You may decide to feed your baby formula in addition to breastmilk. You may also feed your baby with formula when it is impossible to breastfeed your baby. This is called replacement feeding. How can you make formula-feeding safe for your baby?

Formula is safe only when it is prepared well. The commonest baby formula are cow-milk based. There are also soy-based formula, protein-hydrolysate formula and amino acids. The last two should be based on medical recommendations. Formula can be powder, liquid concentrate or ready-to-feed preparations. There are different formulae for different ages. Preterms require preterm formula.  

Equipment and materials you need for formula feeding

To do formula feeding, you need formula. You also need a scoop which usually comes with the formula if powdered. Likewise, you need a measuring cup, a feeding cup and a spoon. You may choose to use a feeding bottle. A feeding bottle is more convenient but is more difficult to clean. You also need clean water. Water which is previously boiled is ideal.

How to prepare formula

You need to follow the instructions of the manufacturer. Use only the manufacturer’s scoop to fetch powdered formula.

Can formula make your baby sick?

If you dilute the formula with more water than required, your baby can fall sick. Your baby can also fall sick if you use too little water to mix his formula.

Germs can enter formula if your hands are not clean or your bottles and cups are not clean. This can make your baby ill. Always prepare formula hygienically with clean hands using clean equipment.

Can you store powdered formula after mixing?

Use powdered formula within 2 hours of mixing. If your baby starts drinking it but does not finish it in an hour, it is better to throw the rest away. You can keep formula in the fridge for up to 24 hours after mixing it, but this is strongly discouraged. When you open ready-to-feed formula, you can refrigerate it for up to 48 hours. Before feeding, warm it for about 5 minutes in a bowl of hot water. Do not microwave formula. This is because it may not heat uniformly, and this can burn your baby’s mouth.

How much formula does your baby require?

Your baby’s formula requirements depend on weight and age. In the first 3 months, as a rough guide, your baby requires about 140-200mls/kg of properly prepared formula. That will be about 400 mls a day in the early days up to about 1 Litre a day. It is best to let your baby guide you with his hunger cues. Your baby does not require added water after a feed, unless stated specifically by the manufacturer.

Formula allergy

Some babies are allergic to cow-milk proteins. Some may be allergic to soy as well. This may show as vomiting, poor weight gain, eczema and bloody stools. If in doubt, have a discussion with your baby’s doctor. If your baby is allergic to one brand of formula, he is likely to be allergic to other brands too. So you cannot solve that problem by changing brands.

Potential issues with formula

Apart from allergy, vomiting and spitting up are commoner among formula-fed babies than breast-fed babies.

Do I stop formula feeding when I start complementary feeding?

If you are not breastfeeding, continue to feed your baby formula for the entire first year.

Expiration date

Every formula has an expiry date. Be sure to check it before you buy. Also, do not buy formula when the container is bulging or appears deformed.

Is formula feeding the same as breastfeeding?

Formula can supply all the nutrients your baby needs for the first 6 months of life. However, breastmilk gives your baby better protection from diseases. Breastmilk also aids your baby’s brain and eyesight development. Breastfeeding helps with bonding with your baby. Again, breastmilk is gentler on your baby’s stomach.

Breast is best

Breast is best, but sometimes it may be difficult to breastfeed. Discuss with your baby’s healthcare provider any difficulties you have with breastfeeding before you decide on replacement feeding. All in all, you can do replacement feeding safely for the benefit of your baby.  

Keywords: feeding, formula, breastmilk

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