Formula feeding can be a boon for most mothers who are working women as it enables them to not rely on breastfeeding. Moreover, it can be very important in cases where the mother is not able to produce enough milk to feed the baby, or in cases where the milk is not suitable due to some disease in the mother. Baby formulas can also be used to supplement breast-feeding and be a practical option for a lot of mothers due to circumstances. While the reasons for formula feeding are varied, most mothers generally have a number of questions about formula feeding. The first and foremost question refers to the pros and cons of formula feeding vs. breastfeeding.

Pros

  • If you are going back to work after having a baby, this can help to divide the responsibilities of the baby with your partner or any caregiver for the baby.
  • If you are feeding the baby a baby formula, this is the best way for your partner to bond with the baby as they can engage in the precious moment of feeding the infant, which is not really achievable if you are breastfeeding.
  • If you are in a public situation, feeding your baby breast milk is often frowned upon and can be a bit of an embarrassment for the mother. Formula feeding your baby can be a better idea in these situations.
  • It can be reassuring to know how much your baby is feeding.

Cons

  • Though baby formulas claim to be complete in their nutritional value and manufacturers are constantly competing to make their formulas resemble breast milk, there can be no doubt that it is an inferior product as compared to breast milk. Apart from its nutritional value, breast milk has antibodies and antibacterial properties which boosts the baby’s immune system.
  • Baby formula can be expensive, as you not only have to buy the formula, but also the bottles, the teats as well as the sterilising equipment.
  • It’s much more time consuming.
  • The baby’s irregular feeding patterns can be a problem for people who are bottle-feeding as they will need time to prepare the formula.

With the pros and cons in mind, the next important question is the actual procedure on how to safely feed your baby any type of formula and the way to prepare the formula for feeding it to your baby. While breast milk is the only type of food that your baby needs, if you are for any reason, unable to feed your baby breast milk, you can feed your baby any type of store bought baby formula by carefully following the instructions given on the pack. You can give your baby cow milk based formula unless otherwise specified by your healthcare provider.

Types of instant formula

There are 3 kinds of formula that you can readily find at a store- ready-to-feed formula, concentrated liquid form, and powdered formula of which powdered formula is not sterile and must be prepared as instructions on the pack.

What formula should you feed your baby?

If your baby is born healthy and at full term, that is at 37 weeks or more, you can give your baby any type of formula. If your baby is a ‘high risk’ baby, you should prefer ready to feed and concentrate formulas over powder, however, it is okay to feed powder if you can’t find these.

A baby qualifies as a ‘high risk’ if-

  • The baby was born before 37 weeks and is less than 2 months old.
  • If the baby was born with a weight less than 2,500 gms and is less than 2 months old.
  • Your baby has a weak immune system and is likely to get sick often.

How to clean and sterilize your equipment for making baby formula?

You need to sterilize all your equipment every time you are making the baby formula until your baby is about four months old. Here are the steps by which you can sterilize your equipment.

  • Take all your utensils that are needed to make the formula, including the bottles, spoons, teats, bowls and pans/pots.
  • Wash your hands with soap.
  • Wash all the utensils in warm and soapy water.
  • Place these in a large pot, filling the pot with enough water to cover everything.
  • Bring the water to a boil and boil the utensils for 2 minutes.
  • Keep these in the pot with the lid on till you use them.
  • In case you are not using these utensils right away, you will need to remove them from the pot with clean tongs and place them in a dry and clean paper towel or cloth and let them dry. Then you need to store them in a clean place.

How to prepare ready-to-feed formula and store it?

Follow the directions given on the pack

  • These do not need water to make. All you need to do is simply pour the amount you need into the sterilized bottle and do not pour out excess formula. Throw away any excess formula left in the bottle after two hours.
  • You can store unused formula in the pack by covering it up to 48 hours in the fridge.
  • If unopened, store the ready-to-feed formula in a cool and dry place.

How to make and store any type of concentrated liquid formula?

  • If it is yet unopened, store in a cool and dry place.
  • You can keep open cans of liquid concentrate in the fridge up to 48 hours safely. Throw away any leftover formula.
  • You should only make one bottle at a time to be on the safe side.

Follow these steps to make liquid concentrate formula:

Boil water in a rolling boil for two minutes in a closed pot.

  • Let the water cool down to about 70 degrees or up to room temperature.
  • Follow the directions on the bottle and mix the concentrate and the water in the correct ratio.
  • If you make more than one bottle at a time, you need to store the other bottles quickly and use them up within 24 hours.

How to I make and store powdered formula?

You need to store the formula in a cold and dry place and use it within one month of opening.

Follow these steps to make the formula-

  • Boil water in a covered pot on the stove for 2 minutes.
  • Let the water cool down to about 70 degrees and check the temperature with a thermometer.
  • Follow the instructions to mix the formula.
  • Cool the formula down and immediately feed it to the baby.
  • Make one bottle at a time to be safe.
  • To store any formula, you need to keep it at 4degrees.
  • If you make more than one bottle, use it before 24 hours.

How to get the formula to the right temperature to feed the baby?

  • If you have just made the powdered formula, it is too hot for your baby. You need to cool it down by placing it under cold water or in a ice bath.
  • If you have stored the formula in the fridge, you cannot feed it immediately to your baby. You need to warm it by placing the bottle under warm running water or in a hot bath for around 15 minutes.
  • Don not wet the ring or the nipple of the bottle.
  • To test out the temperature, shake up the bottle and pour out 3-5 drops of formula on the inside of the wrist. If it is warm and not hot, you can feed it to the baby.
  • Do not heat it in the microwave as this can cause hot pockets and cause your baby to burn its mouth.
  • Do not feed it any formula left in the bottle after 2 hours.

How to feed the baby when you are away from home?

  • If you will be away for 2 hours or less, you can bring prepared formula in an insulated bag.
  • If you will be away from home for more than 2 hours, bring unopened formula.

With the safe way to feed your baby any type of baby formula in mind, here are some other commonly asked questions that you may have about formula feeding

How often should you feed your baby?

You should feed your baby whenever he/she demands for it or seems to be hungry. Most newborns need to be formula-fed every 2-3 hours and as they grow older and are capable of retaining more milk, they usually feed every 3-4 hours. If your baby is very young and/or having problems in gaining weight, you need to feed it every 2-3 hours even if it means waking him/her up from sleep.

How should you know that your baby is hungry?

Some of the signs that indicate that your baby is hungry include-

  • Moving head from side to side
  • Opening mouth
  • Sticking out tongue
  • Sucking hands/ fingers or fists
  • Puckering lips in a sucking motion
  • Nuzzling against mother’s breasts
  • Rooting reflex or moving the mouth towards something stroking the cheeks or lips.
  • Crying- crying is a late stage of hunger and you should be feeding your baby before it reaches the stage of crying from hunger as the baby may become too restless to be calmed down easily.

However, babies cry for a variety of reasons apart from hunger. If your baby is crying, you can present the nipple to see if it wants to feed if it doesn’t, do not force feed your baby. Your baby may need to be cuddled, changed or may just be over-stimulated, too hot/too cold or even just simply bored. If the baby is crying just an hour after crying, chances are, something else is causing distress.

How much should my baby drink?

For the first few weeks, 6-9 ounces of formula is enough, after which you will get accustomed to your baby’s feeding patterns and can make more at a time.

  • An average newborn drinks around 1.5-3 ounces of formula every 2-3 hours and this amount increases as the baby grows older.
  • At about 2 months of age, the baby needs about 4-5 ounces of formula every feeding spaced out at around 3-4 hours.
  • At 4 months, the baby needs about 4-6ounces depending on the frequency of feeding and the size of the baby.
  • By 6 months, the baby needs 6-8 ounces every 4-5 hours depending on the inclusion of baby food to the diet.

Is there anything to worry about if my baby seems to be hungrier than usual?

As the baby grows older, it will need more formula and will be able to retain it for longer, however, there are periods at which the baby will seem to be hungrier than usual and these periods generally coincide with certain growth spurts that occur usually around the ages of-

  • 7-14 day old
  • 3-6 weeks
  • 4 month
  • 6 month

During these stages, increase the amount of food and feed every time the baby demands food.

Is your baby eating enough?

While babies all have different rates of growth, often as a parent, you are likely to wonder if your baby is getting the proper nutrients for growth. Regular check-ups can monitor your baby’s weight, but there are other ways to determine if the baby is feeding enough. Your baby’s diapers are a good indication as you will be changing around 6-8 soiled diapers every day initially, with newborn poop being thick and tarry in the beginning and developing into a yellowish green colour as they grow. Formula fed babies have firmer and less seed-like stools than breast-fed babies. The urine of your baby should be pale or clear. Contact the doctor if you see orange crystals or are concerned about any lack of nutrition in your baby.

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