Positioning baby and bottle

The first step to bottle-feeding is to make you and your baby comfortable. Find a quiet place where you and your baby won't be distracted. Cradle your baby in one arm, hold the bottle with the other and settle into a comfortable chair, preferably one with broad, low armrests. You may want to put a pillow on your lap under the baby for support. Pull your baby in toward you snugly but not too tightly, cradled in your arm with his or her head raised slightly and resting in the bend of your elbow. This semi-upright position makes swallowing much easier.

Now that you're ready to start feeding, help your newborn get ready. Using the nipple of the bottle or a finger of the hand holding it, gently stroke your baby's cheek near the mouth, on the side nearest you. The touch will cause your baby to turn toward you, often with an opened mouth. Then touch the nipple to your baby's lips or the corner of the mouth. Your baby will open his or her mouth and gradually begin sucking.

When feeding your baby, position the bottle at about a 45-degree angle. This angle keeps the nipple full of milk. Hold the bottle steady as your baby feeds. If your baby falls asleep while bottle-feeding, it may be because he or she has had enough milk or gas has made your baby full. Take the bottle away, burp your baby, then start to feed again.

Always hold your baby while feeding. Never prop up a bottle against your infant. Propping may cause your baby to vomit and may lead to overeating. In addition, never give a bottle to your baby when he or she is lying on his or her back. This may cause ear infections in your baby.

Although your baby doesn't have teeth yet, they're forming beneath the gums. Don't develop a habit of putting your baby to bed with a bottle. Formula lingers in the mouth of a baby who falls asleep while sucking a bottle. The prolonged contact of sugar in milk can cause tooth decay.

Why not just cow's milk?

During the first year, the best milk for babies is either breast milk or formula. Cow's milk — the kind that comes in a jug or carton from a grocery store — is a fine food for children, but not before age one. Here's why:

• Cow's milk is not optimal for the intestines and kidneys of human infants. It has about three times as much sodium and three times as much protein as your baby needs. In fact, babies shouldn't drink cow's milk because it can make them sick.

• Cow's milk can cause an allergic response. Your baby can't digest it easily.

• Cow's milk doesn't contain the proper fats to meet infants' needs.

In fact, breast milk or infant formula is the only food your baby needs for about the first six months of life. Don't give your baby cereal in his or her bottle. Don't offer bottles of water or juice until your baby is six months or older, unless your health care provider recommends that you do.

If you have any questions about bottle-feeding your baby, don't hesitate to ask your baby's health care provider.

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