The lowdown on formula feeding
What you need to know if you choose to formula feed your baby
Most baby formula milks are made from cow’s milk, treated to make it suitable for babies. Although formula milk does not contain the unique immune-boosting qualities of breastmilk, it does provide all the nourishment a baby needs.
If you choose to formula feed it is very important you read the packaging carefully. Always start your newborn baby on formula specifically made for newborn infants (first milks). These are suitable for the first year of baby’s life and you should discuss any change with a healthcare professional. Do not give your baby formula milk intended for older babies.
Choosing a formula milk
There are two forms of formula milk:
• Powdered formula which is non-sterile. Once made up (as directed), and given to baby, you should throw away any unused milk. Do not store made-up formula milk in the fridge.
• Ready to feed formula, which is sterile until opened –then should be kept in a fridge and any unused milk thrown away after 24 hours.
You will need bottles, teats and bottle covers/caps, a bottle and teat brush and a sterilising system. This can be:
• A chemical sterilising tank
• An electric steam steriliser
• A microwave steam steriliser
• Microwave sterilising bags.
Cleaning bottles and teats
Milk is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria that can cause infections such as tummy bugs (gastroenteritis), so it is essential to wash and then sterilise feeding equipment before use:
• Wash equipment well using bottle and teat brushes in hot soapy water and then rinse thoroughly
• Turn teats inside out and wash well, running water through the hole to make sure all old milk is removed
Put the washed bottles and teats into your sterilising unit and follow the instructions.
Making up feeds
• Fill the kettle with at least a litre of fresh water from the cold tap. Boil and leave to cool slightly to 70ºC or above. The water must still be hot (70ºC or above) when the powdered formula is added to kill any bacteria that may be present
• Wash and dry your hands
• Pour the exact required amount of water into the bottle
• Add the correct number of level scoops of formula milk powder to the bottle
• Place the teat on top of the bottle, screw on the ring and cover the teat with the cap
• Shake to dissolve all the powder
• Cool the bottle to the correct temperature by running the bottom of the bottle under the cold tap and moving the bottle about to ensure even cooling.
Always make fresh feeds
Stored milk can contain harmful bacteria, causing diarrhoea and vomiting, so it is recommended you only make up a feed when it is needed.
Feeding away from home
When out and about ready-to-feed formula is an ideal solution as this milk is sterile. Simply pour the milk into an already sterilised bottle when you are ready to feed.
If you prefer to use powdered formula with you, take a measured amount of formula in a clean, sterile container, an empty sterilised bottle, teat and cap and a vacuum flask of hot water which has been boiled. The flask does not need to be sterilised but should be one only used for your baby. Make the feed up when needed.
Cool the bottle to the correct temperature by running the bottom of the bottle under cold running water and moving the bottle about to ensure even cooling.
If you are planning to travel abroad, remember you need access to safe water supplies if making up feeds.
Giving a feed
• Always test the temperature of the milk before feeding it to your baby. Shake a few drops onto the inside of your wrist. The milk should feel just warm. If it is too hot, cool the bottle under cold running water with the cap covering the teat
• Sit comfortably with your baby on your lap
• Maintain eye contact with your baby and enjoy the opportunity to hold and cuddle them. You may want to cut down on eye contact during night feeds, though, as it may be harder for them to get back to sleep
• Hold the bottle firmly and tilt the bottle, so the hole in the teat is always full of milk and not air. If the teat collapses, move it gently around their mouth to let the air back into the bottle
• Always throw away any leftover milk after a feed.
Air that your baby swallows during feeding can get trapped in their stomach and cause pain. For this reason, it’s best if you can burp your baby mid-way during a feed or after they’ve finished. Try holding them against your shoulder and gently rubbing or patting their back.
Most babies will bring up milk when they burp (it’s sometimes called possetting). This is perfectly normal, even though some ‘sicky’ babies may do this at every feed. It’s most common in the first three months, but settles down later on. Check with your GP if you have any concerns about how much your baby is being sick though.
If you started off breastfeeding and are now thinking of formula feeding your baby, remember that it may be difficult to reverse the decision not to breastfeed. Introducing partial formula feeding with breastfeeding will reduce your milk supply. We also know that mixed feeding can undo some of the protective factors that exclusive breastfeeding can give.
Always use formula milk that has been specially formulated for babies.
If in any doubt, check with your midwife or health visitor.
Do not use:
• Cow’s milk
• Goat’s or sheep’s milk
• Evaporated milk
• Dried milk powder other than baby milks
• Adult milk drinks
• Soya formula (unless expressly on the advice of a health professional - who don’t usually recommend them for babies under six months old)
• Bottled mineral water to make up feeds.
After you’ve finished giving a feed get dad to burp the baby... while you have a break.