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Formula Feeding a Premature Infant

Parents choose to bottle-feed babies for many reasons. Here are some tips to help you feed your preemie with formula.

Newborn baby drinking from a bottle

What kind of formula should I use?

Be sure to use the type of formula and the concentration that your baby's healthcare provider prescribed. Preemie formulas and "follow-up" formulas are specially made for premature babies. These may be better for your baby than regular formulas. With many formulas, the brand is not important. But the content is. Most babies should be taking cow-milk-protein-based formula with iron. Ask your baby's healthcare provider if you have questions. Always wash your hands before prepping formula.

If using powder:

  • Follow the directions for mixing. Make sure you use the right amount of water and powder. Too much or too little water can cause diarrhea, constipation, or other problems for your baby.

  • Try mixing with room temperature water in a blender to help dissolve the powder.

  • If you are worried about the safety of your water supply, use bottled water. You can check with your local health department to help determine whether your water supply is safe.

  • Use all the powder within 1 month after opening the package.

  • Keep mixed formula in the refrigerator when not in use. Don’t keep mixed formula for longer than 24 hours.

  • Don't use the leftover formula from a partly finished bottle. Once a bottle of formula has been at room temperature for an hour, it needs to be thrown out.

If using concentrate:

  • Follow the directions for mixing. Make sure you use the right amount of water. Too much or too little water can cause diarrhea, constipation, or other problems for your baby.

  • Seal the package and keep it in the refrigerator after opening.

  • Use within 48 hours of opening the package.

Never heat a bottle of formula in the microwave. The liquid may heat unevenly and can burn your baby's mouth.

How do I know when my baby needs to be fed?

Preemies may not cry when they’re hungry. Instead, they may move around and become restless. Get to know your baby’s cues. If your baby is feeding less than the advised amount, or not gaining weight on schedule, tell your baby’s healthcare provider.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How often should I feed my baby? ________________

  • How much should I feed my baby?

    • At each feeding ________________

    • Total each day ________________

  • How much weight should my baby gain per week? _____________

Caring for bottles and other equipment

If your baby drinks from a bottle but does not finish all the formula within 1 hour, throw away the remaining liquid. Give your baby a new bottle at the next feed.

Glass and metal items can be put in a dishwasher. Hand wash in hot soapy water and rinse in hot, clean water these items:

  • Bottles

  • Nipples

  • Containers

  • Brushes

  • Measuring cups

  • Any other equipment used for feeding

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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