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Guide to Using Infant Formula: Teats, Practices, and Cups

Feeding your baby with infant formula involves making informed choices and following best practices to ensure their well-being.

Table of Contents:

  1. Learn how to select and test the right teat for your baby’s bottle to ensure comfortable feeding. Click to Jump
  2. Discover essential practices for safe and comforting bottle-feeding, including hygiene and positioning. Click to Jump
  3. Understand how to calculate and adjust the right amount of formula based on your baby’s weight and age. Click to Jump
  4. Get tips on when and how to introduce a feeding cup to your baby, promoting a smooth transition from bottle to cup. Click to Jump

Choosing Teats and Flow Rates

Mother lovingly holding her baby while feeding with a bottle in a warm, cozy home setting.

Choosing the right teat and flow rate for your baby’s bottle can make feeding time much smoother.

Teats come in various shapes and materials, and every baby is different, so you might need to try a few before finding the perfect fit. For example, some babies might prefer a silicone teat, while others do better with a latex one.

To test the flow rate, turn a bottle of room-temperature milk upside down; the milk should drip steadily but not pour out. If the milk flows too fast, it can cause choking or spluttering, while too slow a flow can make feeding frustrating for your baby.

A little leakage at the corners of their mouth is normal and will improve as they grow.

Regularly check and replace teats to avoid any wear and tear that could be harmful, as silicone and rubber teats can crack over time, harboring bacteria or posing a risk of small pieces breaking off.

For more detailed recommendations on nipple sizes, check out our post on Avent Nipple Sizes.

Studies have shown that the flow rate of bottle teats can vary significantly, which can affect feeding success.

For instance, a study by (Bell and Harding, 2019) found that both hospital disposable and commercial teats had varying flow rates, with commercial teats ranging from 4.2 mL/min to 31.3 mL/min.

Similarly, (Crossley and co-authors, 2021) noted that flow rates of teats used in an Australian NICU varied from 7.34 mL/min to 25.34 mL/min, highlighting the importance of selecting the right teat to ensure a positive feeding experience.

Good Bottle-Feeding Practices

Ensuring good bottle-feeding practices is crucial for your baby’s health and comfort.

Always check the formula’s temperature by shaking a few drops onto the inside of your wrist, it should feel warm, not hot, to prevent burns.

Holding your baby close during feeding helps create a comforting environment, and making eye contact and talking softly can enhance bonding and make feeding time more enjoyable for both of you.

Never prop the bottle up or leave your baby to feed alone, as this can lead to choking or ear infections due to milk flowing too quickly or getting into the baby’s ear.

To reduce the chance of your baby swallowing air, which can cause discomfort and gas, hold the bottle at an angle to keep the nipple full of milk.

After feeding, burping your baby helps release any trapped air, reducing fussiness and improving digestion.

Hygiene is equally important: always wash your hands before preparing the bottle to prevent the introduction of harmful bacteria.

Sterilize all feeding equipment thoroughly to ensure no bacteria remain, which can lead to infections. Additionally, discard any formula left standing for more than two hours to avoid the risk of bacterial growth, which can cause foodborne illnesses.

Research has shown that improper hygiene practices, such as not washing hands or inadequately cleaning bottles, can lead to contamination of infant formula, emphasizing the need for following proper guidelines.

Another study found that nearly 84.5% of bottle feeds in an urban township were contaminated with E. coli due to poor preparation practices, underscoring the importance of proper hygiene (Kassier and Veldman, 2013).

Amount of Milk to Feed

Determining the right amount of formula can be challenging since every baby has unique needs. Typically, bottle-fed infants up to six months old require about 150 ml of formula per kilogram of body weight daily.

However, some babies might need more, up to 200 ml/kg, while others may require less. These amounts are just guidelines, and individual needs can vary.

For example, a 3-month-old baby weighing 13.2 lb (approximately 6 kg) would need around 718 ml (24.30 oz) of formula per day, divided into 6 feedings. Each feeding should be about 119 ml (4 oz). For a more detailed and personalized calculation, you can use our Baby Feeding Calculator.

To ensure your baby is getting enough formula, look for signs such as six or more wet nappies a day, steady weight gain, and an active, content baby (Leung and co-authors, 1988).

It’s crucial to remember that as your baby grows, you should increase the amount of formula rather than the concentration. Always prepare formula according to the instructions on the package to maintain the correct balance of nutrients.

Research indicates that increasing formula volume, rather than concentration, supports normal growth and nutrient intake without increasing the risk of obesity (Akeson and co-authors, 1998).

If you ever notice that your baby is consistently finishing their bottles and still seems hungry, or if they’re struggling to finish their bottles, it might be time to adjust the amount slightly.

Consulting your pediatrician can provide additional guidance tailored to your baby’s specific needs.

Lastly, keep in mind that every baby is different. Some might need smaller, more frequent feedings, while others might prefer larger, less frequent ones.

Paying attention to your baby’s hunger cues and adjusting accordingly will help ensure they are well-fed and happy (Timby and co-authors, 2014).

Using a Feeding Cup

Introducing a feeding cup can be beneficial, especially as your baby gets older. Around six months is a good time to start teaching your baby to sip from a cup.

Using a feeding cup can help reduce the risk of nipple confusion and encourage your baby to transition away from the bottle by 12 months.

This transition is crucial for promoting proper oral development and reducing the risk of dental issues associated with prolonged bottle use (Dowling and co-authors, 2002).

Using a cup instead of a bottle can also be particularly useful in areas where sanitation is a concern. Cups are easier to clean and sterilize compared to bottles, reducing the risk of bacterial contamination that can cause infections (Gupta and co-authors, 1999).

Additionally, cup feeding has been shown to be an effective method for feeding preterm and small infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), as it allows for successful breastfeeding without causing nipple confusion (Howard and co-authors, 1999).

When introducing a feeding cup, start with a small amount of formula or expressed breast milk in the cup. Hold the cup to your baby’s lips and gently tilt it so a small amount of liquid reaches their mouth. This helps your baby get used to this new way of drinking.

It’s important to choose a cup that is appropriate for your baby’s age and developmental stage. Some mothers have found that using a small metal or glass tumbler works well, as it is easy for babies to handle and sip from (Lang and co-authors, 1994).

Research has demonstrated that preterm infants can successfully learn to drink from a cup before they are able to efficiently breast or bottle feed. This makes cup feeding a practical and effective option for supplementing feeds until the baby is ready for direct breastfeeding (Fredeen, 1948).

Using a feeding cup can be a great way to support your baby’s development and ensure they receive adequate nutrition in a safe and hygienic manner.

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