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Bottle Feeding - Formula, Bottles & Accessories

|18, February 2008


If you have decided that bottle feeding is the best option for you and your baby, you likely have lots of questions about the right products to use. How do you choose the right formula? Which bottles should you use? And what about all the countless feeding accessories that are available today? It is enough to make your head spin, but it isn't as difficult as you may think.

Formula Basics

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should be fed an iron-fortified formula. Some parents balk at this recommendation because they believe that iron causes constipation and gas in babies as it sometimes can in adults. However, studies have shown that this simply isn't the case. Iron is important to your baby's growth and development and should not be limited unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise.

80 percent of formulas are cow's-milk based. This may come as a surprise to parents who have been told repeatedly that cow's milk is not good for babies. Rest assured that cow's milk used in baby formula had been modified in order to be good for your child.

Sometimes though, despite these modifications, a baby may still have allergies or lactose intolerance that makes it difficult to tolerate cow's-milk based formulas. In this case, your pediatrician will most likely recommend a soy-based formula. Within a few weeks, your baby's digestive enzymes should become normal, allowing you to change back to regular formula when your pediatrician recommends it.

Unfortunately, up to 50 percent of babies who have sensitivity to cow's milk also are allergic to soy formulas. If this is the case with your baby, or if your baby has other health issues, your doctor will suggest a specialty formula.

Forms of Formula

Once you have determined the type of formula that is best for your baby, you will need to decide what form of formula to get for your baby. Often, busy parents enjoy the convenience of ready-to-feed formulas. Ready-to-feed is, well, ready to feed. Just pour it into the bottle and it's time to eat. The down-side is that this kind of formula is pricier than other kinds. You can find a happy medium by limiting ready-to-feed for times when it just isn't easy to mix formula, such as when you are traveling or when someone else is caring for your baby.

Concentrated formula is simple to use as well. Just add the right amount of water as stated on the can; usually this is an equal amount of water and concentrate. Because they are less costly than ready-to-feed formulas, concentrates are a great way to save time and money. Both of which tend to be at a premium when you are a new parent.

Many parents prefer to use powdered formula for their baby. The best bargain of the forms available, powdered formula doesn't need to be intimidating. While it is essential to mix it correctly to assure that baby gets the proper nutrients, it is really just a matter of following directions. Generally, this is just one scoop of powder to two ounces of water. If you purchase pre-measured packets, mixing is even easier.

Other formulas available today include toddler formulas and formulas that contain DHA and ARA. These may cause you some confusion when you see them on store shelves.

Docasahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are naturally occurring amino acids that are passed to your baby by the placenta during pregnancy. It is also found in breast milk. Some experts feel that by adding these amino acids to formula they can improve a baby's visual and cognitive development, but there is no solid scientific proof of this. It should also be noted that these products do not show any negative effects—other than a higher price tag. Ultimately, the choice is yours.

Toddler formulas are available for children over one year old. However, it isn't necessary for you to change over as long as your baby is healthy and eating properly. Your pediatrician might suggest the lower calorie toddler formulas if it seems that your baby is heavier then recommended, but there really is no reason to worry if you decide to continue on your regular formula. It still provides all the nutrients that your baby needs.

Baby Bottles

There are four basic types of baby bottles. Standard bottles are the most well know since they have been around for many years. They are easy to fill and clean as well as being easy to hold. There are also more nipple options for standard bottles. Other types of bottles have been developed that some feel are better than standard bottles because they do a better job of keeping your baby from swallowing air while feeding.

Angle-neck bottles are one example of more modern designs. This design allows formula to fill the neck of the bottle without having to hold it at a funny angle. Since this will prevent babies from swallowing air while they suck, it will help them to avoid stomach discomforts.

Another popular bottle is the disposable bottle. Sterile bags fit inside a plastic holder and collapse as the baby eats. This also eliminates the problem of swallowing air and also makes washing easier. However, constantly buying replacement bags can add up quickly.

Natural Flow bottles have a straw-like venting system to eliminate air bubbles and vacuum. It is thought that this will help to prevent colic, gas and spitting up. There are more parts to wash with this system, but you might find it worth the effort if you baby is colicky.

Bottle Safety

When choosing the right bottles for your baby, keep in mind that some studies have shown bottles made from certain plastics to be potentially unsafe. While there is a great deal of controversy over this subject, to be on the safe side you might want to avoid the clear, hard plastic bottles. This type of plastic often contains a chemical called bisphenol A or BPA.

BPA has been linked to early puberty, hyperactivity, certain cancers and an increased risk of diabetes in lab animals. While the amount of this chemical that leeches into your baby's formula is minimal, you need to decide for yourself if it is worth the risk. To minimize the danger, avoid buying plastics that have the recycling symbol #7 or PC on the bottom.

Use glass or soft plastic or glass bottles instead. Look for #1, #2 or #5 plastics for any plastic items that come in contact with food for baby and mom-to-be. BPA may also be found in the lining of ready-to-feed cans so powdered formula is probably your safest option.

If in doubt, contact the manufacturer to see if their baby bottles are BPA free. Some safe bottles to consider include those manufactured by Born Free and Adiri.

Bottle-Feeding Accessories

There are countless accessories on the market for bottle-feeding parents to try. Few are essential, but many of them can make your life a bit easier. From dishwasher racks and drying racks to bottle warmers and sterilizers, you will soon wonder where to put it all. Carefully consider if you really need all the gizmos and gadgets before making an impulse buy. A bottle brush is a wise investment since it can be hard to scrub out a bottle, but if you use the dishwasher even this may not be necessary. Use your best judgment on the extras that you will really need and use.

Kathleen Roberts is a freelance writer and editor as well as the mother of five children. She writes about pregnancy, parenting, gardening and natural living. Kathleen enjoys spending as much time as she can in the outdoors with her family in the Florida Keys where she enjoys scuba diving, bicycling and anything else that will allow her to interact with nature.

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Rahul Jul 11, 2010 05:54:11 AM ET

Very nice article..helps shapes views on when to invest in the bottles/breast pump etc..thanks

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