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How to give a baby a bottle

Before you feed your baby a bottle:

  • Check that the milk is lukewarm.
  • Sit in a safe, comfortable position
  • Make sure the bottle teat is full of milk.

Check the bottle temperature

Make sure the milk is lukewarm. It should feel warm to the touch and not hot. Hot bottles can cause burns and scalds.

Check the temperature by shaking the bottle and placing a drop of liquid on the inside of your wrist. Do this before you give the bottle to your baby.

A formula-feed bottle will need to be cooled down after being made. Cool the feed quickly by holding the bottle under cold running water or place in a large bowl of cold water. Make sure the water does not reach the neck of the bottle.

If using a bottle that has been prepared in advance, warm it by placing it in a bowl of warm water. Make sure that the level of the water is below the neck of the bottle. You can also use a bottle warmer. Do not warm it for more than 15 minutes.


Never use a microwave to warm your baby’s bottle.

Bottle-feed position

Sit in a position that is comfortable for you and your baby.

Always hold your baby in your arms and hold the bottle in your hand.

Never leave your baby to drink a bottle on their own.

Never prop or lean the bottle against a:

  • pillow
  • self-feeding pillow
  • any another support

Doing this could cause your baby to choke.

Paced bottle-feeding

When bottle-feeding your baby, it's important to pace the feed. This helps your baby control how much milk they drink and how quickly they feed.

Paced bottle-feeding is a great way for the baby and carer to get used to bottle-feeding. It helps to make bottle-feeding as stress-free as possible for your baby. It can also reduce the risk of overfeeding.

Follow the steps below to get started:

  1. Sit your baby upright in your lap and hold the bottle in a horizontal position.
  2. Tickle your baby's top lip with the teat of the bottle until they open their mouth.
  3. Let your baby take the teat into their mouth and suck.
  4. Tilt the bottle slightly towards your baby so the teat is full of milk.
  5. When your baby pauses, tilt the bottle down or remove the teat. This allows your baby to rest for a moment.
  6. Alternate feeding and pausing - pay attention to your baby's cues and stop when they have taken as much as they need to.

Do not force your baby to take more if they decide to stop or show signs they've had enough.

This works well because your baby can control the milk flow. If your baby is over 6 months and does not like a bottle, you can use a cup with handles on it.

Only put a small amount of liquid into the cup initially until your baby learns how to feed. This will help you to avoid spilling and wasting milk.

Watch a video on how to give a paced bottle feed

Bonding during bottle-feeds

Make the most of this time to bond with your baby:

  • Resist the urge to multi-task.
  • Stay in close contact – consider opening your shirt and doing skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
  • Look into your baby’s eyes and your baby will look back at you - this helps babies feel safe and loved.
  • Take it slowly and enjoy the cuddles.

After the feed

At the end of the feed, sit and hold your baby upright and gently rub or pat their back for a while. This will help to bring up any wind. Winding your baby will help get rid of swallowed air.

Throw away any milk not used within 2 hours of starting the feed.

If breast or bottle-feeding in bed, always return your baby to their own cot for sleep. This will help to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death).

Responsive bottle-feeding

Responsive feeding means being aware of your baby’s cues or distress and responding to them. This can mean picking up on the early signs of hunger before your baby even cries. Feed your baby if they are hungry and stop if they are full.

Tips for responsive bottle feeding:

  • Make sure you or your partner do most of the feeds.
  • Encourage your baby to root for the teat. 'Rooting' is a reflex where babies will turn their heads towards something that touches their cheek or mouth and make sucking motions with their mouth.
  • Do not rush the feed.
  • Never force your baby to take a full feed.

Related topics

Using a bottle to give expressed milk

Preparing baby formula

Combination feeding

Page last reviewed: 14 December 2022
Next review due: 14 December 2025