Bottle Feeding: What All New Parents Should Know

When you have a brand new baby in the home, breastfeeding and/or bottle feeding are the main activities you do with your newborn. Although you may feed your baby 8-12 times a day or more, most new parents feel confused as to how it all works! Rarely do people prepare for feeding baby and that’s understandable. Our society puts a lot of emphasis on preparing for the childbirth process but expects parents to figure it out independently once baby is born and healthy. 

If you choose to bottle feed your baby, whether it is just once a while or for every feed, this blog post will provide you with some of my best tips. 

As a registered nurse who has worked in NICUs for 8+ years and as a new mom, I bottle feed infants every day. Here are my top strategies for success:

  1. Choose a bottle with a nipple that has a gradual slope

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new parents is that there are too many bottles to choose from. That is true! There are dozens of different brands that make bottles. Each brand often has several different variations of bottles that they sell. 

Some of my favorite bottles include Lansinoh, Evenflo, Dr. Brown’s and Pigeon.

Why are these my favorite?

Their nipples have a rounded tip and a gradual slope.

Some other brands, like como tomo or tommee tippee, have rounded tip nipples that quickly transition to a wide base. If your baby likes these bottles, that’s okay! But as a registered nurse I believe a gradual slope nipple encourages a deeper latch, which is best for both breastfeeding and bottle feeding.

  1. Use paced bottle feeding techniques

Many new parents think once they fill up a bottle and put it in baby’s mouth, their work is done. But that is not the case, especially for newborns. 

Paced bottle feeding is also known as responsive feeding. We want infants to be in control of feeding as much as possible. 

Some key points of paced bottle feeding include:

  • Hold the infant upright or in a side-lying position
  • Touch the bottle to their lips and wait for them to open their mouth wide, then insert the nipple pointing towards the roof of their mouth
  • Allow them to suck on the nipple a few times before introducing milk
  • Hold the bottle parallel to the ground (the bottle should make a T shape with baby’s body/face) so that the nipple is partially filled with milk rather than full with milk
  • When the infant stops sucking, you can tilt the bottle down to avoid milk entering their mouth when they are not ready
  1. Use a slow flow nipple

I always recommend using the slowest flow nipple that your brand sells to start when you first bring baby home. This usually means using a Level 0, preemie or slow flow nipple. There is no danger in using a nipple that is too slow. But if you use a nipple with a flow that is too fast there is a risk your baby may choke on some milk!

  1. Take frequent breaks

My general guideline is to take at least 2 breaks when bottle feeding a newborn, sometimes even 3 or 4! Remember, a break does not have to be very long. A baby does not have to burp during every break. A break allows the infant to digest, sometimes burp and potentially make room for more milk if they need it.

  1. Use two hands

This might sound like an odd suggestion but when you first introduce a bottle to your baby, pay attention. It’s really easy to be distracted and try to use one hand to check your phone. When your baby becomes more skilled at bottle feeding this is okay. With a newborn, the only way to learn their cues is to watch them carefully and listen to all the sounds they are making. Use one hand to support the bottle and one hand to support their body. They are relying on you to make bottle feeding a success.

Here are some other bottle feeding topics new parents often ask me about…

I’m exclusively breastfeeding but want to introduce a bottle eventually. When should I do it?

Bottle feeding, just like breastfeeding, is a skill. Babies have an innate sucking reflex which helps them to eat but they need a lot of guidance and practice. 

If you plan on introducing a bottle at any point in your baby’s first year, I recommend trying at least one bottle feed between the 3-6 week mark. You can certainly do it before that but introducing a bottle by 6 weeks helps babies learn the skill early on and allow for time for practice before they may be going to daycare or stay with a babysitter.

My baby won’t take a bottle. What can I do?

It is common for babies to refuse a bottle from a breastfeeding parent. The non-breastfeeding (non-BF) parent or another caregiver might have more success. In that case, have the non-BF parent do the initial bottle feeds and then slowly try with the breastfeeding parent after a few sessions.

You can also take advantage of sleep. If baby is feeding overnight, the breastfeeding parent can try to give a bottle then, while baby may be a little sleepy and have less energy to refuse.

Some babies do refuse bottles completely, which is a stressful and complex issue. But if this is happening to you, you are not alone. If you feel that’s your case, you can book a feeding consultation with me to troubleshoot bottle refusal. 

What is nipple confusion and should I worry about it?

Many parents worry about nipple confusion. Some parents even hear about nipple confusion in the hospital when they share with their medical team that they want to offer baby a bottle. I’m here to tell you that nipple confusion is a very misleading term!

Nipple confusion is the idea that a baby prefers a bottle nipple or pacifier over a breast for feeding.

Recently, professionals have realized it’s not the nipple that babies are choosing, it’s the milk flow rate.

Bottle nipples often have a faster flow of milk than the breast. Thus, babies can get used to that fast flow and get frustrated at the breast where the milk flow is slower. 

The way to avoid this is to use a slow flow nipple!

How many bottles do I need in the house if I am exclusively bottle feeding?

As a newborn, a baby should be taking approximately 8 bottles per day. My general guideline, no matter how a baby is eating, is to feed them at least 8-10 times per day. 

Thus, I recommend having at least 6-10 bottles and nipples ready to use. That way, you can wash all your bottles once per day. 

You can certainly invest in fewer bottles but just know that you’ll have to wash your bottles two or three times per day.

I could go on and on about bottle feeding! So many families have unique situations when it comes to feeding their infants. I believe many families would benefit from one-on-one feeding support, no matter what options they are considering or using.

Book a virtual or in-person feeding consult with me at this link. I’d love to work with you!

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