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How to give a baby a bottle

When the bottle is prepared and you are ready to feed your baby, check:

  • the milk is lukewarm
  • you're sitting in a safe, comfortable position
  • the bottle teat is full of milk

Related topics

Expressing breastmilk

Preparing baby formula

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 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, making 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 prop or lean the bottle against a pillow or another support. This can cause your baby to choke.

Teat full of milk

Help your baby to avoid swallowing air while feeding by keeping the teat full of milk.

If necessary, wind your baby to help get rid of swallowed air.

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 to bring up any wind.

Throw away any milk not used within 2 hours from when you start to feed your baby.

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 touch 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

page last reviewed: 15/03/2018
next review due: 15/03/2021