How to Bottle-Feed a Baby

Learn the ABCs of bottle-feeding your newborn—and make sure your little one is comfortable—with these expert-approved tips, tricks, and bottle-feeding positions.

baby drinking bottle

When it comes to bottle-feeding your baby, there are many considerations. From formula and nipple types to the best bottle feeding positions, parents have a lot to navigate. Most have many questions. The good news is that we've got you covered, with answers to some of the most commonly asked questions—plus, tips and tricks.

Here's everything you need to know about bottle-feeding your baby.

When Should You Introduce Babies to Bottles?

One of the most frequently asked questions—at least when it comes to bottle-feeding—is about timing, i.e. when (and how) should you introduce bottles to babies? And the truth is there is no right answer. If your baby is exclusively being bottle-fed, this should happen immediately. Bottles should be introduced right after birth and/or in the hospital. If your baby will be breastfed—and you will supplement with formula and/or pump—you may want to wait a few weeks. Experts suggest waiting two to four weeks, to be exact.

How Do You Choose the Right Baby Formula?

It's important to choose a formula that is iron-fortified. Low-iron formulas are available due to the belief that iron makes babies gassy and constipated, but studies have found this to be untrue. If there's a family history of allergies, you believe your baby is lactose intolerant, or you have other health concerns, consult your pediatrician—they can steer you toward the formula best suited for your child's needs. Most formulas come in a powder or concentrate form (both of which you mix with water) or ready-to-feed form, the most convenient—and expensive—option.

How Much Do Newborns Eat?

Your newborn will probably take between two and four ounces per feeding during their first few weeks (during the first few days, they may take less than an ounce), and will probably be hungry every two to four hours. Use this time frame as a guide only. It's best to feed your baby on demand. Don't encourage your baby to finish the bottle if they're not interested. And if they're still sucking enthusiastically when the bottle is empty, offer them more.

What Are the Best Positions for Bottle-Feeding Your Baby?

To feed your baby, cradle them in a semi-upright position and support their head. Don't feed baby lying down—formula can flow into the middle ear, causing an infection. To prevent your little one from swallowing air as they suck, tilt the bottle so that the formula fills the neck of the bottle and covers the nipple. Here are a few of the best positions to try:

Cradle them. Place the baby's head in the crook of your arm, and your other arm around the baby or underneath them. Lift the arm with the baby's head slightly so they're in a semi-upright position.

Sit baby up. This position works well for babies with painful gas or acid reflux. Sit baby on your lap so they're in a more upright position. Let their head rest on your chest or in the crook of your arm.

Place them in your lap. This works when you're lying or sitting down with your legs propped up. Place baby on top of your lap, with their head resting on your knees and their feet on your stomach. This is an excellent feeding position because you and your baby are facing one another, allowing you to make plenty of eye contact.

Tilt the bottle. When feeding your infant, tilt the bottle so the milk completely fills the nipple. This decreases the amount of air that your baby is likely to take in, lessening her chances of having painful gas.

Use a Boppy. Some babies feed well when lying on a Boppy pillow. It keeps your little one's head slightly elevated and is really useful when your arms are tired. Just be sure to hold your baby's bottle. You never want to prop it up and/or leave them eating unattended.

Should You Burp Your Baby After Bottle-Feeding—and Why It Matters?

Babies get fussy and cranky when they swallow air during feedings because it makes them feel uncomfortably full. This happens more often with bottle-fed infants, though breastfed infants can also swallow air. The fussing can turn into a vicious circle, causing the baby to swallow even more air and become even more upset. That's why burping is important.

To prevent a tummy full of air, burp your baby frequently—after every two or three ounces of formula. If your baby doesn't burp after a couple of minutes of trying, resume feeding. Here are the three best positions:

  • Over the shoulder: Drape your baby over your shoulder and firmly pat or rub their back.
  • On the lap: Sit your baby upright, lean them forward against the heel of your hand, and firmly pat or rub their back.
  • Lying down: Place baby stomach-down on your lap and firmly rub or pat their back.
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