When you first start bottle feeding your baby, it’s natural to have lots of questions.
How do I prepare the bottle?
How long should a bottle feed take?
How do I know when my baby’s had enough milk?
Don’t worry mama: you and your baby will soon get into a feeding rhythm.
And when you do, you can sit back and enjoy those cosy bottle-feeding sessions together.
Let’s take a look at some tips and tricks for bottle-feeding babies.
In this article: 📝
- When should a baby start bottle-feeding?
- What is a good bottle-feeding technique?
- What is paced bottle feeding?
- At what age should you stop bottle feeding?
- Is bottle-feeding harder than breastfeeding?
When should a baby start bottle-feeding?
When to start bottle feeding?
Well, for exclusive bottle feeding, you’ll get started straight after birth.
That will give your boobs time to get used to the whole milk-producing thing.
Replacing some of your breastfeeding with bottle feeding too early can lead to your breasts not being stimulated enough.
That can then affect your milk supply.
Is bottle-feeding OK for newborns?
Here’s the deal: any kind of feeding that keeps newborns well-nourished and happy is very good.
Plus, even if you’re mainly breastfeeding your newborn, it’s good to give them an occasional bottle.
That means they’ll already be used to it if you need to switch to bottle feeding later.
(If you need to go back to work, for example.)
Now, let’s explore the ins and outs of bottle feeding.
What is a good bottle-feeding technique?
Now for how to bottle feed.’
There are a few different techniques, and it’s up to you to figure out what works best for you and your babe, but here’s our step-by-step guide on the basics.
1. Get the tools
First up, making sure you have everything you need is a must.
Bottles, of course, but also different-sized nipples (just in case), and some way to sterilise your bottles.
To make things easier, Tommee Tippe has a Complete Baby Feeding Set, with an electric steam steriliser, Closer to Nature bottles, Ultra-Light and Breast-Like soothers, Easi-Warm bottle warmer, and an insulated bottle bag.
2. Spot signs of hunger early
You’ll soon learn to recognise the signs your baby makes when it’s time for a snack.
When they’re starting to feel hungry, they might:
- Suck on their fingers
- Move their head around (also called the “rooting reflex”)
- Nuzzle up against your breasts
- Open their mouth
- Make lip-smacking noises
Try to get the bottle feed started soon after you notice these early signs.
That way, your baby doesn’t have to play the crying card, and the feed will be a calmer and more relaxing experience for you both.
3. Prepare your bottle
Wash your hands and grab a clean, sterilised bottle.
How much milk? Take a look at our handy newborn feeding chart here.
Once the milk is in the bottle, you can warm it in a bowl of hot water or a bottle warmer (never the microwave – this can cause hot spots in the milk).
Shake the bottle thoroughly for formula for breast milk.
Have you been told that you can’t shake breast milk?
Turns out you absolutely can!
Breast milk is a lot tougher than we used think.
Test a spot of milk on the inside of your wrist.
You’re good to go if it’s lukewarm.
That said, some babies are perfectly happy with cold milk.
This can make things a lot easier if you’re feeding when you’re out and about.
4. Get comfortable
Get yourself sitting comfortably, using a pillow to support your baby-holding arm if that helps.
Cradle your little one in the crook of your arm in a semi-upright position.
This is a great opportunity for some mama–baby bonding.
During the feed, you can look into their big beautiful eyes, talk to them – even sing to them if you feel like it.
5. Baby, meet nipple
When you’re both settled, take the nipple of the bottle and rub it gently against your baby’s top lip.
This should make them realise Aha! Feeding time! and they’ll open their mouth wide.
At this point, you can gently insert the nipple of the bottle into their mouth to begin the feed.
6. Hold the bottle horizontally
It’s important to hold the bottle at the right angle to manage the flow of the milk.
Holding the bottle with the nipple pointing straight down can make the milk come out too fast.
Instead, go for almost horizontal but slightly tipped downwards.
This will help your baby suck and swallow the milk at their own pace.
It also reduces the risk of them choking on too much milk, or swallowing a lot of air and getting gassy.
7. Take your time
Let your baby take things at their own speed.
A typical feed might last around 15 to 20 minutes.
But you might want to take some short breaks in that time to:
- Switch arms, so you feel more comfortable
- Burp your baby
- Give your baby a break from feeding
Your little one has some clever non-verbal signs to tell you if they want a break.
They might stop sucking and turn their head away, push the bottle away, or spread out their fingers and toes.
If they make any of these signs and then refuse to take the nipple back, they’re probably telling you they’re full.
8. Be guided by your baby
Once your baby has decided they’ve had enough, that’s the time to stop the feed.
You can tilt the bottle downwards to cut off the milk flow, and then gently remove the nipple from your baby’s mouth.
Don’t worry if you still have some milk left in the bottle.
Babies’ appetites can vary from one day to the next.
It’s really important not to try and force your baby to eat more.
This can distress them, and it might cause them to eat more than their body needs.
9. Nipping nipple problems in the bud
A problem with the bottle’s nipple can mean your baby gets too much or too little milk during the feed.
Here’s what you can do to resolve some common issues:
- Flattened nipple: Gently pull at the corner of your little one’s mouth to release the suction that’s flattening the nipple.
- Blocked nipple: Change to another sterilised nipple. (Good to have one of these on hand, just in case.)
- Wrong size nipple: A nipple with a hole that’s too big might cause the milk to flow too quickly, and if it’s too small, your baby might not get enough milk. Experiment with different sizes to see what works best.
10. A good burp to finish
After a bottle feed, take a moment to burp your baby and help them get rid of any gas.
Hold them upright and gently pat or rub their back.
Make sure you have a cloth handy to catch any milk they bring up.
One last thing. It’s important not to leave your baby alone while bottle feeding – even just for a minute.
There’s always a risk they could choke if you’re not there to manage the milk flow.
What is paced bottle feeding?
This is bottle feeding where you aim to “pace” the feed by giving your baby frequent breaks from the bottle.
It’s supposed to be more similar to breastfeeding.
You might also hear it referred to as “responsive feeding”.
At what age should you stop bottle feeding?
From around 12 months old.
At this stage, it’s recommended that you encourage your baby to drink from a cup rather than a bottle.
Is bottle-feeding harder than breastfeeding?
Not necessarily harder or easier – just different!
Every mama’s experience is unique.
Why not ask the Peanut community what they think?