Formula feeding your new baby can be quite simple and straightforward. You may even be wondering “How could I mess this up?”. In a situation where the details matter, this article outlines the simple, easy ways to make sure every bottle is balanced just right for your little one.

Over-Concentrated Formula

Newborns and young infants are at an especially high risk for dehydration. One reason for this, is that newborn kidneys are inefficient at concentrating urine. Young babies will excrete water and retain electrolytes, even when this is not optimal for their health. If you are feeding an infant formula that contains too little water and too many electrolytes, they will continue to urinate their much needed water and retain the electrolytes. This leads to dehydration and dangerously increased electrolyte levels.

Always measure the water first

If you’re preparing a 2oz bottle, measure the full 2oz of water first, then add the formula. Yes, this makes a little over 2oz. However, if you add the powder first then bring the water up to volume, this bottle will be more concentrated than intended.

Level the scoop when formula feeding

Adding a big heaping scoop of formula can also increase the concentration of the bottle. When measuring, you want to gently level the scoop for a more exact volume.

Never pack the scoop

The formula in the scoop should be gently scooped and lightly shaken to settle the volume. You never want to pack the formula into the scoop against the side of the can or with a spoon. This will also cause the bottles to be more concentrated.

Under-Concentrated Formula

Infants rely on milk and formula for all of their daily nutrition. Under-concentrated formula can cause poor weight gain. If your infant’s stomach is full of a lower calorie substance, they may not have all that they need to grow and develop.

Additionally, too much water can be very dangerous for your infant as this can cause a condition called water intoxication. Water intoxication can lead to seizures and brain swelling. If you are having a hard time stocking up enough formula for your infant, talk to your pediatrician about the resources available to you! Here are some tips on the recent formula shortage.

Never “stretch” formula

Under-concentrated formula is usually the result of trying to get extra feeds out of the formula by adding more water than recommended. While this may be tempting, a trip to the store will be much less of a hassle, and far less expensive, than a trip to the doctors.

Your Pediatrician Knows Best

Your pediatrician may have you change the ratio of water and formula powder to better suit your infant’s needs. Always follow the formula feeding instructions your pediatrician has given you.

No Need to Panic

All of these risks may seem overwhelming! It is important to know that one accidental over or under measured bottle when formula feeding is not likely to cause consequences for your infant. You may never even notice it happened. If you are usually a careful and attentive formula mixer, and your infant appears to be in good health, there is no need to lose sleep over yesterday’s feed. That being said, always go to your pediatrician if you are worried.

Of course, your baby won’t exclusively formula fed forever. If you want to learn more about how, and when, to introduce water to your baby, see this article by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

For further infant care, schedule a Newborn Care Expert to assist you at home. Our Newborn Care Experts offer support and advice in sleep, feeding, bathing, growth and development guidelines, and more.

About The Author

Fiona MacWhinnie, RNFiona is a registered nurse who recently graduated from Northeastern University. She primarily focuses on newborn and postpartum care, and loves working as a newborn care expert with BBNN. Before her time as a nurse, she studied newborn genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital. In addition, Fiona participated in the Harvard Neonatal Student Research program. Fiona strives to develop meaningful relationships with every family she cares for. She loves watching children and families thrive with the proper care and support.