If you either can’t or choose not to breastfeed your baby, then you'll need to learn how to bottle feed. Formula milk is a good substitute for breast milk, but will not contain any antibodies or proteins that come naturally from the mother. You may want to consider, if you can, breastfeeding for your baby’s very first feeds, so that they receive the nutrients, antibodies and proteins which that first milk, the colostrum, is rich in.
Your most important job if you are bottle feeding is keeping things clean and sterile. Powders and tins are not sterile, even though they are sealed, and you need to make sure you are making bottles up properly to avoid contaminating your baby with potentially harmful bacteria, very occasionally found in formula milk, such as Salmonella or Enterobacter.
Sterilize your bottles first, and always make up the feed using freshly run boiled water, not re-boiled water or water from the tap. Let it cool but not below 70 degrees, otherwise bacteria will not be killed, and fill your bottle to the correct level. Fill the scoop provided to the top, and level it off with a clean knife. Always add the powder to the water and not the water to the powder. Pop the teat on the bottle, holding it by the edge, and shake the bottle to completely dissolve the powder. Test the temperature on your wrist; it should be not too hot or too cold. If it’s too hot, cool it by running the bottle under the cold tap, without getting any water on the teat. You should never reheat milk, and always throw away any milk not used within 2 hours. NHS guidelines have changed recently, so you may hear different advice from older relations or friends.
There are a few guidelines to remember whilst bottle feeding your baby. Firstly, avoid leaving your baby on their own with a bottle as they can choke on the milk. Most babies enjoy the contact with you when they are feeding anyway, so it is best to hold them when they feed which will also assist with bonding. Make sure nothing else goes in the bottle with the formula; there are many old wives tales about putting rusks or biscuits into the milk, but it really isn't good for your baby! Don’t make your baby finish every bottle if they don’t want it and lastly, it's not a good idea to give your baby follow-on milk before they are six months old as their tiny stomachs can't digest it.
If you are struggling to feed your baby using a bottle, whether you have switched from breastfeeding or not, try changing the size of the teats. Long thin teats will deliver milk more easily to the back of the baby’s mouth. Perhaps consider trying anti-colic or slow-flow teats. Unfortunately there is no way to tell in advance which type your baby will prefer!
Many new mums struggle with guilt over bottle feeding, especially if they have not been given enough support to continue with breastfeeding. The best advice is not to worry. If you don’t breastfeed your baby, you have to feed them something, and formula is a perfectly acceptable form of infant nutrition. If you have made the choice to bottle feed, then stick by your choice and don’t worry!