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Bottle feeding

Bottle feeding with expressed breastmilk or infant formula is a great way for your partner to get involved in feeding your baby and for both of you to bond with your baby. It’s a lovely way to have your baby close to you, and enjoy skin to skin contact.

Make sure your bottles and teats are sterilised and wash your hands thoroughly before making up milk.

It’s important to make up each feed as your baby asks for it, following each formula companies guidelines. Please use tap water to fill your kettle; bottled water is not necessary to use as it can contain too much sodium (salt) than is necessary.

Look out for feeding cues so that you know when your baby is hungry: sucking on their fingers, licking their lips, moving their head around. Try and feed your baby before they cry as this is the last sign of them wanting to feed.

Make sure you and your baby are comfortable, hold your baby fairly upright and support their head so that they can breathe and swallow easily. Brush the teat of the bottle against your baby’s lips and when they open their mouth wide, gently place the teat into their mouth. Raise the bottle to keep the teat full of milk or your baby will take in air. If the teat goes flat, gently poke your little finger into the corner of your baby’s mouth to release the suction and begin again.

Look at your baby while they feed so you can be guided by their cues for when they may need a break.

Your baby may need to burp occasionally. Hold them upright over your shoulder or sitting on your lap facing away from you, supporting their head with your hand, and rub or pat their back gently to bring up any wind. Bringing up a little milk after a feed is normal, and sitting your baby upright after a feed may help.

Limit the number of people that are feeding your baby, so that your baby is fed in response to their feeding cues. Pace their feeds and don’t worry if they don’t finish the bottle; never force a baby to finish a feed as it can be distressing.

Never leave your baby alone with a propped up bottle as they could choke.

Throw away any unused milk and if using formula, ensure you follow the directions on the packet. Unless your doctor or health visitor gives you other advice, first infant formula is the only type of formula your baby needs from birth until they are one year old, when they can start to drink whole cow’s milk. There is no need to switch to follow on formula, toddler, or growing up milk and these can often be high in sugar.

See the NHS Start 4 Life leaflet in the Helpful resources section below for advice on how to make up formula feeds.

  • If you are unable to buy your usual brand of stage 1 formula, don’t worry – you can use any first infant formula as all preparations have similar ingredients in order to comply with the UK legislation
  • Don’t use stage 2 or follow on formula for any baby under 6 months
  • If you are using follow on formula and cannot access this, use stage 1 formula
  • If you are using other milks such as comfort milk, anti-reflux milk and cannot get this, use stage 1 formula
  • Please continue to make up formula feeds as per manufacturers guidelines



Baby self-feeding products are designed to enable babies to bottle feed with little to no assistance from a caregiver. This is inconsistent with NHS guidance in relation to safe bottle feeding. When used as intended, even whilst under the supervision of a caregiver. They could lead to serious harm or death from choking or aspiration pneumonia.

They should never be used, under any circumstances.

You can see an example of these items below and read more from the Office for Product Safety and Standards here (opens in new window).

Baby self feeding products

Baby serlf feeding pillows

If your baby is often sick after feeding, is violently sick, seems to be in pain, or you have any other worries, talk to your health visitor or GP. Your baby should be gaining weight and have plenty of wet and dirty nappies.

Some babies take a while to get used to bottle feeding, especially if they are used to breastfeeding. Try different teats and feeding positions, and feed little and often to get them used to it. Ask your health visitor for advice if you are concerned.

If you need support with feeding your baby, please get in touch with your local health visiting service. You can just send us a text us and we'll help you.

Text 07312 263283

If you need to make or change an appointment, please contact your local health visiting team.

This telephone number is not for professionals who need to speak to the Health Visiting Service. Please use your normal method of contact.