Some babies need a little more encouragement to bottle feed than others. For parents who are trying bottle feeding for the first time, it can often feel like a daunting world of nipple flows, formula types and feeding positions.
Fortunately, we’re here to help! Whether you choose to combine formula feeding with breastfeeding, use bottles for expressed breastmilk or feed only with formula, our guide has everything you need to know about bottle feeding a newborn.
With this info and a little patience, you’ll soon find the right routine that works for you and your baby.
Should I start bottle feeding my baby?
It is recommended to exclusively breastfeed your baby until around 6 months of age. The benefits of breastfeeding are for both mom and baby’s health, and for bonding.
But breastfeeding isn’t possible or desirable sometimes. In these cases, bottle feeding infant formula or expressed breastmilk is a viable option.
It is important to seek advice from your pediatrician before deciding to transition from breastfeeding to either partial or total infant formula feeding.
Why bottle feed?
- Bonding with everyone: Mom, dad and other caregivers can nourish and connect with the baby. It helps create a sense of closeness and shared responsibility, strengthening the parent-baby relationship.
- Flexibility and convenience: Bottle feeding can make it easier for moms returning to work or for parents who have busy schedules or illness.
- Outside support: To take pressure off mom, bottle feeding allows partners, family members and other caregivers to share the responsibility of feeding the baby.
- Monitoring intake: Whether it is expressed breastmilk and/or infant formula, some parents feel more relaxed when bottle feeding, as they have more control over feeding schedules and are able to monitor intake. This may be more of a perceived benefit, as in most cases, babies innately regulate feeding to support their growth and development.
What are the disadvantages of bottle feeding?
- Preparation and cleaning: Bottle feeding a newborn requires more preparation and cleaning compared with breastfeeding. Bottles, nipples and other feeding equipment need to be properly sterilized and maintained for hygiene and safety. Expressing, mixing formula, and giving the bottle to the baby all take extra time, too.
- Lack of hormonal benefits: Bottle feeding can mean missing out on the full release of hormones that promote bonding, relaxation and a sense of well-being in mom and baby.
- Increased risk of ear infections and tooth decay: Improper bottle feeding positions can increase the risk of ear infections and tooth decay. Don’t worry — we’ll show you safer positions!
- Storage and Portability: Bottle feeding a newborn requires planning for storing and transporting formula or expressed breastmilk, which may be less convenient when traveling or when access to safe water is limited.
Tips for bottle feeding
Below, our experts provide answers to commonly asked questions regarding bottle feeding a newborn, such as safe and effective bottle feeding positions, and more.
How often should you bottle feed a newborn?
As a general guide, newborns need to be fed every 2-4 hours. Don’t worry, you won’t be running around preparing bottles forever. The timing becomes spaced out as your baby gets older.
It's important to pay attention to your baby's hunger cues when bottle feeding, rather than strictly following a rigid feeding schedule. Babies' appetites can vary from day to day and week to week.
Hunger cues include:
- If you’re the primary person who feeds them, they’ll be staring at you and following you around the room with their eyes
- Clenching their hands into fists
- Smacking their lips, opening and closing their mouth, drooling, or sticking out their tongue
- Turning their head to the side, at or toward the breast, chest or a bottle
- Sucking on their fingers, hands or clothes
- Becoming more active and alert
Try rubbing your finger on your baby’s cheek — if they turn towards it, they’re hungry!
NOTE: As a general guide, babies need to feed at least every four hours. Speak to your pediatrician if your baby seems to prefer to sleep instead of waking up for feeds.
What are the best bottle feeding positions?
Cradle hold: The cradle hold is one of the tried and tested bottle feeding positions — a true classic. Place the baby’s head in the crook of your arm and wrap your hand around their bottom. Then, lift your elbow so that the baby is at a slight angle, with their head higher than their body.
Upright feeding: Bottle feeding when they are sitting upright is best for older babies who have more body control and those babies who struggle with acid reflux or gas. Prop them on your lap and let them lean back against you. The upright bottle feeding position makes bonding more difficult, but the benefit is that it can be performed anywhere.
Lap feeding: This one gives your arms a break while maximizing bonding. Lying down with your legs bent, place your baby facing you with their back against your thighs so their head is higher than their body. Tricky to pull off in public, but a sweet position to do at home that gives you lots of eye contact for bonding.
How long should it take to bottle feed a newborn?
The younger the baby, the longer bottle feeding will take. On average, it should take a baby 15 to 30 minutes to drink a bottle.
Drinking too fast can lead to overfeeding or gulping down air, causing tummy discomfort and spitting up. Too slow, and your baby might fall asleep before they finish.
To help regulate how quickly your baby feeds, check the angle you’re holding the bottle at, that the nipple ring isn’t screwed on too tightly and that the flow isn’t too fast (or slow). You can also try some different feeding positions that give you more control over the flow.
At what age should a baby transition from bottle feeding to drinking from a cup?
Bottles are commonly used throughout the first year of life, and beyond. However, it is recommended to introduce a cup from six months, and to discontinue bottles by twelve months. While it is commonly a source of comfort, extended use of a bottle by toddlers can increase risk of tooth decay, obesity and iron deficiency. Early introduction of a cup can help with an easier transition from bottle to cup by one year of age.
When your baby is around six months old, you can gradually substitute bottle feedings with open or sippy cups and reduce the frequency of bottle feeds over time. It's important to observe your baby's developmental cues, consult with your pediatrician for personalized guidance, and make the transition comfortable for you and your baby.
We have more information about Baby Led Weaning on our blog.
What bottle feeding equipment do I need?
When bottle feeding a newborn, you will need to stock up on infant feeding equipment, including bottles, nipples and sterilizing equipment. Here are our recommendations:
- Two to six bottles. Babies feed around six times per day for the first four months. If you intend to use a bottle for all of your baby’s feeds, it will be ideal for you to have around six bottles.
- Smaller bottles (4-5 oz) will be suitable in the early months, however, by 6 months your baby’s feeds will be larger, and 8-9 oz bottles will be required.
Either start with smaller bottles and transition to larger bottles when required or use larger bottles from the start. When selecting baby bottles, look for:
- Bottles with leakproof caps, discs, and nipples.
- Bottles with clearly marked measurement guides that will last.
- Bottles with a wide opening that can be easily cleaned with a brush.
- Bottles that are BPA free.
You will need at least six nipples if you intend to use a bottle for all of your baby’s feeds. There isn’t one nipple that will suit all babies. You’ll discover which nipple works best for your baby over time.
- Confirm that the nipple design is appropriate for your baby’s age. Different nipples will have different flow rates and it is important that the flow rate is comfortable for your baby.
- Check and replace nipples regularly. Discard a nipple as soon as you notice any signs of deterioration including discoloration, stickiness, swelling or cracking.
How can I safely sterilize bottle feeding equipment?
Bottles and nipples should be sterilized after each use and stored safely for as long as you use them.
- Wash the feeding equipment in hot water. Use a bottle or nipple brush before sterilization to make sure no traces of milk or milk residue remain. Rinse with hot water and air dry, or dry with a clean paper towel.
- Sterilize bottles and feeding equipment with one of the methods listed below.
- Store any equipment not being used immediately in a clean container in the fridge. Re-sterilize all infant feeding equipment every 24 hours whether used or unused.
Sterilizing methods for bottle feeding equipment
Fully submerge all infant feeding equipment in boiling water for 5 minutes.
Wash hands before removing the feeding equipment.
Dry equipment and store in a clean and dry location.
Steam sterilizer (electric)
Make sure all feeding equipment is dry and free from water before placing in the steam sterilizer. Keep the nipple and bottle openings facing down.
Use the sterilizer according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then wash your hands before removing all items and storing them in a clean and dry location.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for preparing the solution, combining the correct amount of sterilizing solution or tablet with the correct volume of water in a clean, plastic container.
Fully submerge the bottles and nipples in the container and make sure there are no bubbles. Soak the bottles and nipple for the required amount of time.
Wash your hands before removing the infant feeding equipment from the solution. Do not rinse off the sterilizing solution or there will be a risk of re-contamination.
Drain the bottles and nipples well on a clean dry surface. Bottles and nipples can stay sterilized in the sterilizing solution until needed for up to 24 hours.
How to mix breastfeeding with expressed breast milk
Breastfeeding alongside bottle feeding a newborn with expressed breastmilk is a popular method to keep baby fed. It allows the benefits of both convenience, bonding with family members and caregivers, and the nutritional benefits of breastmilk.
We have tips:
- Establish a breastfeeding routine: Begin by creating a regular breastfeeding routine with your baby. If you plan on introducing a bottle, it is best to wait for breastfeeding to become established (at least 6-8 weeks) before bottle feeding. This helps establish milk supply and makes sure that your baby is effectively nursing.
- Express breastmilk: When you want to introduce bottle feeding, express your breastmilk using a breast pump. Follow proper hygiene and storage guidelines for expressing, storing, and handling breastmilk.. The Office on Women’s Health has a guide to pumping and storing breastmilk that can be found here.
- Choose an appropriate bottle: Select a bottle that mimics the breastfeeding experience. Look for a bottle with a slow-flow nipple that allows your baby to control the flow of milk.
- Introduce bottle feeding: Start slowly. Offer the bottle of expressed milk to the baby only once a day, during a feeding when they’re not too hungry or grumpy.
- Let someone else feed baby: Have someone other than the breastfeeding parent offer the bottle. This can help your baby differentiate between breast and bottle feeding.
- Follow baby’s cues: Watch for hunger and fullness cues from your baby. Don’t force them to finish the bottle if they show signs of disinterest or being full.
- Continue breastfeeding: Keep breastfeeding your baby whenever possible to maintain your milk supply and strengthen the breastfeeding bond.
Remember, every baby is different. A combination of breastfeeding and bottle feeding expressed milk works for lots of parents and babies — but not all. If you have concerns or need personalized guidance, consult with a lactation specialist or pediatrician for support. You can always contact us on our a2™ Careline.
How to complement breastfeeding with infant formula
Mixed feeding, also known as complementary feeding, involves supplementing some breastmilk with bottle feeding infant formula.
Here is a general guide:
- Breastfeeding comes first: Wait 6-8 weeks for breastfeeding to be established before introducing bottle feeding. When possible, always offer the breast first, followed by the bottle with infant formula if you are doing top up feeds.
- Introduce one formula feeding per day: Using a bottle with a slow-flow nipple, offer a formula feed once a day when your baby is not overly hungry.
- Pay close attention: Watch your baby for any signs of discomfort, allergies, or digestive issues. If your baby accepts the formula and shows no adverse reactions, you can gradually increase the number of formula feedings per day.
- Slow and steady: Introduce the bottle gradually to allow your little one to make a smooth transition to mixed feeding. This will also allow you to keep up your own breastmilk supply. It may take at least 3 to 4 weeks to achieve the combo of breast and bottle feeding you’re looking for.
- Maintain breastfeeding sessions: One of the biggest challenges to mixed feeding is keeping your supply of breastmilk. The more formula the baby takes, the less milk your breasts will produce. While introducing formula feeds, it's important to continue breastfeeding as much as possible to keep up your milk supply.
- Seek support: If you have any concerns or questions about introducing mixed feeding, consult with a lactation specialist or pediatrician. They can give personalized advice on your specific situation.
Other resources include:
- National Breastfeeding Hotline: 1-800-994-9662
How do I choose the right formula?
Breastfeeding is best for mother and baby. Support should be accessed early if difficulties exist with feeding, attachment, low supply, or any other aspect of feeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age and beyond.
Read more about the benefits of breastfeeding.
If breastfeeding cannot be used as the sole form of nutrition for infants, a2 Platinum® Premium infant formula may be a good choice for families who would like a formula based on our a2 Milk®. Medical advice should be sought if unsettled behavior persists after two weeks on a2 Platinum® Premium infant formula.
How do I prepare formula?
Preparing formula for bottle feeding a newborn is straightforward once you get the hang of it – please refer to the Mixing Guide on the label of the formula tin.
How should I store formula? How long does a can last?
- Keep the scoop in the can when not in use. There is no need to wash the scoop after preparing a bottle. If the scoop accidentally gets wet, you will need to wash and dry it thoroughly before putting it back in the can.
- Always keep formula in its original can and cover with the plastic lid to prevent contamination of the powder. Do not transfer the powder to another container because there is a high risk of contamination.
- Check the expiration date on the base of the can to make sure the formula has not passed its expiration (use-by) date.
- Once opened, a can of formula can be kept safely for four weeks if stored in a cool dry place. Discard any unused formula after four weeks.
How much formula should I use for bottle feeding a newborn?
Each can of a2 Platinum® Premium infant formula includes a mixing guide that is a general guide only. Please refer to your pediatrician for information about how much and how often to feed your baby, as this is different for every baby.
Different mixing ratios and scoops may be used for other brands of infant formula products, so it’s important to specifically follow the instructions on the can when preparing a2 Platinum® Infant Formula for bottle feeding.
Here are some important points to keep in mind when bottle feeding a newborn:
- Follow the instructions on the can: Preparing the infant formula with the right amount of powder and water, as per the instructions provided on the can, will help make sure your baby’s nutritional requirements are being met.
- Adding too much powder to water, will mean your baby’s feed will be too concentrated. This can lead to constipation, causing your baby abdominal pain, bloating and discomfort when trying to have a bowel movement.
- If you add too much water, your baby’s feeds will be too diluted and they will not receive enough nutrition to help them grow well.
- Do not prepare formula with a different concentration to that which is prescribed on the can, unless under the specific guidance and instruction of a qualified pediatrician.
- Let your baby guide you: Allow your baby to drink until he or she shows signs of disinterest or being full, even if this means discarding any unused formula in the bottle.
- Check for 6 wet diapers: Around 6 wet diapers a day suggests your baby is getting enough feed — but developmental milestones and thriving health are more important. Keep your appointments and call your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s dehydration and growth or development.
Bottle feeding support
Resources include articles from our blog:
- Benefits of breastfeeding
- Visit our FAQ page and if you don’t find an answer there, use the contact form at the bottom of the FAQ page to get in touch: FAQs (a2nutrition.com)
- National Breastfeeding Hotline: 1-800-994-9662
It might seem like a steep learning curve and hurdles are inevitable. But stay patient, explore what works for you and your baby, and bottle feeding a newborn will become second nature.