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Facts and advice about bottle feeding your newborn formula, written by pediatricians for parents. A newborn baby needs food, that is, breast milk or formula. The choice is up to the parents. In this post you will learn how to start bottle feeding your child. If you want to start breastfeeding, I recommend reading our breastfeeding post instead.
The ultimate responsibility
I haven’t met a single parent who doesn’t know how important food is to a baby. The vast majority of parents find this a bit stressful. Feeding a baby is perhaps the most concrete thing in all of the change that comes with having a baby – “I have to give this baby the food it needs every day and every night, otherwise the baby dies.”
The joy when a baby eats and the stress when they don’t
If you’re lucky enough to have a baby that likes to eat and is good at sucking, this responsibility may not feel like a burden. In fact, every meal reiterates a strong sense of joy and pride in parenthood! Congratulations to all who have had the privilege of experiencing this!
However, many babies are not born as fully-fledged suction masters. The earlier in pregnancy they are born, the more difficult they will find sucking. But even full-term and late babies can have this problem. Put simply, babies are different, right from birth. If your baby needs help learning to suck: get that help. Don’t go home from the hospital without the baby being able to suck.
Think about bottle feeding or breast-feeding before the baby arrives
In my experiences, first-time expectant parents have rarely thought much about how they want to feed the baby. “A mother is supposed to breastfeed, I guess. Most people do, don’t they? I’m sure it’ll be fine.” It’s a shame, I think. For baby’s food is such a big part of their life that is well worth preparing for.
My advice to all of you who are expecting a child is, think about how you would like to feed your child. Talk to your partner if you have one. If you have different ideas, discuss your way to a solution you both can imagine living with, so that you can later support each other in feeding. Please play around with your idea with friends who have children, to get feedback. And feel free to discuss this with your midwife. Ask for some tips on how you want to approach feeding your child.
The choice between breast milk and formula
Breast milk is very good for infants. When breastfeeding works, it is a handy way to feed the baby. Contemporary infant formulas are also a very good food source for infants. And when bottle feeding works, it is a practical way to feed the baby.
The prerequisite for formula to be equivalent to breastfeeding is access to clean water and sufficient amount of formula. For those planning a longer stay in an area with poor access to clean water, breastfeeding is strongly recommended. For everyone else, the choice is completely your own.
Breast milk has a protective effect that does not exist in formula. It is well established that breastfeeding protects against bacterial stomach infections in countries with poor water hygiene and also protects against blood poisoning during the first year of life. Thankfully, blood poisoning is rare among Swedish children. You do not put the child at any measurable risk of blood poisoning by choosing formula.
It is the parents’ decision whether they want to breastfeed or bottle feeding.
Solely formula or both?
If you as a mother can’t even imagine letting the baby lick your nipple, even during pregnancy, it may be a good idea to decide to just bottle feed with formula. If you don’t want milk production to get started, don’t let your baby suck, don’t pump and don’t express at all. Wear a tight sports bra that squeezes your breasts firmly together.
There are also medications that can be prescribed to stop milk production. However, often you won’t need it.
Tell your partner what you want so you can support each other in the bottle feed. Make sure that it is clear in your journal that you want help with bottle feeding and do not want any requests to start breastfeeding. Buy a few different types of bottles and pacifiers and formulas for the newborn.
Facebook has many closed groups where bottle-feeding parents help each other out. Send a request to join!
Both breast and bottle
So you want to juggle both bottle feeding and breastfeeding. In order for milk production to get started, it is important to have plenty and consistent sucking in the first 24 hours. Then it often takes at least a week or two before breastfeeding becomes somewhat stable. I’d recommend you introduce the bottle at least after 2-3 weeks of breastfeeding. The risk of mixing bottles and breasts from day 1 is that breastfeeding will not start at all.
Which formula is best?
All industrially manufactured infant formulas sold in Sweden meet high quality standards and are good for children. Currently, the standard formulas in Sweden are BabySemp, NAN and Hipp. Just make sure to mix according to the instructions on the package so that you get the right ratio of powder and water.
More expensive special formulas provide more income to food companies, but if the child enjoys the cheapest standard formula, keep it up!
Children with cow’s milk protein allergy need special formulas.
How often should a newborn eat?
As often as it wants, but at least every three hours around the clock. If a newborn one day stops waking up to ask for food in 5-6 hours, it may be the first sign of serious illness, such as a bacterial infection of the blood or brain.
A newborn who stops asking for the breast or bottle or can’t be bothered sucking, should be seen at the children’s emergency room the same day or night.
How much should a baby eat?
Until it’s full and satisfied. Newborns are satiated when they stop sucking actively. Sometimes they fall asleep and look very happy, and sometimes they look at you with clear eyes. If you are going to prepare a bottle for a 3 kg newborn, you can give 60 ml. For a 4 kg baby, give 75 ml and to a 5 kg baby give 100 ml. Pour out the rest if the baby doesn’t finish it. Fill up a little more if it’s not enough.
Good luck with the bottle feed! If that doesn’t work, ask for help! Find someone that you trust and that can motivate you. I hope all the medical center nurses can provide this for you. But if you can’t find one, you can probably find one or more knowledgeable and supportive people while reading my tips here!