search Menu

Bottle feeding

Bottle feeding with expressed milk or infant formula is a great way for your partner to get involved in feeding your baby and for both of you to bond with your baby. It’s a lovely way to have your baby close to you, and enjoy skin to skin contact.

Make sure your bottles and teats are sterilised and wash your hands thoroughly before making up milk.

Look out for feeding cues so that you know when your baby is hungry: sucking on their fingers, licking their lips, moving their head around. Try and feed your baby before they cry as this is the last sign of them wanting to feed.

Make sure you and your baby are comfortable, hold your baby fairly upright and support their head so that they can breathe and swallow easily. Brush the teat of the bottle against your baby’s lips and when they open their mouth wide, gently place the teat into their mouth. Raise the bottle to keep the teat full of milk or your baby will take in air. If the teat goes flat, gently poke your little finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to release the suction and begin again.

Look at your baby while they feed so you can be guided by their cues for when they may need a break.

Your baby may need to burp occasionally. Hold them upright over your shoulder or sitting on your lap facing away from you, supporting their head with your hand, and rub or pat their back gently to bring up any wind. Bringing up a little milk after a feed is normal, and sitting your baby upright after a feed may help.

Limit the number of people that are feeding your baby, so that your baby is fed in response to their feeding cues. Pace their feeds and don’t worry if they don’t finish the bottle; never force a baby to finish a feed as it can be distressing.

Never leave your baby alone with a propped up bottle as they could choke.

Throw away any unused milk and if using formula, ensure you follow the directions on the packet. Unless your doctor or health visitor gives you other advice, first infant formula is the only type of formula your baby needs from birth until they are one year old, when they can start to drink whole cow’s milk. There is no need to switch to follow on formula, toddler, or growing up milk and these can often be high in sugar.

See the NHS Start 4 Life leaflet below for advice on how to make up formula feeds.

If your baby is often sick after feeding, is violently sick, seems to be in pain, or you have any other worries, talk to your health visitor or GP. Your baby should be gaining weight and have plenty of wet and dirty nappies.

Some babies take a while to get used to bottle feeding, especially if they are used to breastfeeding. Try different teats and feeding positions, and feed little and often to get them used to it. Ask your health visitor for advice if you are concerned.

Talk to your midwife or health visitor if you need advice.

This NHS guide for parents of children aged 0-4 to Common childhood illnesses and well-being contains some useful information on feeding your baby.