For mixed or formula-fed babies, there is just as much bonding through cuddles and eye contact when using a bottle as there is through breastfeeding. It is also a beautiful way for Dad to be involved in the feeding and bonding experience. For the breastfeeding mum, replacing one or two feeds a day with a bottle is a chance for mum to have a break and maybe even catch up on some sleep.
Whether you are using infant formula or expressed breast milk, the same bottle-feeding techniques apply.
Choosing the right teat
When choosing a flow for the bottle teat, it may take one or two attempts before you find the right pace. To test the flow, hold the bottle upside down when it’s filled with liquid. The liquid should drip steadily but not pour out.
It’s normal for a little leakage to occur at the corners of your newborns mouth while bottle feeding. This will stop as your baby gets older, however if there is a significant amount of milk spilling from baby’s mouth, and if baby pulls away from the bottle, the flow may be too fast and you may need to move to a slower flow teat.
Preparing the bottle
When preparing infant formula, the water needs to be sterile by boiling it and allowing to cool. Prepare the formula as per the instructions. To warm the bottle, fill a separate cup with hot water and place the milk bottle in the cup. Let it sit a for a few minutes to warm the milk. Always test the milk temperature on your wrist before giving it to your baby. If the milk feels hot on your wrist, it is too hot. It should feel neutral, neither hot nor cold, this is the perfect temperature for feeding baby as it resembles the body temperature of breastmilk.
Feeding your baby
Feeding baby in a slightly upright position will help any air bubble rise to the top, making burping easier. Put the teat against baby’s lips, if baby is hungry their mouth will open and they will start to suck. Make sure to keep the bottle at an angle so the neck of the bottle is always filled with milk.
It’s a good idea to burp baby half-way through the bottle. Letting baby drink an entire bottle before burping may result in a milk vomit. If baby does not stop sucking on the bottle, you may need to take the bottle away half-way through to burp baby and release any air bubbles. Once baby has burped, you can resume feeding. Make sure to burp baby again at the end of the bottle.
Bottle feeding breastfed babies
Breastfed babies might find it difficult to pace themselves when drinking from a bottle. This is because breastfeeding allows baby to control the flow of milk, whereas the milk flows in a steady supply from a bottle. Some babies can end up drinking too much too quickly, resulting a big milk vomit shortly after the feed.
For babies that are both breastfeeding and bottle feeding, paced bottle-feeding can help to avoid bottle preference (where baby prefers to drink from a bottle than from the breast).
Paced bottle-feeding is designed to mimic breastfeeding and involves letting baby rest every few minutes.
When baby doesn’t finish the bottle
Sometimes, newborns can fall asleep halfway through a feed. If your baby has fallen asleep during a feed, you can put baby over your shoulder, rub their back, and stoke their head, legs and tummy. This can help to wake your baby up to finish the feed. A nappy change is also a good way to wake up a sleepy baby. If your baby doesn’t finish the bottle, there is no need to worry. Babies are very good at judging how much they need, and there is no need to force milk.
Always throw away any leftover milk after one hour, as storing bottle a used bottle increases the risk for contamination.
Raising Children Network (Australia). Australian Government Department of Social Services. 2020. Bottle-feeding babies: giving the bottle. Accessed 30th Oct 2020. Available from: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/breastfeeding-bottle-feeding/bottle-feeding/giving-the-bottle