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Bottle Feeding

Bottle Feeding

If you are planning to bottle feed with expressed breast milk or formula milk and your baby remains in hospital, please speak to a member of staff to get the most appropriate advice that is specific to your babies needs.

We have added some information on this page about bottle feeding, however, this should not replace a conversation with your health care provider.

Types of Formula Milk

If you decide to use formula milk then first infant formula should always be the first formula you give your baby. This can be used for the first year of life. However, if your baby has been born premature they may need a preterm formula. Your neonatal team can discuss your babies specific nutritional needs with you.

Equipment Needed to Bottle Feed

Several Bottles and Teats

Bottle Brush

Sterilising equipment (cold-water steriliser, microwave or steam steriliser)

Breast pump (if bottle feeding breast milk)

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

Preterm babies or those with medical conditions may have specific needs when bottle feeding, you can discuss this with the nurses/ doctors caring for your baby.

Preparing Bottles For Your Baby

It is important to make sure you wash and sterilise bottles and teats until your baby is at least 12 months old. You should also wash your hands thoroughly before before handling sterilised bottles and teats.

If you are using formula milk, follow the instructions on the packaging carefully when you make up the feed.

More information on making up formula feeds can be found here on the NHS website.

How to Bottle Feed Your Baby

Like other types of feeding, it is important to look for signs that your baby is ready to feed (feeding cues) before bottle feeding. Your baby may demonstrate early feeding cues by stirring, mouth opening, putting their hands to their mouth and turning their head seeking/rooting. It is best to feed your baby at this stage rather than wait for late cues, such as crying, as they can become too distressed to feed well.

Make sure you are sitting comfortably, with your baby close to you. Feeding is a good time for bonding and closeness, enjoy holding your baby and look into their eyes and talk to them whilst feeding them.

Hold your baby in a position suited to your baby (this may be a semi-upright or elevated side lying position), and support their head so that they can breathe and swallow comfortably. 

Offer the bottle when your baby shows feeding cues.

Brush the teat against your baby's lips, avoid forcing your baby to take the teat or finish the feed.

It is important to allow your baby to take the feed at a pace that suits them. If the milk comes too quickly, it can be difficult for your baby to coordinate their sucking, swallowing and breathing. The nurse looking after your baby will be able to support you with bottles, teats, feeding positions and pacing to ensure your are able to support your baby to feed comfortably and safely.

Some babies have periods of low oxygen (desaturations) and/or low heart rate (bradycardia) during feeding. This is normal in some cases and will improve with time, but it can be a sign your baby is not ready for feeding or needs a different level of feeding support. If this happens, seek advice and support from the nursing and medical team who will be able to offer specific and suited support for your baby.

Low oxygen and heart rate can also be a sign of reflux. Reflux happens when some of the milk in the stomach comes back up from the stomach into the throat or mouth. This is common in all babies, but is more common in babies that are born premature or sick at birth. Mild reflux often improves on its own with time and your medical team will be able to implement practices to help your baby if they are suffering with reflux. You can find more information about reflux here from Bliss.

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