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Bottlefeeding Basics: How to Choose and Prepare Formula

how to bottle feedIf you’re a new mommy who’s decided, for whatever reason, not to breastfeed your baby, you can rest assured that bottle feeding your baby is the only safe alternative to nourish your baby. Although most baby formulas on the market are made with cow’s milk, formula is not the same as straight cow’s milk. All infant formulas include added enzymes, vitamins, and fats – which aren’t included in cow’s milk. For this reason, experts do not recommend that you ever feed your baby cow’s milk until he or she is over one year old.

There are a variety of different cow milk formulas on store shelves; all of these have similar nutritional value and quality. Some of the more expensive formulas may include special ingredients, but overall, there is no significant evidence that these formulas are better than others. You may have noticed that your hospital used a particular brand of infant formula, but this doesn’t mean that this brand isn’t the best.

What is nice about bottlefeeding your baby is that you can enlist the help of other family members when you’re exhausted — a perk that breastfeeding mommies often miss out on (unless they pump their breast milk).

Bottle feeding also gives daddies a chance to bond with their babies. Plus, babysitters and nannies can be left with bottles, formula, and instructions so you can get a much-needed night out!

Tools of the Bottle-Feeding Trade

  • Formula
  • Bottles, nipples, and caps
  • Bottle brush to clean the bottles
  • Water
  • Can opener, scoop
  • Sterilizing equipment

Unlike with breastfeeding, formula feeding always requires some supplies and extra costs, but not nearly as many as you might think. In fact, bottle-feeding mommies often carry around a diaper bag that weighs about as much as a breastfeeding mommy.

Your formula of course, will travel wherever you may go. If you use canned formula, you might need a can opener, or powder with its cute little measuring scoop.

Then, you’ll have your bottles, which means the nipple and cap for each. How many bottles you need to carry with you depends on how far from home you’re venturing. You have to consider that there might not be a good place to wash them out, so carrying enough for the outing is ideal. Some bottle feeding moms like to carry four to six bottles with them, just in case.

Wherever you’re going, make sure you’ll have access to water. If your baby prefers warm formula you’ll need a way to get hot water for warming the bottle.

When you’re at home, you should always have sterilizing equipment on hand. Because your baby has a vulnerable immune system, he or she isn’t strong enough to fight off germs and infections, so disinfecting bottles and other bottlefeeding equipment is the best way to reduce your baby’s chances of getting sick. You need to sterilize all of the feeding equipment before each feed. Sterilizing kills all germs that might be present on your baby’s bottle and in the milk. Some parents will buy an electric steam sterilizer or a microwave sterilizer for this purpose. You can also just boil the bottles, nipples, and caps in a covered pan for at least ten minutes to sterilize them.

How to Choose the Best Formula

Before you begin bottle feeding, you need to choose the right formula to feed your baby.

Choosing the type and brand should be something you work out with your pediatrician or your OB if you haven’t found the perfect baby-doc yet. They will recommend a kind of formula, and work with you during the trying-it-out phase until you find one that agrees with your baby’s tiny tummy.

Usually, a milk-based formula with iron is where the doctor will start. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all healthy babies (who aren’t getting breast milk) be fed an iron-fortified formula until they reach one years of age. All babies need to get at least 4 mg of iron per liter to prevent anemia.

If, for some reason, your baby doesn’t take well to that, you’ll get a chance to try lactose-free or soy formula. There are many choices, but the people in the scrubs will help you find the right one.

Check the ingredients on the formula packaging; the best ones have similar ingredients as breast milk. (Not exactly the same ingredients, since breast milk is complex, and no manufacturer has been able to replicate the unique ingredients in breast milk).

When you’re in the testing phase, just watch out for some of the signs you might need a different kind of formula: gassiness, fussiness, vomiting, and spitting up. Your doctor may have samples that you can try out before buying a bunch of formula you can’t use. He may also let you mix some rice-starch in to make the formula easier to digest.

There are many types of formula available in local stores, and you can find one that suits your baby’s needs. Different types of formula include cow’s milk-based formula, soy-based formula, lactose-free formula, extensively hydrolyzed formula, formula for premature babies, formula with human milk fortifier, and metabolic formulas.

Work with your baby’s pediatrician to figure out the best formula for your baby’s individual needs.

Once you’ve picked the brand and type of formula, you have a choice in style. Here are your options, from least expensive to paying-for-convenience…

  • Powdered: This is the most popular choice by far, and it’s the cheapest option. You can buy it in bulk (great big giant cans) to save even more. This kind needs to be mixed with water but it can be stored a lot longer than the other kinds.
  • Concentrated: This kind is liquid, but still has to be mixed with water before you can give it to your baby. It’s a bit more convenient than the powdered kind, but you can only keep it (refrigerated) for a day once it’s open.
  • Ready to Use: Attach nipple. Feed. Done. But you’ll make up for the ease of this kind with the price tag attached. Most mommies discover that it’s worth the savings to mix your own.

How to Prepare Formula 

In order for your baby to get the right nutrition for his or her growth and development, it’s important that you correctly prepare formula. Watering down formula (by adding too much water) can dilute the nutrients in the formula you choose, so always read the instructions carefully.

Concentrated formula is pretty easy to mix up, it just requires a particular unit of water to a particular unit of formula … the exact amounts will be clearly written on the can. Similac (one of the makers of baby formula) recommends that you add 1 fluid ounce of water to one fluid ounce of concentrated liquid formula.

Powdered formula is a bit trickier, but once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be a pro. Read the label for the correct way to prepare it. Find out from your pediatrician or OB whether you need to boil your tap water first … If so, boil it for five minutes and let it cool. Then pour the amount of water (cold water) you need into the baby’s bottle. Measure the amount of formula power into the water. Again, the can will give you precise directions, often one scoop for every two ounces of water.

For the safest water, let tap water run a bit before using it, to clear the lines. Also make sure you never boil water more than once…you’ll boil away all the minerals.

Once they’re in the bottle together, cap it and shake it.

Most people don’t realize that baby bottles don’t have to be warmed, and some babies even like cool or room-temperature bottles better! If you do have a gotta-have-a-hot-meal infant, just be careful how you warm up their formula. Microwaves are a big bottle NO-NO, they create hot-spots that hide in the middle waiting to burn unsuspecting tongues. Even shaking doesn’t get rid of the hot-spots.

To warm up a prepared bottle, just warm the whole bottle in hot water. You can hold it under the faucet with the hot turned on or let it sit in a bowl of hot water. Just a few minutes will work.

After warming, let some drip onto your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot.


It might sound like a lot, but once you’ve been bottle-feeding for a few days you will get into the swing of things.


Special Thanks to My Guest Writer.

Laura Cecil, mama to three kids, created livesnet.com where shares her reviews and parenting experience with her friends. Whether on bottle feeding or breastfeeding basics , you will get what you want to know on her site. 

About the author: This blog post was written by a guest contributor. If you’d like to guest post for Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies, please read my Guest Writing Policy for a guideline of what I am looking for. All guest posts need to be at least 500 words and be original to this site only.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • sarinkumar January 28, 2012, 4:09 pm

    Nice post for mothers who choose to not breastfeed baby. But I want to remind, its always better to breastfeed baby unless there is a reason. Because breast feeding reduces risk of breast cancer and breast milk is the best food for a baby. Try exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months. thanks.

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