Bottle feeding: How to bottle feed and switch from breast to bottle

Whether you decide to bottle feed or breastfeed your baby is completely up to you, you could end up doing a combination of the two!

Many mothers will breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby’s life and then move onto bottle feeding if they find it easier.

When deciding to bottle feed there are a few options to consider. You could choose to buy infant formula to feed your baby with or you can just express your own breast milk and put it into a bottle.

Baby bottles and equipment


You’re going to need a selection of bottles and teats to last you through the many feeds of the day, as well as some sterilising equipment to keep everything clean as your baby’s immune system won’t be as strong as an adults. It’s usually better to get bottles that can be cleaned easily as some are difficult shapes and cleanliness is very important.

Making up a bottle

Formula

Ensure your hands are freshly washed properly with soap, then clean and disinfect the area that you’ll be using to make up your bottle. Sterilise both your bottle and teat and place them on the disinfected area. Read the formula’s instructions and pour the amount of water you need into the bottle. Double check that the water level is correct. Always put the water in the bottle first, while it is still hot, before adding the powdered formula. Use the scoop that comes with your formula and loosely fill with powder before levelling it off to the correct amount.

Next, re-attach the lid of your bottle and give the powder a good shake until it’s dissolved into the water. Then cool the bottle until it’s body temperature by running the body of the bottle underneath a cool tap and testing the formula on your wrist. It should be either slightly warm or slightly cool but never hot. If there’s any formula left at the end of the feed always throw it away. Never heat up formula in a microwave or put extra powder in a feed to bulk it up as this can dehydrate your baby.

Breast milk

After expressing and storing your breast milk safely, you can warm it up ready to feed your baby. Ensure your hands are freshly washed properly with soap before cleaning and disinfecting the area where you’ll be making your bottle.

Sterilise both your bottle and teat and place them on the disinfected area. If you have frozen your breast milk it’s best to defrost it slowly in the fridge. If your baby is happy to drink your breast milk cold you can give it to them straight from the fridge, or warm it to body temperature by holding the bottle under running warm water. Once you have started using a bottle of breast milk it should be used within an hour and should never be heated in the microwave.

How to bottle feed your baby


Start by sitting comfortably with support around your back and arms, holding your baby fairly upright in your arms. Support their head so that they can breathe clearly and swallow comfortably. Start by brushing the teat of the bottle against their lips and wait for them to open their mouth wide and draw it in.

Ensure the teat is always full, otherwise your baby will start swallowing air. It’s also important to make sure the teat hasn’t become bent or crumpled within their mouth, you can do this by popping a clean finger in your baby’s mouth to straighten it out.

Your baby may need to stop to be winded occasionally. Once you have finished feeding hold your baby upright and rub their back gently to bring up any wind.

Switching from breastfeeding to bottle feeding


You can decide to switch to formula at any time, although if you want to do a combination of breast and bottle you should wait eight weeks. The best way is to slowly drop a feed a week – for example, start bottle feeding every Monday night. Be consistent with which feeds you decide to stop as your breasts will learn to stop producing milk at certain times. By reducing your feeds like this it will stop your breasts from becoming engorged or leaky.

It will take your baby and your body a while to get used to the change, but there are some things you can do to make it easier for your little one:

  • Bottle feed with expressed breast milk
  • Let your partner feed them with the bottle, if they can smell and feel your breasts they are likely to keep crying for them and ignore the bottle
  • Hold them so that they are facing away from your chest to make your breasts less distracting
  • Try a variety of shaped teats in case your baby find a specific one more comfortable
  • Did you switch from breastfeeding to bottle feeding? Let us know in the comments below