Bottle feeding your baby
If you're planning to bottle feed with infant formula or expressed breast milk, we have some top tips to help you keep your baby safe and healthy.
- Feeding is a chance to feel close to your baby and get to know them. Make sure you're sitting comfortably and your back is well supported so you can enjoy holding your baby and looking into their eyes as you feed them. Feeding can sometimes take a little while, so it’s important to be comfy!
- In those first few days try to limit the number of different people feeding your baby to just you and your partner – this helps make sure that your baby is bonding closely with you. There’ll be plenty of time for other members of the family and friends to cuddle the baby later!
- Hold your baby quite upright 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. Never force the teat into their mouth, as this can harm their gums.
- Always give your baby plenty of time to feed and try not to rush them.
- Try to keep the teat full of milk, as this will help stop your baby taking in lots of air during the feed.
- When your baby is full they’ll pull away from the teat – look out for this, and let them stop feeding when they’re full up.
It’s important to remember that all babies are different. Some want to feed more often than others, and some will want more milk. Just follow your baby's lead. Feed them when they seem hungry and don't worry if they don't finish the bottle.
It’s important to never reuse any unused formula or breastmilk, so throw it away when the feed’s finished. Feed warmed formula to your baby right away - don't heat it in advance, because bacteria can grow very quickly in warm liquid. If your baby starts a bottle of formula but doesn't finish it within an hour, throw it away. Don't refrigerate and reheat leftovers. Bacteria from your baby’s mouth could seep into the bottle, contaminate the formula, and make your baby sick.
When you are bottle feeding your baby never leave your baby alone to feed with a propped-up bottle as they may choke on the milk, so stay with them and enjoy that special cuddle.
It's normal for babies to bring up a little milk during or just after a feed. This is called posseting, regurgitation or reflux. It’s handy to keep a muslin square or small towel at the ready just in case.
Check that the hole in your baby's teat is not too big. Drinking milk too quickly can sometimes make your baby sick. Don't force them to take more milk than they want during a feed and sitting your baby upright on your lap after a feed may help to keep the milk down.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.
Some mums worry that giving formula will make their baby constipated. Making up the bottles as recommended on the packaging and not adding extra formula will help to stop this from happening.If your baby is under 8 weeks old and hasn't done a poo for 2 to 3 days, talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP, particularly if they are gaining weight slowly. Your baby should be gaining weight and have plenty of wet and dirty nappies.
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 isn't 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.