognize their hungry cry and a feeding pattern will emerge.

Q: How do you choose the right formula?

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A: Cow’s milk-based, lactose-free and soy-based are the three main types for babies who are being nourished exclusively from formula. So how do you decide when there are no formula feeding guidelines? First, think about convenience needs and budget; then decide if you need a ready-to-use, liquid concentrate or something from the powdered formula family. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, pick one and stick with it for a few weeks to see if it agrees with your baby. Spitting up, gas and colic are signs that it’s not.

Q: How do you choose a bottle?

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A: Would you prefer the lightweight durability of a plastic bottle or the long-term environmentally-friendliness of glass? How do you feel about disposable nursers with throwaway liners? Each option comes with advantages and disadvantages—it’s up to you to decide which is right for your family. If you go for plastic, you must avoid storing formula in the bottle and overheating it when formula is inside; whereas glass bottles need to be watched for chips, cracks and breakages, and should be instantly replaced when necessary.

Q: How do you choose a nipple?

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A: There are no formula feeding guidelines as it relates to nipples. So how do you choose when you just have the trial-and-error method of selection and an intimidatingly wide array of options? Latex nipples are softest and most flexible while silicone nipples are firmer and hold their shape longer. You can also choose from traditional, orthodontic or flat-topped shapes. Size and flow speed typically correspond to the age of your baby, so look for age recommendations on packaging.

Q: Do I need to sterilize bottles and bottle accessories?

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A: When you first buy glass bottles, nipples and rings, you should sterilize them in a pot of boiling water for at least 5 minutes and allow them to air dry. After the first use, you can keep them ready by popping them in the dishwasher or washing them in hot, soapy water after every feeding. If you’re using plastic bottles, don’t sterilize them in boiling water (there are concerns about harmful chemical emission). Instead, wash them in the dishwasher.

Q: How much formula should I give my baby?

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A: How much formula your baby needs depends mostly on mood. Like us, they’re ravenous one day and peckish another. Remember to take your cues from them, and do not encourage them to eat beyond satisfaction. During the first week, a baby will typically take in 1-2 oz. per feeding. At one month of age, they’re likely to drink 3-4 oz. at each feeding, up to 13-27 oz. in a day. The older they get, the more they’ll need until they start with solids at around six months.

Q: How do I warm a bottle?

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A: There is no health-related reason to warm a bottle before feeding a baby—it’s just something nice we do. You might take a shot at offering formula that’s room temperature or slightly cold to save yourself some trouble for many months to come! If your baby loves a warm bottle, the best way to get it up to a warm temperature is to submerge it in warm water or run it under the tap. Never microwave formula, as it heats the liquid unevenly and may have hot spots. Ouch!

Q: Do I need bottle accessories?

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A: Practical accessories like bottle drying racks, warmers, organizers, sterilizers and insulators are handy to have around the house when preparing and cleaning up after feedings. And it’s good to have some in both the nursery and the kitchen so you’re not running up and down. The good news is that these accessories are typically inexpensive, fairly easy to find and could shave off precious moments from the most rushed parts of your day. Whether or not you “need” them is up to you.

Q: What’s the best way to hold my baby during a feeding?

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A: Believe it or not, when it comes to how to bottle feed, your comfort is almost as important as your baby’s. If you’re relaxed, chances are, they will be, too. And if they’re particularly hungry that day, you won’t start fidgeting half way through lunch. Find a comfortable chair and use your arm or a nursing pillow to prop up your baby slightly while you hold the bottle with your other hand. Make sure you have everything you need within arm’s reach (including a burp cloth!) to avoid disruption.

Q: Should I burp my baby during the middle of a feeding?

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A: Nothing like a good burp, huh? Same’s true for your baby. Gently patting or rubbing their backs releases the air trapped in their stomachs, making them more comfortable and opening up room for more of the bottle. If your baby is squirming or seems uncomfortable during a feeding, it might be a sign they could use a burp. You can try halfway through a bottle and then at the end. Take your cues from your baby to know when to help them let it out.

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