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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 be successful feeding your preemie with formula.

Newborn baby drinking from bottle.

What kind of formula should I use?

Be sure to use the type of formula and the concentration that were prescribed when your baby was discharged. Preemie formulas and "follow-up" formulas are specially designed 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 preparing formula.

If using powder:

  • Follow package 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 have any concerns 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 of the powder within one 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 partially finished bottle. Once a bottle of formula has been at room temperature for an hour, it needs to be discarded.

If using concentrate:

  • Follow package 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 recommended 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 of the formula within 1 hour, discard the remaining liquid and give your baby a new bottle at the next feed.

Glass and metal items can be washed in a dishwasher. The following items should be hand washed in hot soapy water and rinsed in hot, clean water:

  • Bottles

  • Nipples

  • Containers

  • Brushes

  • Measuring cups

  • Any other equipment used for feeding

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.