When You’re Ready to Bottle-Feed Your Baby, We’re Here to Help

0-4 Months

Whether you’re training baby to bottle feed with breastmilk, getting ready for child care or feeding him formula, you probably have questions about bottle feeding your newborn.

Our practical tips give your baby a healthy start and make bottle-feeding easier!

Getting started bottle-feeding your baby

What to feed your baby:

The only thing that belongs in your baby’s bottle is breastmilk or formula. Anything else (cereal, juice, other drinks) is not necessary.

How you bottle-feed your baby is as important as what’s in the bottle:

  • Warm bottles in a bowl of hot water or in a bottle warmer. Never use a microwave; it can create hot spots that can burn your baby’s mouth (the AAP also recommends not microwaving plastics as the heat can cause chemicals to leak into baby’s formula or breastmilk). Check the temperature of the milk by first swirling it and then squeezing a little on the inside part of your wrist.
  • Always hold your baby while feeding him. It helps you bond and learn to read your baby’s feeding cues.
  • Keep baby’s head straight to help him swallow.
  • Hold baby upright.
  • Safety tip: Never prop the bottle. It can make him choke and raises the risk of ear infections.

When to stop feeding your baby

  • Take breaks to burp baby. This helps slow down a fast eater so he has time to recognize he’s getting full.
  • Pay attention to baby’s feeding cues. Never force him to finish the bottle if he’s showing signs of fullness, like turning away from the nipple, playing or acting disinterested.
  • If he fusses, try burping him. If he keeps fussing once you start feeding again, he’s probably full.
  • Don’t let baby fall asleep sucking on a bottle. Milk pooled in his mouth can cause future tooth decay. If he still tries to fall asleep, end the feeding, wipe the milk off his gums and let him use a pacifier if he needs to suck to fall back to sleep.

10 tips for bottle-feeding breastfed babies

If you’re using a bottle to feed baby breastmilk, try these tips:

  1. Try to wait to introduce the bottle until breastfeeding is well established, usually around 1 month old.
  2. If you are going back to work or school, begin offering a bottle about 2 weeks ahead of time.
  3. Have Dad or another caregiver offer the bottle, at least at first. Baby will be more willing to take it from someone she knows can’t breastfeed her.
  4. Warm up refrigerated breastmilk to approximately the same temperature as your skin.
  5. Start with just an ounce, so you don’t waste milk if baby refuses. Remember, this is new, so don’t worry if she doesn’t catch on right away. You can also try offering the first few bottles after she has breastfed a bit (it’s hard to learn a new skill when you are hungry!). If she continues to refuse, consider trying a different nipple. It may take multiple attempts (and nipples) before your baby will accept the bottle.
  6. Use slow-flow nipples and hold baby upright while keeping the bottle parallel to the ground, not tilted up. Keeping the bottle parallel to the ground helps slow down the flow of milk into your baby’s mouth. This also mimics breastfeeding which helps to ensure your baby doesn’t develop a preference for bottles that release milk more easily than the breast.
  7. Don’t force the bottle nipple into baby’s mouth. Instead, stroke your baby’s upper lip to get her to open wide (to mimic breastfeeding).
  8. Make sure the bottle nipple is deep in your baby’s mouth (a longer nipple may work better). Her lips should flange (like a fish) around the base of the nipple (not just the tip or with lips tucked in), just like they do on the breast.
  9. Avoid overfeeding by not allowing your baby to drink all of the contents quickly. If she is eating fast, stop the feeding, burp her and then begin again. If she doesn’t show any interest when you offer the bottle again after burping, don’t force her to finish the contents, as she’s probably trying to tell you she’s full.
  10. Switch your baby from one arm to the other halfway through the bottle, just as you would switch breasts. This helps mimic breastfeeding and slows baby down.