Making bottle-feeding easy
Find out the tips and tricks to problem free bottle feeding, from lactation expert Rowena Bennett.
Problem free bottle feeding

1. Testing teats

Teats come in all shapes and sizes, and are probably the most important piece of bottle feeding equipment. You want one with the right flow rate for your baby. A teat with a fast flow rate can cause your baby to overfeed, while one that is too slow could cause your baby to get too tired and fall asleep before completing the feed.

The ideal duration of bottle feeds for age is as follows:

Birth to 3 months:    20-40 minutes
3 to 6 months:          15-30 minutes
Over 6 months:        10-20 minutes

As with most feeding guides, these are just that; babies of the same age differ in their size and sucking ability. And the same goes for the recommendations on teat packaging - although it indicates the teats were designed for a baby of a particular age, this does not guarantee they will be suitable for your baby.

2. Keep the pressure right

To maintain an even pressure within the bottle it’s necessary for air to fill the space as milk exits the bottle. If there's negative pressure within the bottle (like a vacuum, the baby has to put greater effort into sucking and that can tire her out before finishing her feed. There are two possible entry points for air to get into the bottle: through the holes in the end of the teat and between the teat and bottle rim. Air is prevented from entering the bottle when the bottle ring is screwed down too tightly and while the baby maintains suction with her tongue over the holes at the end of the teat. You may not need to do this as much with older babies as they learn how to relieve the pressure by momentarily releasing suction.

You will know you have the bottle ring screwed on just right when you can see a steady flow of bubbles entering the bottle as your baby feeds without milk leaking over her.

3. Choose a suitable environment

Too much sensory stimulation can be overwhelming for newborn babies, while a busy and noisy environment can be too distracting for babies over the age of four months.

4. Perfect positioning

In order to feed effectively, newborn babies in particular require appropriate support to position their body and head during feeding. Check out different positions you can try.

5. Reading baby cues

Through their behaviour, babies let us know when they want to feed, when they don’t, when they need to burp, and when their hunger is satisfied. They also express frustration, by way of agitated or distressed behaviour, in situations where they do not receive an appropriate response to their behavioural cues. For example, a baby will fuss, cry or scream and back-arch if he has already indicated he wants to stop feeding but the person feeding him persist in trying to make him finish the bottle. It’s the caregiver’s job to interpret the baby’s feeding cues and respond accordingly. See: How to interpret baby’s feeding behaviour.

This article was written by Rowena Bennett and adapted for Kidspot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.
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