Bottle feeding is when you use a bottle to feed your baby with milk. This could be breastmilk or formula milk. You can also combine bottle feeding with breastfeeding.
There are some things to think about before you start bottle feeding. Consider if you’ll use expressed breastmilk, formula, or both. This will depend on your wishes, whether breastmilk is an option, and the needs of your baby. Speak to your midwife or health visitor if you’re thinking about combining bottle feeding and breastfeeding – some babies develop a preference for one or the other. The health visitor will take over from your midwife on day 10 after the birth.
You will also need to buy some bottles. When choosing which type of bottle to use, it can be helpful to think about:
When your baby is first born you can try on-demand feeding, unless your midwife or health visitor advises you do something else. On-demand feeding is when you feed your baby every time they show signs of being hungry. Every child is different and you will start to recognise your baby’s hunger cues. But there are some general signs that you can look out for. These include:
As your baby grows, their feeding habits will probably change. You can continue to follow your baby’s cues but if you’re unsure you can check with your health visitor again.
To get ready to bottle feed your baby, hold them in a slightly upright position and check they look comfortable. If they are slipping or their tummy is squashed, they may struggle to feed properly. Support their neck and head so that they can breathe and swallow easily. It’s also worth checking you’re in a comfortable position.
Feeding can be a chance to connect with your baby, so make lots of eye contact and maintain skin-to-skin touch. To bottle feed:
It can take time and practice for a baby to get used to feeding, whether that is bottle feeding or breastfeeding.
Don’t leave your baby to feed alone or with the bottle propped up. This could be a choking hazard and it could increase their intake of air, causing discomfort.
When your baby is full they may look relaxed or fall asleep, and their fists may open. Your baby may also show you they have had enough milk by spitting out the teat, turning their head, or if they stop sucking.
These signs can sometimes also indicate that your baby has trapped wind or gas. Try winding them before offering more milk.
Whether your baby is being bottle fed or breastfed, they might need your help to burp during or after a feed to help relieve discomfort. Hold your baby upright and close against your shoulder and gently rub or pat their back.
Signs that your baby might need winding could include:
Your baby may bring a little milk up during or after their feed, which is usually nothing to worry about. It can help to have a muslin nearby in case this happens. It might mean that they are getting too much milk too quickly, so check if the bottle teat is the right size.
If you’re worried about your baby being sick a lot then ask your health visitor for advice.
Some babies might struggle with colic, when a baby cries a lot for no clear reason. Sometimes this is due to digestion or food sensitivities, so speak to your GP if you have concerns.
It may be helpful to allow other people to feed your baby with the bottle too. If you have a partner or family to support with childcare, they can share the responsibility. Try to teach them how you do this in a way that’s familiar to your baby. For example, show them the position your baby feeds in, how much milk they have, how long they usually feed for and how you burp them, if needed.