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Formula Feeding Challenges

As with breastfeeding, there are some challenges to consider when deciding whether to formula feed.

Organization and preparation. Prepare your baby's formula by mixing water and the appropriate amount of powdered infant formula. The packaging on the side of the formula container will tell you how much to use. Carefully follow the directions. You can use tepid (room temperature) tap water, as long as your local or state health departments have labeled it as safe to drink.

If you're concerned about your water, you may sterilize it to kill germs. Here's how:

  • pour cold tap water into a teapot or sauce pan
  • place pot on the stove over medium heat
  • bring water to a rolling boil and let boil for about a minute
  • let the water cool until it's at room temperature

Test to see if the water is cool enough for your baby to drink by shaking a few drops of water on the inside of your wrist. If it stings, it's still too hot. Once water has cooled, don't let it sit longer than 30 minutes before adding it to the formula.

Once prepared, the formula is ready to feed to your baby immediately without additional refrigeration or warming. Formula that's been prepared should be consumed or stored in the refrigerator within 1 hour. If it has been at room temperature for more than 1 hour, throw it away. And if your baby doesn't drink all the formula in the bottle, throw away the unused portion — never save it for later.

Formula may be prepared ahead of time (for up to 24 hours) if you store it in the refrigerator to prevent the formation of bacteria. Open containers of ready-made formula, concentrated formula, and formula prepared from concentrate also can be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

Lack of antibodies. None of the antibodies found in breast milk are found in manufactured formula, which means that formula doesn't provide the baby with the added protection against infection and illness that breast milk does.

Expense. Formula can be costly. Powdered formula is the least expensive, followed by concentrated, with ready-to-feed being the most expensive. And specialty formulas (i.e., soy and hypoallergenic) cost more — sometimes far more — than the basic formulas. During the first year of life, the cost of basic formula can run about $1,500.

Possibility of producing gas and constipation. Formula-fed babies may have more gas and firmer bowel movements than breastfed babies.

Can't match the complexity of breast milk. Manufactured formulas have yet to duplicate the complexity of breast milk, which changes as the baby's needs change.

Whatever nutritional option you choose, be sure to talk to your doctor about the choices available to help you make the decision that's best for both you and your baby.

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