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Bottle-Feeding a Newborn Baby

While breast milk is the best choice for feeding your baby, cow’s milk-based infant formula is the next best choice. When choosing a formula, use a brand recommended by your baby’s doctor.

Types of formulas

Most babies start bottle-feeding with a formula based on cow’s milk. Formula is available in three ways: powder, which is the least expensive; liquid concentrate (which requires dilution); and premixed ready-to-feed, which is the most expensive but also the most convenient. If your baby is lactose-intolerant, he or she should be fed a low-lactose or a lactose-free formula.

When buying and preparing your baby’s bottle, always check the expiration date on the formula. Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns regarding your baby’s formula.

What nutrients are in infant formulas?

Infant formula contains protein, fat, vitamins A, C, D, E, K, iron, calcium, and many more ingredients.

Preparing formula

When using a liquid or powder formula, read the directions on how much water and formula to use. Follow the directions carefully, measuring every time. Tap water, well water, and bottled water are not sterile and should be boiled before usage until the baby is three months of age (actual or corrected).

To sterilize water, it is recommended to boil the water for one minute at a rolling boil to remove impurities. After you mix the formula with cold water, you can heat the bottle to the temperature your baby prefers (see below). Shake the bottle so that the formula mixes evenly with the water. A 24-hour supply of infant formula can be mixed at one time and then stored in the refrigerator. Do not microwave formula.

How do I choose a bottle and nipple?

Bottles for feeding babies come in many varieties: plastic, glass, disposable. Glass bottles can be used for a long time, but be sure to check the bottle on a regular basis for any chips or cracks that can hurt your baby.

Bottle nipples also come in several varieties (rubber, latex, and silicone), as well as different shapes. You can try out the different types of nipples to see which your baby prefers. If you have any questions, ask your baby’s doctor.

You should also monitor the nipple’s condition. You should replace the nipple if:

  • the formula comes out too quickly;
  • the nipple has become discolored; or,
  • the nipple has deteriorated in any way. A weakened or damaged nipple is a potential choking hazard.

Sterilizing the bottle

Bottles and nipples need to be sterilized before the first use. To sterilize the bottle, place it in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes or run through entire cycle in dishwasher. After the bottle has been sterilized and cooled, it is ready to be used. Nipples will change color after they are boiled. You may also use bottle liners with special holders for your baby. Follow the directions on the package for these.

Warming bottles

The bottle should be placed in boiling water or in a store-bought bottle warmer to warm up before you feed your baby. Do not place the bottle itself in the microwave--the microwave could cause the bottle to heat unevenly, which could burn your baby’s mouth.

To warm a bottle:

  • Fill a deep mug or measuring cup with water.
  • Place the water (not the bottle) in the microwave for about 1 to 2 minutes or until the water comes to a rolling boil. You can also boil the water in a pot over the stove.
  • Place the bottle in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes or until the bottle is lukewarm. Swirl the bottle to ensure even temperature. You can test the formula to make sure it is not too hot for your baby by squirting a little formula on the inside of your wrist.

Storing formula

After formula is prepared, the bottles should be kept in the refrigerator no more than 24 hours. Any formula that is left over after a feeding and not consumed within one hour should be disposed of, and never given to your baby.

How much should I feed my baby?

During the first month, your baby will eat about 2 to 3 ounces of formula at each feeding, and will eat every 2 to 3 hours. After the first month, your baby will eat about 4 ounces of formula every 3 hours. The amount of formula will gradually increase as your baby gets older.

The flow rate of formula coming out of the nipple will also change as your baby gets bigger. For the first few months, choose a slower-flowing nipple. The flow rate will depend on the brand of the bottle. You can test this by holding the bottle upside down. Most packages will label the flow rate according to your baby’s age.

What should I do if my baby has an allergic reaction to the formula?

If your baby seems to be having an allergic reaction to the formula (such as vomiting, diarrhea, and rash), you should consult your doctor; your baby may be switched to another type of formula. In addition to these symptoms, your baby may also be fussier than usual.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance include a lot of gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In many cases, a stool culture can determine whether your baby is lactose-intolerant.

When can I switch my baby to whole milk?

You can start feeding your baby whole milk instead of infant formula around his or her first birthday, or if he or she was born prematurely (1 year corrected age). Your baby should drink whole milk; reduced-fat or fat-free milk do not offer the calories and fat that your child needs to grow and develop.


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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/12/2015...#12218