Bottle feeding advice

If you're planning to bottle feed with expressed breast milk or infant formula, these tips will help you feed your baby and keep them safe and healthy.

If you decide to use infant formula, first infant formula (first milk) should always be the first formula you give your baby. You can use it throughout the first year.

Buying bottle feeding equipment

You'll need several bottles, teats and a bottle brush, as well as sterilising equipment, such as a cold-water steriliser, microwave or steam steriliser.

There's no evidence that 1 type of teat or bottle is better than any other. Simple bottles that are easy to wash and sterilise are probably best.

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Making up bottles for your baby

Make sure you sterilise bottles and teats until your baby is at least 12 months old. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling sterilised bottle and teats.

If you're using infant formula, follow the instructions on the packaging carefully when you make up the feed.

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See how to make up baby formula.

How to bottle feed your baby

Do not leave your baby alone

Bottle feeding is a chance to feel close to your baby and get to know and bond with them. Babies will feel more secure if most feeds are given by you, your partner or their main caregiver.

Make sure you're sitting comfortably with your baby close to you. Enjoy holding your baby, look into their eyes and talk to them as you feed them. 

Hold your baby in a semi-upright position for bottle feeds. Support their head so they can breathe and swallow comfortably. 

Brush the teat against your baby's lips and when they open their mouth wide let them draw in the teat.  

Always give your baby plenty of time to feed.

Never leave your baby alone to feed with a propped-up bottle as they may choke on the milk.

Keep the bottle horizontal

Gently place the teat into the baby’s mouth. Keep the bottle in a horizontal position (just slightly tipped). This will allow the milk to flow steadily and help prevent your baby from taking in air.

If the teat goes flat while you're feeding, pull gently on the corner of your baby's mouth to release the suction.

If the teat gets blocked, replace it with another sterile teat.

Be guided by your baby

All babies are different. Your baby will know how much milk they need. Some want to feed more often than others. Just follow your baby's lead.

Feed your baby when they seem hungry and do not worry if they do not finish the bottle.

Winding your baby

Your baby may take short breaks during a feed and may sometimes need to burp.

When your baby has had enough milk, hold them upright and gently rub or pat their back to bring up any wind.

Throw away unused milk

Throw away any unused formula or breast milk after you've finished bottle feeding your baby.

Only make up the feed when needed – one feed at a time.

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Help with bottle feeding

Talk to your midwife, health visitor or other mothers who have bottle fed if you need help and support.

You'll find the phone number for your health visitor in your baby's personal health record (red book).

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Your questions about bottle feeding

Why if my baby does not settle after feeds?

If your baby swallows air while bottle feeding, they may feel uncomfortable and cry.

After a feed, hold your baby upright against your shoulder or propped forward on your lap. Gently rub their back so any trapped air can find its way out.

Your baby may sometimes only burp up a small amount of air.

Why is my baby sometimes sick after feeds?

It's normal for babies to bring up a little milk during or just after a feed. This is called possetting, regurgitation or reflux

Keep a muslin square handy just in case.

Check that the hole in your baby's teat is not too big. Drinking milk too quickly can make your baby sick.

Do not force them to take more milk than they want during a feed. This may be distressing for your baby and can lead to overfeeding.

Sitting your baby upright on your lap after a feed may help.

If it happens a lot, or your baby is violently sick, seems to be in pain or you're worried for any other reason, talk to your health visitor or GP.

Can formula make my baby constipated?

When using formula, always use the amount of powder recommended on the packaging.

Do not add extra formula powder. Using too much can make your baby constipated and may cause dehydration.

If your baby is under 8 weeks old and has not done a poo for 2 to 3 days, talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP, particularly if your baby is gaining weight slowly.

Your baby should be gaining weight and have plenty of wet and dirty nappies.

Infant formula and allergies

If you think your baby might be allergic to or intolerant of formula, talk to your GP. If necessary, they can prescribe a special formula feed.

Some formula is labelled as hypoallergenic, but this is not suitable for babies with a diagnosed cows' milk allergy.

Soya formula should only be given to babies under medical supervision.

Always talk to your GP before using hypoallergenic or soya-based formula.

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Read more about cows' milk allergy and lactose intolerance.

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The Start4Life website also has more information and advice about expressing and bottle feeding