Your baby’s meals have valuable nutrition that makes weight gain, brain growth, and a ton of other important physiologic functions they need to thrive possible. Some worry about “what should I eat while breastfeeding,” and others bottle feed; some use formula, and others use expressed breast milk.
When it comes to creating a positive and responsive feeding experience, it’s not only what they eat, but also how they eat. We may think that a baby bottle is self-explanatory, but there’s just as much to learn about feeding from a baby bottle as there is from a breast!
The classic bottle feeding method, in which the little one is reclined, and the baby’s bottle is tipped back so that air bubbles do not form, can often result in more stress than satisfaction for your little one. Milk drips out constantly when a baby’s bottle is held upside-down, even in slow flow nipples. This means that baby has to keep swallowing to avoid choking, even if they’re not ready, too tired, aren’t hungry, or just want a break. Caregivers often don’t recognize the signs of a stressful feeding experience, so we’re here to help navigate how to bottle feed a baby.
Here are signs of stress you want to avoid:
- Pushing the bottle away
- Gulping/coughing with startled look
- Splayed fingers and toes
- Milk spilling from corners of the mouth
- Turning head away from the feeding bottle
Paying attention to your baby's feeding cues will be essential to having a positive experience while getting the hang of paced bottle feeding. Here’s a few simple feeding tips for the baby’s first year to help keep your baby happy while gulping down the goodness he or she needs:
- Hold baby upright (sitting) rather than reclining to help him control the milk flow.
- Touch the bottle nipple to his bottom lip and wait for him to open his mouth (do not force the bottle nipple in his mouth). When baby takes the nipple into his mouth, his position should be upright enough that the bottle should be almost horizontal. Tip the bottle just enough to fill the nipple with milk.
- Check mouth placement:
- Look for fish lips (upper and lower lips sealed around the nipple and rolled slightly outward)
- Little or no milk should leak from the mouth
- Note the rhythm of baby swallowing, which should happen after every 1-3 sucks. It’s natural for baby to pause about every 20 seconds. When this happens, you can tip the nipple towards the roof of the baby’s mouth (since the milk will continue to drip out) until the baby starts to suck again.
- Switch sides during feeds to allow for stimulation to both sides of the body (including the eyes, arms, brain, and more).
- Baby should appear relaxed during feedings (hands and body at ease, eyes looking at you).
A few things to avoid when learning how to bottle feed a baby:
- Don’t prop a bottle: Newborn babies should always be watched while they’re feeding, whether they are bottle-feeding or breastfeeding.
- Don’t force your baby to finish a bottle, follow their physical cues instead.
- Don’t feed your baby while he’s facing away from you. Feeding time is just as crucial for social interactions as it is nutrition. Encourage engagement by making eye contact and talking with your baby.
- Don’t put anything other than breastmilk or formula in the bottle unless directed by your baby’s physician.
With all this in mind, remember that the most important thing is to relax and enjoy this time together. These moments are precious for you, too. The gaze in your baby’s eyes, the sounds of his cooing, the sweetness of his satisfied sleep – these will feed your memories for a long time to come.
— Nicole Meadow, MPN, RD, CSP, CLC
Registered Dietitian + Lactation Counselor
We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.
We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.blog_review_statement