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Here’s a guide to preparing bottles and infant formula for your baby.

Equipment you’ll need

  • 4-6 large bottles, rings, caps and several teats. Teats are either made from latex (brown) or silicone (clear) and either is fine. Choose any bottle or teat you like, as none is better than another. Teats are graded according to the age of the baby, but this is not based on anything scientific. Try teats with bigger or smaller holes until you find the one that you and your baby are happy with.
  • A bottle brush to clean the bottles and teats.
  • Sterilising equipment. Until your baby is six months old, her immune system isn’t strong enough to fight off some infections, so disinfecting her bottle equipment will reduce the chance of her getting sick. If you have trouble getting clean water or access to a refrigerator, keep sterilising even when your baby is older than six months.

How to sterilise equipment

When you’ve finished feeding, dismantle bottles, teats and rings and rinse everything in cold water straight away. Then before you sterilise for the next feed, wash it all in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Squirt water through the teat to clear the little hole.

There are several ways you can sterilise your bottle equipment.

Boiling

  • Put all the utensils in a large pot.
  • Fill the pot with water until the utensils are covered.
  • Put the pot on the stove, bring it to the boil and boil for five minutes.
  • Store equipment you are not going to use straight away in a clean container in the fridge.
  • Boil cleaning implements such as bottle brushes every 24 hours.

Safety when boiling water
If you have older children, you might want to use this method when they’re asleep or out of the house to reduce the risk of scalding them. To avoid scalding yourself, let the equipment cool in the pot until you can touch it.

Using chemicals

  • You can also sterilise your bottles with an antibacterial solution that comes in liquid or tablet form. This is a type of bleach that is diluted with water so it’s safe for your baby but strong enough to kill bacteria.
  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully when you make up the solution to make sure it’s the right strength.
  • Wash with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Then completely submerge everything and leave it all in the solution for the recommended time before using. Equipment may be left in the solution for 24 hours when not in use.

Safety when using chemicals

  • Store the concentrate and solution well out of the reach of children.
  • You can only keep the solution for 24 hours once it’s made up, so after this time throw it away, thoroughly scrub the container and equipment in warm soapy water and make up some new solution.
  • If you use chemical sterilisers you need plastic or glass equipment (that includes the container you use to mix the solution), rather than metal which will eventually be eaten away by the solution.

Steam sterilisers
Steam sterilisers are automatic units that ‘cook’ your equipment at a temperature high enough to kill bacteria. Put your clean equipment into the unit, add water according to the manufacturer's instructions and switch on. The unit switches itself off when the job is done.

Microwave steam sterilisers
These are like steam sterilisers, but you put them in the microwave oven.

Making up the formula

First, boil some water. Start with water fresh from the tap (not water that has been sitting around in a jug or kettle; it’s more likely to have dirt or insects in it) and bring it to the boil either in an electric jug or on the stove top. You don’t need to keep the water boiling any longer than 30 seconds.

Let the water cool down to room temperature before you add the powder or liquid.

To prepare the bottle

  1. Pour the amount of cooled, boiled water you need into the bottle.
  2. Using the scoop from the formula tin, measure the required number of scoops into the bottle. Level off each scoop (you can do this with a knife or other implement).
  3. Seal the bottle with a cap and disc. Swirl first so powder doesn’t block the teat, and then shake the bottle gently to mix it.
  4. If you are not using the formula right away, store it in the back of the fridge where it is coldest, not in the door where it is warmer. Doctors recommend that you only make up formula when you want to use it rather than making it up ahead of time.
  5. Throw out any mixed, refrigerated formula you haven’t used after 24 hours.

General safety tips

  • Wash your hands and work surfaces before preparing formula.
  • Put formula into the fridge as soon as it is made if you’re not using it right away.
  • Storing half-empty bottles for future use is risky as they quickly become contaminated once they have been sucked on. Throw away the contents of used but unfinished bottles after about an hour.
  • Check the expiry date on tins of formula and discard them if they are out of date. Discard any opened tin of formula after one month.
  • The safest way to transport formula is to take the cooled, boiled water and the powdered formula in separate containers and mix them when needed.
  • If you need to transport prepared formula or expressed breastmilk it must be icy cold when you leave the house. Carrying it in a thermal baby bottle pack will keep it cold.
  • It can be bad for your baby to 'prop' a bottle and walk away leaving baby to manage on her own. The milk may flow too quickly and she may breathe it into her lungs – that could cause a lung infection or (much less likely) drowning. Babies who feed a lot on their own are at greater risk of ear infections (milk can flow through to her ear cavity, which can cause ear infections).
Holding, cuddling and talking to your baby while she’s feeding will help her develop and grow. To find out more about this, see Connecting and communicating.

Giving the bottle

  • Giving babies cold formula is not harmful but babies seem to prefer formula warmed to room temperature. If she doesn’t mind cold formula, feel free to serve it cold.
  • Standing the bottle in warm to hot water is the safest way of warming the milk. Bottle warmers are convenient and safe as long as they have a thermostat control. (Leaving the bottle in the warmer more than 10 minutes may cause bacteria to breed in the formula. These bacteria are a common cause of diarrhoea.)
  • Microwaves aren't the safest way to warm milk, as they don’t warm milk evenly, and ‘hot spots’ in the formula may burn your baby’s mouth. Closed bottles can also explode in the microwave.
  • Check the temperature of the feed by shaking a little milk from the teat onto the inside of your wrist.
  • Make yourself comfortable, cuddle your baby close to you, holding her gently but firmly. It’s better for her to be on a slight incline so any air bubbles rise to the top, making burping easier.
  • Put the teat against her lips. She will open her mouth and start to suck. Keep the neck of the bottle at an angle so it is filled with the milk mixture. When she stops sucking strongly or when she has drunk about half the milk, gently remove the bottle and see if she wants to burp.
  • If she goes to sleep unwrap her, put her over your shoulder, rub her back and stroke her head, legs and tummy to wake her up. A nappy change is a good way to wake her up if that doesn’t work. Wait until she is properly awake before offering her the rest of the milk.

Getting the formula to flow

  • To test the flow, hold the bottle upside down when it is filled with the milk mixture at room temperature – the milk should drip steadily but not pour out.
  • If you have to shake it vigorously it is too slow and your baby might go to sleep before she drinks what she needs.
  • A little leakage at the corners of her mouth while she feeds is nothing to worry about – as she gets older this will stop.
  • If you have trouble finding the perfect teat, go for a faster teat rather than a slow one.

How much formula?

All babies drink variable amounts and may have some feeds close together and others further apart. There is no set amount of food or number of feeds a baby should have. The following is only a guide – you can also use the chart on the formula tin:

  • Babies need around 150-200 ml per kilogram of body weight per day until three months old, then 120 ml per kilogram of body weight.
  • Commonly, babies have 6-7 feeds every 24 hours – researchers recommend you feed your baby whenever she is hungry.

Information about the quantity for age on formula tins is a guide only and may not necessarily suit your baby. Some babies never drink the 'required amount' for their age and size, and others need more. Plenty of wet nappies, consistent weight gains that are not excessive and a thriving, active baby mean all is well.

Video: Bottle and formula preparation

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Whether you’re feeding your baby formula or expressed milk from a bottle, you need to wash and sterilise bottles to kill any germs that can make your baby sick. This video shows you how. It also demonstrates how to prepare infant formula.

 
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  • Last Updated 10-10-2009
  • Last Reviewed 10-10-2009