The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continue till 12 months and beyond as per the desire of the mother and her baby. There is no alternative to breast milk that will offer the same balance of nutrition and protection for a baby’s optimum growth and development. Many breastfeeding mothers consider expressing their milk so that their baby gets the benefits of breast milk even in their absence. For mothers who cannot breastfeed their baby or have a low supply, an infant formula can be considered to fulfil the baby’s dietary requirements. Infant formula is the only suitable and safe alternative to meet the primary nutritional needs of babies. However, it is important to remember that the process of feeding infant formula can be complex and it must be given as per the instructions on the pack. Also, once you start formula feeds, baby’s reliance on breast milk might reduce, causing a dip in the mother’s supply. If you are considering a transition from breast milk to either partial or total formula feeds, it is best to speak to your healthcare professional before making any final decision. For mothers who use a combination of breast milk, expressed milk and infant formula (known as mixed feeding), there are a few things to remember to ensure that the mother’s supply and the baby’s needs are fulfilled.
Mixed Feeding Tips
- Wait for at least 6-8 weeks so that breastfeeding is established and only then introduce a bottle
- At 8 weeks, there is a lower chance of your baby resisting the bottle. Remember that the process of sucking from a breast and a bottle is different so it might take a few attempts for your baby to get adjusted
- It is better to offer the breast first and then follow up with a bottle if you are including top feeds. Breast milk is superior in nutrition as compared to expressed milk
- In order to maintain your supply, express the same amount of milk your baby takes from a bottle
- Also, if your baby is away and bottle-fed, try to express at feeding times (if your circumstances allow) in order to maintain your supply
Getting The Equipment Ready
If you want to bottle feed, you must first buy all the necessary equipment like bottles, teats and sterilising equipment. Ideally, you will need 2 to 6 bottles, 6 if you want to use bottles for all your baby’s feeds till 4 months as babies drink around 6 times per day till this age. Post 4 months, babies’ nutritional needs begin to grow and thus, they consume about 220 ml at each feed. Consider buying bottles with a higher capacity to last longer.
Things to Remember When Choosing Bottles or Teats:
- Bottles must have leak-proof caps, discs and teats
- If you pick plastic bottles, ensure they are BPA free. Glass bottles have a higher chance of breaking or shattering so purchase them with caution
- It’s recommended to buy bottles with clear markings for measurement that will endure over time
- Pick bottles with a wide opening so that they can be easily cleaned with a brush
- When buying teats, check the label and confirm if the design is appropriate for your baby’s age
- Teats have different flow rates and thus, you must pick a flow rate comfortable for your baby
- Teats must be replaced as soon as you see any visible signs of deterioration like cracking, swelling, stickiness or discoloration
Australia’s NHMRC recommends that all infant feeding equipment must be sterilised for the first 12 months. All bottles and teats should be properly sterilised after every use and stored in a safe place for as long as you are using them.
Submerge all the infant feeding equipment in boiling water and keep for five minutes. Wash your hands, remove the equipment carefully and let it cool down. Let it dry and store it in a clean location.
Electric Steam Steriliser
If you are using a steam steriliser, make sure the feeding equipment is free of any residual water and is dry. Keep the teat and bottle opening facing down. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using an electric steriliser and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before removing the equipment safely. Store everything in a clean and dry location.
If you are preparing the solution, follow the instructions of the manufacturer to combine the right amount of solution or tablet with water in a clean and dry plastic container. Make sure to fully immerse the teats and bottles in the container and ensure no air bubbles get trapped inside them. Leave the equipment in the solution for the desired amount of time. Wash your hands and then remove the equipment. Don’t wash off the sterilising solution or there may be a chance of recontamination. Drain the teats and bottles on a clean and dry surface. You can keep the equipment in a sterilising solution for up to 24 hours and remove as and when required.
- Once you sterilise the feeding equipment, store all the equipment that is not required in a clean container in the refrigerator
- Re-sterilise all the infant feeding equipment after every 24 hours whether it is used or unused.
Safe Preparation & Storage of Infant Formula
- Parents or caretakers must follow the product instructions for safe preparation of formula.
- Wash your hands and surfaces where food might come in contact like bench tops with warm water and soap and dry with a paper towel
- Wash and sterilise all feeding equipment like bottles, teats and utensils
- Always use sterilised tongs to remove the bottles to avoid recontamination
- If possible, always try to make a fresh batch of infant formula before every feed
- Before offering it to your baby, make sure to check its temperature by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist. It should feel warm.
- If parents or caregivers are suffering from any illness like vomiting or diarrhoea, avoid preparing formula and always maintain the highest standards of hygiene.
- If you don’t use the formula immediately, store it in a sterilised bottle at the back of the fridge, in the central part where the temperate is coolest
- If you don’t use the formula for 24 hours, make sure to discard it even if it is refrigerated
Switching to a New Formula
All infant formula made in Australia contain adequate nutrients for infants and are constantly regulated by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Human milk’s constituents are taken as a reference to prepare and develop formula so that babies get the desired nutrition and protection against infections. Sometimes, you may want to switch your brand of formula to a new one or move from an infant formula to a follow-on formula. It is best to make the transition slow and smooth so that your baby’s digestive system can adjust to the changes. Try not to make frequent changes as it may generate additional confusion and create risks in terms of preparation and dosage.
How Much Formula & How Often?
Every GWC Premium Infant Formula, follow-on formula and toddler milk drink has a feeding guide that will help you determine how much and how often you should feed your baby. Remember that all brands have different scoops and mixing rations so only follow instructions on the can of GWC products when preparing the formula or milk drinks. The amount your baby will drink on a daily basis will differ individually so always let your baby guide the quantity. In breast milk, the composition tends to change as per your baby’s growth, but in the case of infant formula, the concentration remains the same, only the volume consumed keeps changing.
- Prepare the infant formula with the right quantities of powder and water
- Extra powder will lead to a concentrated feed and can lead to constipation, abdominal pain, bloating or discomfort
- Adding too much water may make the feed diluted and your baby won’t receive enough nutrition required for optimum growth
- Always pour water first into the bottle and then add the powder
- Stick to the concentration guidelines on the can, unless specifically told by your GP, paediatrician or a qualified healthcare profession
- Normally, your baby should have over 6 wet nappies, must be gaining steady weight and should indicate proper development and growth to know that he is receiving enough infant formula
In case of any doubts or queries, do not hesitate to contact your GP or visit your paediatrician.