Although breastfeeding is the best, safest and healthiest way to nourish a newborn, there are many mothers who need to introduce formula to their baby at one or another point of their life. For whatever reason you choose to formula-feed your little one, there are several things you need to keep in mind to make the entire process as safe as possible for your baby. Let's have a look at them!
For at least five minutes prior to first use, sterilize all of your baby's feeding supplies, including bottles, nipples, caps, and rings, to ensure there will be no germs in your baby’s milk. For this purpose, you can use a dishwasher, a microwave steam sterilizer, a stand-alone electric steam bottles sterilizer or a cold water sterilizing solution. After this, thoroughly washing these items in lukewarm, soapy water after every use would be sufficient.
Ensure Your Own Personal Hygiene:
Just as your little one’s feeding accessories must be clean, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap/liquid hand wash and lukewarm water before preparing formula and starting a bottle-feeding session. After washing, don’t forget to dry your hands well with a clean towel or paper towel. Also, wash the counter or table where you’re going to mix up the formula in order to minimize the risk of germ formation and transmission. Remember, cleanliness is inevitable when you’re feeding your little one.
Always Use Pure Water to Make Up Formula:
If you're using liquid-concentrate or powdered formula, follow label directions to know how much water needs to be mixed and always use pure, filtered and fresh water - tap or sterilized bottled - accordingly to prepare a bottle for your baby. If the fresh water is not available for any reason, don't even think of using mineral water to make up a formula as it contains high levels of minerals which could prove harmful to your baby's inner organs. Also, don't add water to ready-to-feed formula unless it’s clearly mentioned on the milk label.
Check the Temperature:
To make sure the feed is neither too hot nor too cold, always check the temperature of the formula before giving it to your newborn. It should be lukewarm, but not hot. Use your most delicate skin, the inside of your wrist, to check whether or not the formula is ready to serve. Put a drop or two of the formula on your inner wrist and if it feels comfortable, you’re good to go. As a thumb of rule, always keep the formula temperature around body temperature i.e. 98.6°F.
Make Sure the Nipple Hole Is the Right Size:
To ensure a proper flow of the formula from bottle to your baby’s mouth, it’s important that you use the right nipple hole. The nipple hole should neither be too big nor too small. If it's too large, your little one will gulp and choke - triggering more gas. And if the nipple hole is too small, he will be getting frustrated and struggling hard to get the formula out. Hence, check out the nipple hole in your baby's bottle from time to time to ensure it is the right size.
Never Use the Microwave to Warm Formula:
Irrespective of whether you're using liquid or powdered formula milk, never ever heat the bottle in a microwave oven. Microwaves heat the liquid unevenly and create hot spots within the liquid, which can burn your baby's delicate mouth or throat. A slower but much safer option is to place the bottle in a pot or bowl of hot water for a few minutes until it’s lukewarm. You can also use a bottle warmer to heat the bottle but use caution with it – you'd definitely not want to over-heat the formula.
Hold Baby in a Safe and Comfortable Position:
In order to feed effectively, hold your newborn in a semi-sitting position where you both can see each other's face and you can watch for signs that your little one needs a break during feeding. Support your baby’s head with the crook of your arm and prop him up at a slightly elevated angle so he doesn’t swallow a lot of air. As holding your little one this way for a long time can tire out your arm, consider tucking a soft nursing pillow under your arm to avoid the numbness. Also, switch sides halfway through every bottle-feeding session.
Never Leave Baby Alone with a Bottle:
Don’t leave your baby alone or unattended with a propped-up bottle as this can lead to strangulation. Leaving your newborn to feed himself, not only you lose a golden opportunity to spend quality time with your little one, but also you make him more susceptible to choking and ear infections. Putting your baby down to sleep with the bottle is even more unsafe since it can cause him a variety of dental issues over time. For the reason, you should hold your baby in your arms while he is bottle-feeding.
Take Burping Breaks:
As bottle-fed babies usually swallow more air than babies who are breastfed, make it a habit of burping your little one after every 2 or 3 ounces of formula to release the swallowed air or gas from his stomach. While most of the time, taking a burp break halfway through a feeding session works well to burst your baby’s air bubbles, but you can also look for signs that your little one is feeling airy. To avoid leaks or spills or throw ups during burping, make sure you have a highly- absorbent burp cloth, bib or hanky within your arm's reach.
Toss the Leftover After Each Feeding:
Does your little cherub leave a few extra ounces in his bottle after every feeding session? If so, don’t try to be earth-friendly and throw away the formula left in the bottle immediately after each feed. Some formula, however, can be kept in the refrigerator for a certain amount of time - like 48 hours or so - and that too when the baby hasn't touched the nipple. If you're using such kind of formula for your bambino, read all instructions given on the label carefully and throw out anything you don't use within the specified time frame. However, the best thing would be to prepare as much formula as your little one is able to finish in one go.