Bottle Feeding

NI Direct

Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. However, for some mothers breastfeeding just doesn't work out. If this is the case for you, you may choose to bottle feed your baby with infant formula.

Keeping your baby safe

Infant formula milk powder is not sterile. Even though tins and packets are sealed, formula can contain bacteria which can cause serious illness particularly in vulnerable babies.

Bottle feeding may seem like hard work at first, but if you get into a routine you'll be able to relax and enjoy feeding. One advantage of bottle feeding is that fathers and carers can feed your baby and give you a break.

You can use formula or express breast milk for your baby to have. You can also use a combination of both expressed breast milk and formula. Each of these options would give the nutrition your baby needs.

Get the right equipment

If you are bottle feeding your baby, you will need a number of bottles and teats, as well as sterilising equipment.

Make sure the feed is sterile

Make sure your bottles and teats are sterilised. If you’re using infant formula, pay close attention to the instructions on the packet when you make up the feed.

Be prepared

Get everything you need ready before you start feeding. Find a comfortable position to hold your baby while you're feeding. You may need to give your baby time.

Some babies take some milk, pause for a nap, then wake up for more. Remember, feeding is a chance to feel close to your baby and get to know them.

Keep the teat full

When feeding keep the teat full of milk otherwise your baby will take in air. If the teat becomes flattened while you’re feeding, pull gently on the corner of your baby’s mouth to release the vacuum. If the teat gets blocked, replace it with another sterile teat.

Holding your baby

Hold your baby fairly upright for feeds with their head supported so that they can breathe and swallow comfortably.

Babies and wind

Your baby may need short breaks during the feed and may need to burp sometimes. When your baby does not want any more feed, hold them upright and gently rub or pat their back to bring up any wind. This may be a very small amount.

Throw away unused formula

Don’t forget to throw away any unused formula or breast milk after the feed.

Don’t leave your baby

Never leave a baby alone to feed with a propped-up bottle, as they may choke on the milk.

Check the temperature

Always check the temperature of the milk before feeding milk to your baby - you may scald your baby's mouth if it is too hot.

Soya formula

Soya formula should only be given to babies who are allergic to cow's milk and only under your doctor's advice. Other milk such as goats’ milk or milks based on rice or oats should not be used to feed your baby.

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