Bottle Feeding

Any breastfeeding is valuable, and we support mothers to help their baby receive as much breastmilk as they can. Formula milk does not provide the protection against illness and infection for your baby that breastmilk can. However, if you are unable to fully breastfeed, or choose not to, we will provide the support you need in order to bottle feed as safely as possible.

You will be offered the opportunity to discuss or have a demonstration on how to make up a feed safely. In addition you will be given the leaflet below which has details of how to sterilise and make up feeds correctly. Even if you have bottle fed before please check as some of the advice may have changed.

Remember that powdered milk is not sterile and can cause infections if made up in advance. Therefore you will need to make up feeds as needed, even at night.  Unicef have a useful leaflet which includes some tips on how to make this more manageable: Caring for your baby at night leaflet (link to external website)

The video below provides step by step guidance on how to safely prepare a bottle feed for your baby.


Click on the following link for more information about making up bottles safely and a guide to safe formula feeding:


Choosing the right formula milk for your baby – Unicef leaflet


What to bring into hospital if you are bottle feeding

The hospital does not provide milk for babies unless there is a medical need. You will need to bring ready-made liquid formula of the brand you choose. To reduce waste, small cartons or bottles are best, as milk can only be refrigerated for 24 hours once opened. If you are not using ‘starter packs’ of formula with bottles and teats provided you will need to sterilise bottles at home and ask someone to bring them in daily for you.


Early days

When your baby is born we encourage you to spend time in skin contact. This is a lovely way for you to welcome your new baby and to calm you both. It helps to form close bonds. You can keep your baby in skin contact for as long as you want to – this should be at least an hour or until the baby has had their first feed. If you are unable to have your baby in skin contact straight after birth we will encourage you to do this as soon as you are both able.

Always choose a first infant formula milk suitable for newborns. Unless you are advised otherwise by a health professional, your baby will not need any other food or drink until around 6 months of age. You can continue to give this milk when your baby starts to have solid foods. It is not advisable to give any other type of milk to young babies; discuss with your midwife or health visitor if you feel you need to give your baby anything other than first milk. When your baby is 12 months old, cow’s milk can be given.


Feeding your baby responsively

Although normal newborn behaviour means that babies feed very frequently, it may not be appropriate to offer formula feeds as frequently as breastfeeds because of the risks of over feeding. You will be offered support to feed your baby in a responsive way and encouraged to:

  • Follow your baby’s hunger cues rather than trying to adhere to strict routines
  • Hold your baby close when feeding so that you can look into his or her eyes. Feeding in skin-to-skin contact helps your baby feel safe and secure.
  • Encourage your baby to open his/her mouth by rubbing the teat against the top lip rather than forcing the teat into the mouth.
  • Hold the bottle horizontal to the ground, tilting it just enough to ensure your baby is taking milk, not air, through the teat. Babies feed in bursts of sucking with short pauses to rest. In this position, when your baby pauses for a rest the milk will stop flowing, allowing him to have a short rest before starting to suck again.
  • Watch for signs that your baby needs a break, remove the bottle and wind him/her
  • Never force a baby to take a full feed as this will affect his/her appetite control and may lead to health problems later in life.
  • Limit the number of people who feed your baby – aim for you and your partner to give most of the feeds yourselves to build a close and loving bond with your baby.
  • Never leave your baby unattended with a bottle.

Feeding times are a good opportunity for you to have your baby close to you and for you to bond with each other. Babies who have a strong attachment to their parents feel secure and loved which helps them to be calmer and grow into more confident children and adults.


How do I know my baby is having enough milk?

Babies do not normally need any other food or drink apart from milk until they are around six months old. Newborn babies have very small stomachs and it is normal for them to have small frequent feeds to begin with. The amount of milk your baby wants will increase during the first week, and as he/she grows.

All babies are different, but as a guide you can expect your baby to need approximately 150 – 200 mls per kilo of the baby’s weight per day by the end of the first week.

Your baby’s nappies and weight gain will give you an indication of whether they are having enough milk.

Once your baby is a few days old, he/she should produce at least six wet nappies per day. The nappy should feel heavy, and the urine should be clear or pale in colour. For the first few days your baby will pass a dark sticky stool (meconium). This will change to a yellow colour during the first week – there should be at least two dirty nappies per day.

Speak to your midwife or health visitor if you have any concerns about the amounts your baby is having.