When Bottle Feeding Your Infant is Best

Breastfeeding is the ideal way to feed a newborn, but many women either choose not to do so for personal reasons or must bottle-feed because of health-related issues such as infections or use of medications that could be harmful to the baby if passed through breast milk. To make sure your baby is getting the best nutrition from bottle-feeding, follow these basic guidelines and remember to consult your health care provider with any questions and concerns


Formula is available in powder, liquid concentrate and ready-to-feed forms and can be purchased at most grocery and drug stores. Baby formula is produced under U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines that make sure it contains the proper amount of fat, protein and vitamins. Your health care provider should advise you on what formula is best for your baby


When preparing formula, be sure to read the mixing instructions. Concentrated formula, for example, requires the addition of water.
Before preparing formula, the bottles and nipples should be sterilized in a dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Bacteria from baby’s saliva can grow in the bottle and may cause stomach upset.

Water should be boiled before it is added to powder formula or liquid concentrate. Bring it to a strong boil and keep it boiling for 1-2 minutes, then let it cool. Mix powder formula and liquid concentrate with the exact amount of water stated on the label. Discard unused portions of mixed powder formula. Too little water can upset your baby’s stomach or harm the kidneys. Too much water keeps your baby from getting enough to eat.

Avoid heating formula in a microwave oven because it may result in uneven warming and burn baby’s mouth if it becomes too hot. Store any opened can of ready-to-feed or liquid concentrate formula in the refrigerator and use it within 48 hours after opening


Proper positioning makes bottle-feeding easier and more enjoyable for mother and baby. Holding baby close during feeding provides stimulation and helps prevent choking and tooth decay associated with propping the bottle. Baby’s head should be raised slightly to prevent liquids from washing backward into the eustachian tubes in the ears, which can lead to ear infections. Mothers should burp their babies before feeding if baby has been crying. They should burp baby again after baby has taken about 15 cc (1/2 ounce) of formula, and again at the end of each feeding. Three basic positions work best for burping:

  • Place baby on your shoulder and pat baby’s back
  • Hold baby in sitting position by placing your fingers on either side of his cheeks to keep his head upright. Pat back with other hand.
  • A combination of the above two positions. After feeding, place baby on his right side to prevent pooling of mucus or spit-up in the mouth. When placing the baby on his side, always place a rolled blanket behind him to maintain this position.


Parents should contact their health care provider if any of these signs or symptoms of allergy to formula occur:

  • Rash
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Refusal to eat


Bottle-feeding mothers should wear a well-fitting, supportive bra 24 hours a day until the infant is 1 week old. Ice packs may be applied to sore breasts to decrease discomfort. Pain medication also may be used. Prescribed lactation suppressants should be taken until all doses are used up


You can stop feeding formula and start whole milk around your baby’s first birthday. Do not give your 1- year-old any reduced-fat or no-fat milk, because they do not contain enough fat and calories for your growing toddler.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that fruit juice should not be given to infants before 6 months of age. Excessive juice consumption is associated with malnutrition, diarrhea, stomach problems and tooth decay. After 6 months, infants should not be allowed to continually drink juice from bottles or cups throughout the day. Infants should not get fruit juice at bedtime


American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP warns parents and pediatricians that fruit juice is not always the healthiest choice, [press release]  Feeding baby with breast milk or formula. Retrieved May 25, 2001 from the World Wide Web:https://www.fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/ feedbby.html (also available by calling 888-INFO-FDA). Rex Family Birth Center. Baby home care guide: Bottle-feeding.

Compiled by Abigail Scott, an associate editor at ADVANCE.

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