scoop, shake, and snuggle: how to bottle feed your baby

Are you are planning on bottle feeding your new baby? Perhaps you’ve breastfed for a little while and want to try your baby with a bottle, or maybe you need to share feeding duties. It may seem a little tricky at first but, like most things baby-related, it’s actually pretty easy when you get the hang of it.

Most new mums are encouraged to breastfeed, but for a variety of reasons this isn't always possible. It’s also not as black-and-white as breast or bottle, either – some mums combine breast and formula feeding, while others express their milk and give it in a bottle.

Just always remember that you're giving them the nutrition and care they need to grow and thrive – how you do this is up to you. If this feels like the right choice for you, here’s our guide on how to bottle feed.

what do I need?

If you’re planning on bottle feeding your baby, there are a few bits and bobs you'll need to have prepared:

  • about four to six bottles
  • teats with the right flow for your baby (you may need to try a few options to find the one that suits your little one)
  • formula milk powder for the right age group, or ready-to-use cartons
  • bibs and muslins
  • a breast pump if you’re expressing milk
  • containers for your expressed milk

Your baby will stop or fall asleep once they have had enough, but offer the other side if they do want more.

how do I prepare formula milk?

This is one of those tasks that quickly becomes second nature. To start you off, here’s how to make up a bottle of formula:

  • put the kettle on – water for feeds must be boiled for babies under twelve months
  • make sure you have a sterilised bottle, teat, and scoop ready
  • follow the directions on the formula packet, as all brands vary slightly
  • pour the recently boiled water into the bottle, as per the directions
  • using the scoop that came with the packet, add the formula powder to the water
  • give the bottle a good shake to mix the formula. We’ve all left off the lid at some point – try not to!
  • let the formula mix cool (if you’re in a hurry, hold it under the cold tap), and test the temperature on your wrist. It should feel just warm, not hot
  • discard any leftovers, as bacteria develops quickly in milk. Because of this, you can’t prepare a batch in advance – if you need to stockpile (before a journey for example), use ready-made cartons

how do i bottle feed my baby?

Your baby has a tiny tummy, so little and often is the best way when you're considering how to bottle feed. As we all learn quickly, babies are very good at letting you know when they’re hungry! They’ll also tell you when they’ve had enough milk by poking out the teat or turning their heads.

How much formula does a young baby need? When they’re very young, just make sure that they’re gaining weight steadily – you can attend baby clinics if you’d like a health visitor to check this.

Here are a few bottle feeding tips, to hopefully make your life a bit easier:

  • your little one will feel safe and loved if you hold them close and look into their eyes as they feed (this is lovely for you, too!)
  • support your baby’s head, and hold them fairly upright
  • tilt the bottle to make sure that it’s only milk flowing into the teat, not milk and air (a baby taking in air will not be a happy or comfy baby later). If there are loud sucking noises, this could be a sign of too much air going in
  • brush the teat lightly against your baby’s lips and they'll instinctively turn their heads and take it into their mouths
  • Don’t rush! Your baby may need little breaks while they’re feeding, and may want to burp during the feed
  • follow the burp with holding them upright and gently patting or rubbing their back

If you have any questions about bottle feeding your baby, have a chat with your health visitor. These early days of cuddly feeds are a gorgeous time for you both – and if you’re using a bottle it’s also a wonderful opportunity for the rest of the family to bond with your newborn.