Bottle Feeding Basics
Whether you aren't able to nurse, choose not to, or you're making it work with a little bit of both, we can all use a refresher on the basics of bottle feeding our babes.
Some expecting mamas are planning on going back to work and are nervous about the full-time pumping life, and not sure what to expect. Some mamas want to give daddy a more hands-on experience with babe, and bottle feeding gives them some special one-on-one time. Some mamas aren't interested in nursing, and so they need to know what to look for when it comes to frequency of feedings and keeping their babe full. No matter where you fit, there are a few need-to-knows for all the mamas and daddies out there trying their best to fill up those little tummies.
It's a good rule of thumb to feed your newbie every 3-4 hours. Starting out there's a good chance that your baby is going to want to eat right when they wake up, which for newborns means every couple of hours. Once they're up to their birth weight and start sleeping for longer stretches at night, absolutely let them sleep without waking them up to eat! If you're nursing, your girls will let you know when it's time to feed baby (and you'll become really familiar with those pretty wet circles on your shirt), and you can latch sweetie on there, but bottle feeding means you'll probably be taking your cues from your little one.
Try your best to have bottles ready to go to heat up, so that once baby is ready, you're not rushing to mix formula and heat up the baba while those terrible newborn squawks start to set off car alarms. Using something like the Mixie Bottle means you'll be able to pre-measure your formula so you can add some warm water and be good to go! Your newborn will probably take around 1-2 ounces per feeding, and the great thing about bottle feeding is you'll have a much better idea of how much they're getting. You can also keep a bottle on hand after you've nursed to make sure they're eating enough. A lot of moms will do this early on while they're milk is coming in, and find it helpful to continue to get baby used to taking a bottle. Bottle feeding our son from the start with breastmilk from pumping made it a lot easier to let daddy help out in the dead of night when I needed a break, and it made the transition easier once we stopped nursing.
You want to make sure your babe is at the right angle and that you're holding the bottle in a way that won't choke him/her on the nipple or on the milk. Try your best to position your little one at a 45 degree angle, and tilt the bottle up slightly while supporting the baby's neck. Now would be a great time to pull out your fave nursing pillow, like the Luna Lullaby, to maximize comfort for you and babe! It helps to keep baby in the right position while you're feeding them (nursing or bottle feeding), and will cut down on back aches from bending over to feed your little one. If you see milk start to dribble out the sides of their little mouth, you should probably prop babe up a little bit, readjust the bottle to make sure they have enough time to suck and swallow, or make sure you're using the right nipple for your babe's age. The younger the babe, the slower flow nipple you should use. Also make sure to burp your baby halfway through the feeding to reduce bubbles in his/her sensitive tummy, and to make sure they eat as much as possible!
You should plan on sterilizing your bottles once you bring them home before using them for the first time. Just pop the bottles and nipples in some boiling water for about 5 minutes, and you should be good to go. If you have a bottle steamer, you can absolutely steam them before/after washing, but warm soapy water or the dishwasher will work just fine too! Investing in something like the Avent Microwave Steam Sterilizer makes life so much easier for all your bottle and nursing parts, and actually sterilizes better than a dishwasher and you can throw it all in at once!
When buying bottles, you'll want to choose something that's BPA free and has a comfortable, natural nipple. The nipple flow will change as your babe gets a little older and learns the whole suck and swallow thing, so buying a few different flows makes sense. If you're going from nursing to bottle, feeding a great option is the Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle because it feels soft like mama, has a wide opening for easy cleaning, and the silicone nipple is designed to mimic a nipple shape.
Most babies prefer their milk warm, because they pretty much prefer everything warm. If you're willing to deal with breaking your babe into room temp or even cold milk right away, godspeed mama. Otherwise you'll probably be looking for a quick, effective way to warm up your bottles that don't make you want to cry at 2 a.m. after getting a solid 30 minutes of sleep. My husband and I just popped the bottle into a tall glass of hot water and waited a couple of minutes. This wasn't the greatest method when our son was giving us tinnitus with his hunger screams, but it got the job done when I couldn't (wouldn't) get out of bed to nurse. But you could definitely invest in a bottle warmer and achieve the same result. The one warning everyone can agree on is don't heat up the bottles in the microwave! Heating up breastmilk or formula in the microwave actually destroys the helpful properties in the milk, not to mention it can heat things up unevenly which can hurt baby.