First bottle feed
By Kidspot Team |
First bottle feed

Breastfeeding provides babies with the best nutrition and is preferred whenever possible. The World Health Organization recommends that infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for six months, with timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond. 

Mothers who choose to bottle feed from birth will need to find out if the delivery suite or birth centre will provide your bottles, teats and formula. The hospital policies in recent years tend to encourage the mother to supply her own. This is aimed at not promoting a particular brand and facilitating the mother learning how to prepare the formula correctly and sterilise her equipment before she goes home (as well as promoting breastfeeding).

Many birthplaces will provide the very first bottle of formula after the birth and then the mother can prepare her own for subsequent feeds on the postnatal ward. Ask your caregiver what you will need to provide. Don't worry if the brand your baby is first given is not the one you have chosen. Most hospitals are supplied with a different brand each month (reflecting that one brand is not better than another). Changing brands is not an issue for your baby.


If you do need to provide your own formula make sure that you purchase a formula designed specifically for newborn babies. These are normally labelled as 'suitable from birth'. Be aware that normal milk that adults drink (no matter what type - cows, goat or soy substitutes) and regular powdered milk are not suitable for babies as their main milk drink until they are 12 months old. The World Health Organisation recommends that babies under 12 months are exclusively breastfed for 6 months.

Make sure you have formula, bottles and newborn baby teats as well as some form of sterilising equipment waiting at home.Not all baby bottles have accurate volume lines on them so check yours does by looking for the standard mark EN14350 on the bottle or packaging. Otherwise take your baby bottles to a pharmacy and ask a staff member to check if your bottles are accurate. Read out tips on preparing baby formula. 

Soon after the birth, ask the staff to organise a bottle so it will be ready when your baby is interested. Be aware that your colostrum can be expressed into the bottle if you want your baby to receive some of this first milk.

When you do feel ready and your baby is sending you signals that they are ready (through the 'rooting reflex') you can offer them the bottle. Try to avoid letting the staff feed your baby. This is a time for you to connect with your baby and get to know them (and practise feeding!) If the mother does not feel up to it, then the partner can feed the baby. You may wish to try the following feeding suggestions when you feed:

  • Make sure you are comfortable with pillows behind or around you to support your body.
  • Make sure the baby is warm and comfortable, perhaps wrapped or resting on a pillow on your lap.
  • The formula will usually be warmed in a jug of warm water (not microwaved). Check the temperature of the formula by shaking some onto the inside of your wrist. It should feel lukewarm and not hot.
  • Avoid screwing the lid of the bottle on too tightly as this can inhibit the flow of milk, not allowing air to get into the bottle as the baby sucks.
  • Bring your baby up close and hold them in your arms close to your chest. Gently brush their top lip with the teat so that they open their mouth.
  • As they open their mouth, place the teat into your baby's open mouth, on top of their tongue. Make sure the bottle is held slightly upwards at an angle to fill the teat with milk and avoid air being sucked in as the baby drinks from the bottle.
  • Most newborn babies will use a 'regular flow' teat, but if the milk is flowing too fast, the baby may gag. If they do this, slide the teat out of their mouth and sit them up and forward so he or she can catch their breath.
  • On average, a newborn baby will drink about 30 mls of milk for their first feed after the birth, and each subsequent feed for the next 24 hours. If they don't drink it all don't worry. Discard what is left and use a new bottle of formula if they are hungry again a little later.
  • Once the milk is finished, or the baby stops sucking, and look as if they have had enough, gently sit them up and forward to 'burp' them. You could also place them over your shoulder to do this (so long as you don't mind the possibility of regurgitated formula down your back!) As you sit them up make sure you support their head by holding your hand under their chin (without being tight around their neck).
  • If the baby has gulped down air, this will help expel it, but not all babies need to burp. Past generations tended to place great emphasis on 'burping or winding' a baby, this has unfortunately lead to new parents to worry unnecessarily if their baby does not burp. If nothing has happened after 5 minutes or so, then it probably won't. There is no need to 'force' a burp by gently hitting or rubbing their back (as was done in the past).

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Kidspot is dedicated to the promotion of breastfeeding as the best possible start in life for babies as well as being good for the health and wellbeing of mothers.

The World Health Organization recommends that infants start breastfeeding within one hour of life, are exclusively breastfed for six months, with timely introduction of adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods while continuing breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond. Source: http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding/en/

Breastfeeding provides babies with the best nutrition and is preferred whenever possible. Good maternal nutrition is ideal for breastfeeding. You should be aware that reversing a decision not to breastfeed may prove difficult. Partially introducing formula could negatively affect your milk supply. Social and financial implications should be considered when selecting a method of feeding. Professional advice should be followed before using an infant formula. Proper use of an infant formula is important to the health of the infant and should only be used as directed.

If you’re worried about breastfeeding, your Well Child nurse or PlunketLine can help.

This article was written for kidspot.co.nz using sources including health.govt.nz 

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