If you are planning to bottle feed with expressed breast milk or infant formula, these tips will help keep your baby safe and healthy.
Buying bottle feeding equipment
You will need a number of bottles and teats, as well as sterilising equipment. There's no evidence that one type of teat or bottle is better than any other. But some feeding bottles have shapes or patterns that make them difficult to clean thoroughly. As hygiene is so important, simple bottles that are easy to wash and sterilise are probably best.
Preparing bottle feeds
Make sure your bottles and teats are sterilised. If you're using infant formula, pay close attention to the instructions on the packet when you make up the feed.
How to bottle feed your baby
Make sure you are sitting comfortably. Enjoy holding your baby and looking into their eyes as you feed them. Bottle feeding is a chance to feel close to your baby and get to know them.
Hold your baby fairly upright for bottle feeds. Support their head so they can breathe and swallow comfortably. Brush the teat against your baby's lips and, when your they open their mouth wide, let them draw in the teat.
Always give your baby plenty of time to feed.
Keep the teat full
When bottle feeding, keep the teat full of milk, otherwise your baby will take in air. If the teat becomes flattened while you're feeding, gently poke a clean finger into the corner of your baby's mouth to release the suction. If the teat gets blocked, replace it with another sterile teat.
Winding your baby
Your baby may need short breaks during the feed and may need to burp sometimes. When your baby does not want any more feed, hold them upright and gently rub or pat their back to bring up any wind. This may only be a small amount.
Throw away unused formula
Don't forget to throw away any unused formula or breast milk after you have finished feeding your baby.
Go with the flow
Babies differ in how often they want to feed and how much milk they want to take. Feed your baby when they're hungry, and don't try to force them to finish a bottle.
Don't leave your baby
Never leave a baby alone to feed with a propped-up bottle as they may choke on the milk.
Help with bottle feeding
Talk to your midwife, health visitor or other mothers with experience of bottle feeding if you need help. You'll find the phone number for your health visitor in your baby's red book.
Common questions about bottle feeding
Why doesn't my baby settle after a feed?
If your baby swallows air while bottle feeding and is then put down to sleep, they may feel uncomfortable and cry. After a feed, it's usually helpful to 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 easily. But there's no need to overdo it – wind is not as big a problem as many people think.
Why does my baby sometimes vomit after a feed?
Some babies bring up more milk than others during or just after a feed. This is sometimes called possetting, regurgitation or reflux. Keep a muslin square handy just in case.
It can be upsetting when this happens, and you may be worried that something is wrong. If it happens often, or your baby is violently sick, appears to be in pain or you're worried for any other reason, talk to your health visitor or GP.
Check that the hole in your baby's teat is not too big – giving milk too quickly can cause sickness. Sitting your baby upright on your lap after a feed may help.
If your baby brings up a lot of milk, they may be hungry again quite quickly. Don't force them to take more milk than they want during a feed. Every baby is different. Some prefer to feed little and often.
Could formula feeding make my baby constipated?
When using infant formula, always use the recommended amount of infant formula powder stated on the packet. Don't add extra infant formula because using too much can make your baby constipated and may cause dehydration.
If your baby is under eight weeks old and hasn't passed a stool (had a poo) for two to three days, discuss this with your midwife, health visitor or GP, particularly if your baby is gaining weight slowly. Your baby should be gaining weight and have wet and dirty nappies.
Infant formula and allergies
If you think your baby might be allergic to or intolerant of infant formula, talk to your GP. If necessary, they can prescribe special formula feeds called extensively hydrolysed protein feeds.
Some infant formula is labelled as hypoallergenic, but these are not suitable for babies with a diagnosed cows' milk allergy. Always talk to your GP before using hypoallergenic or soya-based infant formula, as babies who are allergic to cows' milk may also be allergic to soya.
Read more about cows' milk allergy and lactose intolerance.