Bottle Feeding Basics

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For both breast milk or formula fed babies, follow these dos and don’ts.


  • wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before preparing bottle or breastfeeding.
  • 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.  
  • heat breast milk by holding under warm running water or placing in a bowl of hot water. Always check the temperature of the milk by dropping some on their wrist before feeding it to the baby.
  • hold your baby in your arms or lap during feedings. Ensure baby is in a semi-upright position with the head slightly forward, slightly higher than the rest of the body, and supported by the parent or caregiver with the head cradled in the crook of the parent or caregivers’ arm. Be sure the infant’s head is not tilted back or lying flat down; the liquid could enter the infant’s windpipe and cause choking.
  • hold the bottle still and at an angle so that the end of the bottle near the nipple is filled with infant formula and not air to decrease the amount of air swallowed by the infant.
  • stroke the infant’s cheek gently with the nipple to stimulate the rooting reflex, causing the infant to open his or her mouth
  • burp by gently patting or rubbing the infant’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, lessens the amount of air swallowed, and may help reduce reflux and colic in some infants.
  • discard leftover breastmilk or formula not used within one hour.


  • use a microwave to heat breastmilk or formula. It can create hot spots that will burn your baby.
  • refrigerate leftover breast milk or formula after feedings. Discard any breastmilk or formula not used within one hour.
  • use bottled water to mix with formula because it is NOT sterile. Bottled water must be boiled before it is used to mix formula. Boiled water should reach room temperature. approximately 30 minutes after boiling
  • prop the bottle because:
    • liquid can accidentally flow into the lungs and cause choking.
    • fluid can enter the middle ear and not drain properly causing ear infections.
    • your baby may overfeed.
    • human contact helps your baby feel loved and secure.
  • give a bottle while your baby is lying down (for naps or bedtime) or while in a car seat, stroller, swing, carrier, or walker.  In addition to the risk of choking, this can lead to dental problems.
  • put cereal or other foods in a bottle.  This can:
    • increase the risk of choking.
    • teach your child to eat solids incorrectly.
    • replace the needed amounts of breastmilk or formula that your baby receives with foods that are less nutritious.
  • force a bottle. Follow your baby’s lead on when to feed, how long to feed, and how much to feed.  Not all babies are able to follow a rigid schedule. Never force an infant to finish what is in the bottle. Infants are the best judge of how much they need. See Feeding on Demand.
  • 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 yet pushed through the gums.

This post was last updated on July 9th, 2020 at 3:52 PM

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