Bottle Feeding Basics

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Whether you are giving your baby a bottle of breast milk or formula, it is important to follow these basic tips when feeding a bottle.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Bottle Feeding

  • ALWAYS wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before preparing a bottle.
  • ALWAYS mix formula according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the container. Adding too much or too little powdered formula to the water can make your baby sick.  
  • ALWAYS hold your baby during feedings. Human contact helps your baby feel loved and secure.
  • ALWAYS use the paced bottle feeding method when giving a bottle. The paced bottle feeding method gives baby more control of the feeding pace. It slows down the flow of milk, letting baby eat more slowly and take breaks. Learn more about it in the next section!
  • ALWAYS burp by gently patting or rubbing the baby’s back while against your shoulder and chest or supported in a sitting position in your lap. Burp at natural breaks in the feeding and at the end to help remove swallowed air from the stomach. Avoid burping too often, which disrupts a good feeding. Burping at natural breaks helps slow the feeding and may help reduce reflux and colic in some babies.
  • ALWAYS throw away any breast milk or formula left in the bottle after 1 hour. Why? Bacteria from the baby’s mouth goes into the bottle and will grow and multiply if kept longer than 1 hour after feeding. If you are worried about losing formula, mix small quantities and add if needed.
  • ALWAYS wash bottles and parts after each use.
  • DO NOT heat in the microwave. It can create hot spots that will burn your baby. Heat breast milk or formula by holding the bottle under warm running water or place in a bowl of hot water. Always check the temperature of the milk by dropping some on your wrist before feeding it to the baby.
  • Do NOT prop the bottle because liquid can accidentally flow into the lungs causing choking, fluid can enter the middle ear causing ear infections, and your baby may overfeed.
  • Do NOT put cereal or other foods in a bottle. This can cause choking, teach your child to eat solid food incorrectly, and replace needed calories from breast milk or formula.
  • Do NOT give a bottle while your baby is lying down (for naps or bedtime) or while in a car seat, stroller, swing, carrier, or walker. This can cause choking and lead to dental problems.
  • Do NOT force a bottle. Follow your baby’s lead on when to feed, how long, and how much. Never force a baby to finish the bottle. Babies are the best judge of how much they need. See Feeding on Demand.
  • Do NOT let your child walk around with a bottle or use a bottle as a pacifier. This can cause tooth decay even in teeth that have not pushed through the gums.

Paced Bottle Feeding Method

What is it?

A way to offer a bottle that gives baby more control of the feeding pace. It slows down the flow of milk, letting baby eat more slowly and take breaks.

How does it work?

  • Hold baby in your lap in a semi-upright position, halfway between sitting up and lying down, while supporting the head and neck
  • When baby shows signs of hunger, touch the nipple to baby’s lip to get baby to open wide
  • Let baby take the nipple in and begin to suck or insert nipple in baby’s mouth (lips should flange like a deep latch at the breast)
  • Repeat the below cycle


  • Holding the bottle horizontal lets baby suck to draw the milk out and control the pace. Tipping the bottle up allows milk to pour into the mouth, forcing baby to keep swallowing to try and keep up with the fast flow.
  • Don’t worry about baby taking in air. Burp often if concerned.
  • Avoid wiggling the bottle to get baby to suck more. This encourages overeating.
  • A good time to end the feeding is when baby stops sucking and arms and hands look relaxed.


  • Teaches baby when they are hungry and full.
  • Reduces overfeeding that can make baby uncomfortable or spit up more.
  • For breastfed babies, it makes it easier to go back and forth between breast and bottle.

This post was last updated on September 1st, 2022 at 12:35 PM

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