By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Bottle-feeding has never been more complicated, dads! Not only do you have to choose a formula and a nipple type, but you also have to worry about the materials from which the bottle is made.

Recent reports about the high levels of BPA (a chemical used in plastics) released when bottles are heated in the microwave or dishwasher led the FDA to ban the use of BPA in all baby bottles and sippy cups. Microwave warming can also cause hot spots that pose a burn threat in the heated formula, so it’s not recommended in any case.

How dads can win the bottle battle

Once upon a time, all baby bottles were made of glass. Then parents got tired of being beaned with glass bottles, and everyone worried about glass bottles breaking when babies threw them out of the crib, so plastic bottles were invented about two minutes after the invention of plastic. Not only were they lighter and unbreakable, but they also came in pretty colors.

Then bottle manufacturers decided to mix things up a bit. Now bottles and nipples are no longer interchangeable, and bottle “systems” sometimes include plastic liners and inserts that reduce air intake and, hopefully, colic. Every bottle has to be used with its own system, and parents have to decide which one works best for their baby.

Basics of formula choices for dads

After you pick your bottles, you can start worrying about which formula to use. The array is truly formidable. For starters, you have to consider powder versus concentrate versus ready-made. Then you may want to consider your pediatrician’s preference. Following are the advantages and disadvantages of each type:

  • Ready-to-serve formula can be very convenient for travel if you use one container at a feeding. However, it’s out of the question for everyday use for most people because a month’s supply is equal to the national budget of a small European country.

  • Concentrate comes in small cans, and you dilute it with water before feeding. It’s easy to use but more expensive than powder, though it’s cheaper than ready-to-serve.

  • Powder is the cheapest of the three options. If you’re out of the house, it’s easy to put the powder in a bottle and just fill with warm water when the baby’s ready to eat. However, powder comes in ginormous cans that take up half your kitchen countertop.

    Powder also clumps and takes more effort to shake smooth, a consideration at 4 a.m. when any effort seems like too much. Shaking the bottle to mix increases the bubbles and air inside the bottle, which can cause gassiness, so if your baby is already prone to gas, powder formula may not be for you.

Following are the general categories of formulas:

  • Regular: Regular formula is made from cow’s milk and contains 20 calories per ounce. Regular formula is usually fortified with iron. Some are also fortified with long-chain polyunsaturated fats that they claim enhance eye and brain development, but these claims aren’t well substantiated.

  • Enhanced: Enhanced formula, often used for premature or failure-to-thrive babies, contains 24 calories per ounce. Don’t use this kind unless your doctor recommends it.

  • Soy: Soy-based formulas may be used by parents wanting to avoid animal proteins or because they think their baby has a cow’s milk allergy. But some babies with cow’s milk allergy also have a soy allergy. Besides, soy contains estrogen, and some studies show that too much soy can be harmful to infants and children. Make sure to do your research before using soy formula.

  • Hypoallergenic: Babies who are allergic to lactose or soy may need protein hydrolysate formulas, which are easier to digest. Nutramigen, Pregestimil, and Alimentum are examples of protein hydrolysate formulas. These formulas are ridiculously expensive and also smell bad, so use them only if your doctor recommends them.

  • Organic: Regardless of the kind of formula you buy, there’s likely an organic option available. It will cost significantly more but will meet FDA guidelines for organic foods. The ingredients are mostly the same; what you’re paying for are ingredients that haven’t been knowingly exposed to pesticides or chemicals and contain no genetically modified organisms.

Basics of bottle preparation for dads

The hardest part of preparing some bottles is putting the “system” together. Some bottles have inserts to put in; others have little bags to put in place that hold the formula. Unless you want to add new frustrations to your life at 4 a.m., pick a simple system.

To make a bottle, read the instructions on the formula label. For powder, you mix a certain number of scoops with a certain amount of water, sometimes a foggy concept in the middle of the night. You usually dilute concentrates 1:1, and you don’t need to dilute ready-to-serve formulas at all.

How much formula is enough

When your baby is brand-new, she probably won’t take more than 2 or 3 ounces at a time. The most important thing about bottle-feeding is not to try to force the last drop down your child’s throat. Keep in mind that you made the decision on how much to put in the bottle — your baby didn’t ask for that much.

Let her make the decision about how hungry she is. With childhood obesity at an all-time high and a major health concern, the last thing you want to do is overfeed your child from an early age.

On the other hand, if she drains the bottle and acts like she’s still hungry, give her a little more. Babies aren’t machines, and they don’t take the same amount of formula at each feeding. When she stops sucking and tries to push the bottle out of her mouth, she’s had enough.