Breastfeeding is best for babies, but not all mothers can breastfeed their babies and, indeed, not everyone wants to. Some mums may start breastfeeding but decide to switch to bottle-feeding for a variety of reasons. Here is a guide to choosing bottles for when you need to use formula.
How to choose your bottles
All bottles, whether plain or decorated, have a measuring scale marked on the side in millilitres or ounces to make it easy to give the right amount of milk. Most bottles hold 25Omls (9ozs) but your baby may not drink that amount of milk each feed for some months. You can also buy 125ml bottles, which are ideal for the first few weeks. A dinky bottle, holding 60mls is useful for offering a drink of cooled boiled water to the baby. Most bottles are made from an unbreakable material called polycarbonate, which is light, easy to keep clean and long lasting.
They usually come with all the accessories you need to make up a feed , the dome cap (to keep the teat clean), the screw cap (to hold the teat in place) the sealing disc (so that the teat can be inverted into the bottle before use) and the teat itself Some dome caps may seal the teat without the need for a sealing disc. Wide neck bottles have the added benefit of being easier to clean and fill.
Feeding equipment check list
As well as bottles, you will need a bottle brush and teat cleaning brush, a supply of formula milk, a kettle, a scoop (usually provided with the formula milk), a plastic knife or spatula and a sterilising tank, steam steriliser or microwave steam steriliser. If you don’t have any form of steriliser a large saucepan with a lid will do.
Care of bottles
Wash bottles in warm soapy water and use the bottle brush to wash every part of the inside of the bottle. Then rinse the inside and outside of the bottle under running water.
Wash teats under running water. Use the teat brush to get right inside the teats and turn the teats inside out to check that they are clean. Do not use salt as even small amounts left on the teat can rnake a baby ill. Then let water run through the hole before rinsing the whole teat under running water.
- Either by boiling for ten minutes, making sure bottles are fully immersed. Teats should be added for the last five minutes only
- Or by using a steam steriliser, or microwave steam steriliser by adding water then following the manufacturer’s instructions
- Or by cold water sterilisation using a plastic tank. Add the correct amount of sterilising liquid or two sterilising tablets then add bottles and accessories making sure that they are completely immersed.
After 30 minutes the bottles and accessories will be fully sterilised but you may leave them in the solution for up to 24 hours. After that, throw the water away and make up fresh solution. Wash hands thoroughly before handling the bottles. Bottles sterilised by the cold water method may need to be rinsed before use with previously boiled cooled water.
Then make up bottles
- Measure cooled boiled water into the bottles. Do not use artificially softened, repeatedly boiled or bottled water.
- Measure powder, using scoop provided, levelling scoop off with knife or spatula. Add powder to bottle.
- Place teat in screw cap, add disc if required, put dome cap on and shake gently to mix.
- Make up a whole day’s feeds at one time and store in the fridge until required.
Discard any unused feed after 24 hours and never be tempted to keep a bottle of milk that your baby hasn’t finished until the next feed.
How to choose a teat
You may be confused by the choice of teats available but choose the teat which suits your baby’s needs. Latex teats are made of natural rubber and are brown. These teats are often less expensive but may deteriorate or perish with sterilisation.
Silicone teats are man-made and clear in colour so any milk deposits are easy to see. They generally cost more than latex teats but do not deteriorate or perish as quickly. However, when a child has teeth they may tear.
All teats should be inspected regularly and discarded when showing signs of wear and tear or stickiness.
The teat shape
Some teats fit wide necked bottles, others fit standard neck bottles. Nearly all have a hole in the top and are made to fit comfortably into a baby’s mouth. Some teats have an orthodontic shape. These have the hole positioned on the flat side rather than the tip of the teat. The hole should be positioned facing upwards, towards the roof of the baby’s mouth during feeding. Some breastfed babies seem to prefer this teat.
Some new teats have a short tip which moves in and out as baby feeds. This is known as a ‘bellows’ action and these teats are said to resemble the mother’s nipple action during breastfeeding.
A baby’s sucking reflex grows stronger as the baby gets bigger so a newborn baby will suck more slowly than an older one. As a guide, a slow flow teat is suitable from birth to three months, a medium flow is ideal for 3-6 months old babies and a fast flow teat is best from the age of six months.
You can also buy Variflow teats which are suitable for all babies from birth. These teats have a cross-shaped cut in the end with a small hole in the middle rather just a hole. This cross allows the baby to control the flow of milk by the strength of his suck. These teats have proved successful with babies prone to colic and even the smallest baby can get a steady supply of milk without using up too much energy.
- Don’t feel guilty about bottle feeding your baby. It is an enjoyable rewarding experience for you both, and of course dad can help too.
- Do wash bottles and teats thoroughly BEFORE sterilising
- Do sterilise all equipment thoroughly before preparing a feed.
- Do not fill your bottles with boiling water and leave to cool as they may be knocked over. Let the water cool in the kettle (it can take up to 30 minutes) then pour into the bottles. Always put the water in before the powder, using the scoop provided.
- Do check temperature of the feed before offering it to the baby by shaking a few drops of milk onto the inside of your wrist.
- Do store feeds in the fridge until required
- Do throw away any feed left in a bottle and even if you have a full bottle left over at the end of 24 hours throw it away.
- Microwaves are not recommended for heating up a baby’s bottle because hot spots can occur and scald a baby’s mouth. Stand the bottle in a jug of hot water instead until it is warm though most babies do not mind cold milk.
- Do not add anything to the baby formula such a sugar, cereal or salt. The milk contains everything baby needs.
- Check teats at every feed for signs of wear and tear and to make sure flow rate is suitable.
- If in doubt about any aspect of feeding your baby contact your health visitor, midwife or doctor.
- Never prop your baby up and leave him with a bottle. This could cause choking.
Information courtesy of Tommee Tippee – Tommee Tippee has been helping mums care for their babies for more than 30 years.