As a midwife, if a new mum tells me that she would like to formula feed, my goal is to make sure that she does it safely. Formula feeding involves a number of steps that can take a while to master. Learning to do it properly will result in a happy, healthy and satisfied baby.
What is infant Formula?
Infant formula is a substitute for breast milk. Most formula is made from cow’s milk that has been treated to make it suitable for infants. Extra minerals (such as iron) and vitamins have also been added to ensure that the formula has the right nutritional balance. Goat’s milk based infant formula is also approved for use. Do not feed your baby any other type of formula without consulting a health professional.
The brand of formula you use is entirely up to you. Don’t be fooled by clever marketing ploys that promise that a particular brand of formula will satisfy your baby for longer and improve their sleep. There is no evidence to suggest that babies will settle easier or sleep for longer based on the brand of formula you use.
What equipment do I need for making formula?
When it comes to formula feeding, it’s important to have the right equipment. Here are some of the items you will need:
- Bottles – Medela and Pigeon are both brands I recommend
- Teats – come in different sizes: newborn, 3-6 months and 6 months +
- Bottle and teat brush – that can clean the bottle and the top inside narrow part of the teat
- Steriliser – microwave or plug in
How do I reduce the risk of infection?
A baby’s immune system is not as well developed as an adults’ which means that they are more susceptible to infection, particularly diarrhoea and vomiting. To reduce the risk of illness, follow the guidelines below:
- Clean and sterilise bottles, teats and any other feeding equipment before each feed.
- Boil fresh tap water in a kettle and leave to cool to about 70 ̊C (no longer than 30 mins). Do not use bottled water as it is not sterile and may contain too much sodium or sulphate. Previously boiled water is also not recommended as the balance of minerals may be compromised.
- Prepare your baby’s formula following the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure that you only use the scoop that comes with that particular brand of formula and that you level it off with a clean knife. This will ensure that you are adding the correct amount of powder.
- Make each feed up as required and use immediately. Discard any formula that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours as it may contain bacteria (World Health Organisation WHO).
Note: Making up a feed with too much powder can make your baby constipated or cause dehydration. Too little powder will not provide your baby with enough nourishment.
How do I make up a feed?
Formula preparation is simple once you understand the basics. Here is a step by step guide to set you on your way:
- Wash your hands and make sure that the food preparation area is clean.
- Fill the kettle with cold tap water. Do not use bottled water or water that has been boiled before.
- Boil the water and leave it to cool slightly (no longer than 30 mins). The powder should be mixed while the water is still hot enough to kill off any bacteria that might be present.
- Pour the correct amount of water into a sterilsed bottle.
- Using the scoop that comes with the formula, measure the amount of powder required and add to the water. Make sure you level off each scoop using a clean knife to ensure accuracy.
- Screw the lid onto the bottle and cover the teat with the cap. Shake the bottle until the powder is fully dissolved.
- Before feeding your baby, cool the bottle by sitting it in a jug of cold water or running it under a cold tap. Test the temperature of the formula by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist. It should feel lukewarm.
- Throw away any made up infant formula that is left over from a feed within two hours.
Note: Always put the water in the bottle first before adding the infant formula. This will help you measure it more accurately.
How do I make up bottles when I’m out and about?
Being able to take your baby out for the day is one of the most enjoyable parts of being a new mum. To make the feeding process easy, here are a few things you will need:
- Vacuum flask or thermos – fill a flask or thermos with boiled water and cool a bit (to about 70 ̊C). It will keep the water hot for about four hours.
- Insulated bottle holder – this is another great option for mums on the move. An insulated bottle holder will keep the water warm so all you have to do is add the formula when you’re ready to feed your baby.
- Formula container – measure the right amount of formula into each compartment and store it in your nappy bag until you’re ready to make up a bottle.
Tip: Never warm formula up in a microwave, as it can heat the feed unevenly and burn your baby’s mouth.
When it comes to feeding your baby, it’s important to remember that the number of feeds specified on the tin is just a guide. Your baby may require more or less feeds per day than stated on the packet. Wet and dirty nappies and sufficient weight gain are the best ways to gauge whether or not your baby is eating well. If you have any concerns about feeding your baby formula, speak to your midwife, health visitor, paediatrician or GP.