Bottle-feeding your baby: your guide to getting it right

by Oliver Birk |

Get clued up and make the move as smoothly as possible – for both you and your baby.

Maybe you’ve tried breastfeeding but it’s not for you, you want your partner to share the duties or you haven’t got enough milk to satisfy your newborn.

Whatever the reason, there’s no need to feel guilty if you decide you want to bottle feed – just know how to do it right.

Know when to start

Like most aspects of motherhood, this is a bit of a balancing act. If you’re able to breastfeed, most experts suggest waiting until your baby is three weeks old before trying a bottle.

‘By then, breastfeeding is well established and the occasional bottle of expressed milk, say once every three days, won’t confuse him,’ says Clare Byam-Cook, author of What To Expect When You’re Breastfeeding… And What If You Can’t?.

‘However, leave it longer than three months to try mixed feeding and you risk your baby rejecting the bottle – no fun if you’re returning to work.’

Read more: Chicco answer all your bottle-feeding questions

Make the switch from breast easy

It can be tricky to get your baby away from your nice warm breast and onto a bottle, so do what you can to maximise your chances.

‘Don’t feed him for at least four hours before you give a bottle, so you know he’s hungry,’ says Clare.

‘And keep the teat in his mouth even if he cries – if you take it out, he’ll never learn there’s tasty milk in it. As many babies are soothed by movement, try walking around while the teat is in his mouth.’

It can be stressful, so choose a day when someone can help you, but be the one to feed him. He’ll feel more secure with you.

Read more: How long should you breastfeed for?

Don’t give up too soon

It could take up to 24 hours to convince your baby to accept a bottle but, if he’s hungry, he’ll want to eat, so keep going.

If you can, use skin-to-skin contact as you feed and switch arms halfway through, so he sees the world from both sides, just like a breastfed baby.

Bottle buying know-how

There’s no magic formula to finding a bottle your baby likes – it’s a case of trial and error. Some babies will take to a particular shape, while others need features that ease wind or colic.

Check the teat, too – some are made to resemble the natural feel and shape of your breast, which could make the transition easier. ‘Teats come in slow, medium or fast flow. You want your baby to get the milk quickly and easily, so medium is good to start with,’ says Clare.

‘It should take him 20 minutes to finish a feed – if it’s longer, try a faster flow. Or, if he’s gulping milk down, test a slow one.’

Read more: A guide to choosing the best baby bottles for your little one

Breast or formula?

If you’re breastfeeding, but know you’ll want to express regularly, invest in a breast pump.

‘Express in the morning after giving a feed – your milk is richest and most plentiful then,’ says midwife Amanda Gwynne.

‘Express from one breast until the flow slows, then swap. When that flow slows, do it once more each side.’

Otherwise, you can use formula. Based on cow’s milk, it contains a balance of nutrients for your baby.

Keep it clean

As your baby’s immune system is still developing, you’ll need to keep his feeding kit super-clean by sterilising for the first year.

Wash bottles thoroughly in hot soapy water, scrubbing with a bottle brush, then check the rims and teats. Rinse to remove detergent, then sterilise.

Sterilisers work either chemically – where the kit is soaked in water and a sterilising solution – or by heat, usually via steam or by boiling water.

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Preparing a bottle feed

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