How to Bottle-feed a Baby
Feeding times provide a wonderful opportunity to enhance the special bond you have with your baby. Learn how to make feeding times an enjoyable and satisfying experience for your baby.
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Many bottle feeding problems are directly related to how a baby is fed. What can appear like unimportant minor details can actually have a major impact on your baby's comfort and enjoyment during feeding.
Before you start, always test the temperature of the milk (bottled breast milk or formula) before giving it to your baby. You can do this by shaking a little of the milk on to the inner side of your wrist to make sure it's just warm and not hot.
Sit comfortably with your baby close to you. Hold your baby so that he lies in a semi reclining position (not completely flat). Make sure his head is not tilted too far back or too far forward. Imagine how comfortable you would feel drinking with your head and neck in the same position.
To encourage your baby to open his mouth, touch his lips with the nipple. Make sure the nipple is placed over his tongue and not under. Young babies have a tendency to lift their tongues when they cry. If the nipple is accidentally placed under his tongue, you will find he will experience difficulty swallowing and the milk will leak out of his mouth.
Allow him to take in as much of the nipple into his mouth as he feels comfortable with. Don't hold the bottle back, as it will be difficult for him to feed if only the tip is in his mouth.
Hold the bottle so that the nipple and neck of the bottle contains milk. Support the bottle at a right angle to his face, so that the nipple points towards the back of his mouth. If the bottle is held to low, the nipple will press against the roof of his mouth. If the bottle is held too high, the nipple will press down on his tongue. Holding the bottle too high or too low can make it difficult for him to maintain suction on the nipple.
Make sure that air bubbles are flowing into the bottle while he's feeding, to replace the milk he drinks. If you can't see any air bubbles, while he's feeding slowly loosen the nipple ring (the part that attaches the nipple to the bottle) until you can see bubbles. Take care not to loosen it too much, as this will cause the milk to leak all over him. (See common bottle feeding problems for more about this).
Allow time, once or twice during the feed, for your baby to stop and bring up a 'burp'. But don't keep trying to burp him if he becomes upset, some babies like to drink the whole bottle at once.
Let your baby decide when he's finished. The amount he drinks may vary from feed to feed. The feed should not be too fast or too slow. See How long should feeding last?
SAFETY! Never prop-feed your baby (where the bottle is supported by something rather than someone) because of the risk of choking. By the time a child is old enough to insist on feeding himself, he's most likely at an age where he could manage a feeding cup.
Written by Rowena Bennett