How to bottle-feed

How to bottle-feed

Simple ideas to help introduce bottles to your baby

In Newborn

Quick points for mum

Try using expressed milk first for a familiar taste            

Give your breasts time to adjust to the change

And when supporting mum

Offer to do the first feeds until baby gets used to bottles

Hold the bottle at an angle to help prevent any wind

When breastfeeding isn’t possible, you can use a bottle to feed your baby. Some babies take to it straightaway, others need a little gentle encouragement. To help you out we’ve compiled some advice on introducing a bottle.

How to introduce a bottle

  • You can give your baby either expressed breast milk, formula milk or a combination of both
  • Some babies will refuse a bottle and expect a breastfeed if they can smell mum nearby. So try letting someone other than mum give the first feeds
  • Just in case the bottle causes upset, don’t wait until your baby is very hungry – they’ll only get more frustrated
  • Try different teats – there are lots of different types and designs, and it may take some trial and error to find the one your baby prefers
  • If your baby makes a really big fuss, take a break for a few days before trying again. Eventually your baby will get used to the bottle
  • If you’re moving to formula milk, use expressed breast milk for the first time to help your baby get used to the bottle
  • Hold the bottle at an angle, so the teat and bottleneck are always full of milk to decrease the chance of your baby getting trapped wind
  • Speak to your health advisor or public health nurse if you are thinking of introducing a formula feed, so they can advise you on an appropriate feed for you

“My trick was letting my baby suck on my clean finger and then swapping in the bottle.”

Mum bottle-feeding baby

How to start combination feeding

Combination feeding means breastfeeding and bottle-feeding with the bottle containing either expressed breast milk or formula milk. Here are some tips to help get started:

  • It’s best to wait until breastfeeding is well-established – any changes to breastfeeding routine can interfere with mum’s supply
  • Offer your baby one bottle-feed a day to begin with, to give mum’s breasts time to adjust and to let baby get used to feeding from a bottle
  • If you are using formula milk, combination feeding will reduce the amount of breast milk your body produces
  • Introduce combination feeding a few weeks before mum goes back to work to give baby a chance to get used to bottle-feeding
  • Ready-to-use cartons can be handy for combination feeding
  • Try to set a routine by bottle-feeding or breastfeeding at the same time each day

How to make up formula for a bottle feed

It’s best to make up each feed as and when you need it. Read the instructions on the product packaging before starting.

  • Wash hands well. Sterilise all utensils according to manufacturers’ instructions
  • Boil one litre of fresh tap water. Allow boiled water to cool for no more than 30 minutes. Measure the required amount of water and powdered product (see preparation instructions on the label) into the sterilised bottle, carefully – the water is hot. Do not use artificially softened or repeatedly boiled water
  • Place the sterilised teat and cap on the bottle and shake well. Cool bottle under cold running water or in a bowl or jug of cold water until lukewarm. Test the temperature by shaking a few drops onto the inside of your wrist
  • For hygienic reasons, discard unfinished feed in the bottle as soon as possible and, always within two hours

Responsive feeding (Baby-led feeding)

When you introduce your baby to a bottle, it is important to remember that your little one will be giving you tiny signs to tell you when they’re hungry or full. Understanding these feeding cues is a key part of responsive , or baby-led, feeding and will help you know when your baby needs to feed or when they’ve had enough, and helps you build an even stronger bond. We’ve made a series of videos to show you the most common feeding cues, which you can watch HERE.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The best way to feed a baby is to breastfeed, as breast milk provides the ideal balanced diet and protection against illness for your baby and also many non-nutritional benefits for both baby and mother. We recommend that you speak to your healthcare professional when deciding on your choice of feeding your baby. Professional guidance should also be sought on the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding. If you do choose to breastfeed, it's important to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Infant formula is intended to replace breast milk when mothers choose not to breastfeed or if for some reason they are unable to do so. A decision not to breastfeed, or to introduce partial bottle-feeding, will reduce the supply of breast milk. If for any reason you choose not to breastfeed, do remember that such a decision can be difficult to reverse. Using infant formula also has social and financial implications which must be considered. Infant formula should always be prepared, used and stored as instructed on the label, in order to avoid risks to a baby’s health.

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Important advice to mothers

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.