Formula Feeding

How To Bottle Feed

By following their lead, your baby will tell you when they are hungry and when they are full up. This is called responsive or paced feeding.

Making eye contact and talking or singing to them during feeds, holding your baby close and feeding whilst skin to skin will help your baby feel safe, loved and secure. 

Being able to recognise your baby's feeding cues will mean you can feed them when they first show signs of being hungry. Let your baby feed a their own pace, taking a break when they need to and stopping when they are full. It is ok for your baby not to drink all of a bottle at every feed. 

Common Feeding Cues 

Below are some common feeding cues. Click the picture for more information.

Early Cues - "I'm Hungry"

  • Stirring
  • Mouth opening
  • Turning head. Seeking/rooting 

Mid Cues - "I'm really hungry"

  • Stretching
  • Increasing physical movement
  • Hand to mouth

Late Cues - "Calm me, then feed me"

  • Crying
  • Agitated body movements
  • Colour turning red

Dive Deeper

Hunger Cues

Your baby shows you cues to let you know when they are hungry. These cues get stronger as they get hungrier until they cry as a last signal to you.

As you come to know your baby, you'll start to notice their personal feeding cues. Here are some common cues to look out for:

  • Mouth movements, including smacking or licking their lips
  • Sucking on lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes, toys, or clothing
  • Rooting, head bobbing or nuzzling against whoever is holding them
  • Fidgeting or squirming a lot
  • Fussing
  • Crying—a late sign of hunger.

Top Tips

  • Offer feeds when your baby shows the early cues or signs of being hungry.
  • If your baby is upset, try to soothe them before you offer a feed. Talking to them or skin to skin contact are both great ways of helping them feel calm.
  • Hold your baby close to you, look into their eyes and talk to them gently.
  • Gently rub the teat of the bottle against your baby’s top lip to encourage them to open their mouth and the tongue to stick out.
  • Place the teat in front of your baby’s mouth allowing them to draw it further in.
  • Allow just enough milk to cover the teat and pace the feed to meet your baby’s needs.
  • Offer frequent breaks throughout the feed, sitting baby upright to help bring up wind.
  • Never force a baby to take a whole bottle – your baby will know when they have had enough.
  • Discard any leftover milk.

How Much Milk Does My Baby Need?

Babies have very tiny tummies and because of this will feed little and often for quite some time after they are born. Look at the image below to see how much milk your baby's tummy can take.

Formula feed tubs or cartons will often give a recommended amount of milk for the age of your baby. We recommend using responsive/paced feeding so your baby can let you know when and how much they want to feed.

If your baby drinks more than their tummy can hold, they may bring some milk back up or appear uncomfortable and unsettle after the feed.

Wet and dirty nappies are the best indicator that your baby is receiving enough milk. They should have around 6 wet nappies a day from a few days after the birth. Nappies should be soaked through with clear or pale yellow urine, or feel heavy.

Other signs that your baby is getting enough milk and is well are;

  • Normal skin colour
  • Your baby will be alert when they are awake and wake by themselves asking for food
  • Your baby will be growing into and out of their clothes as they gain weight.

If you would like to weigh your baby, local libraries offer self weigh facilities.

Read more about self-weigh

Skin to Skin & Bonding

All babies, breast or formula fed enjoy skin to skin, and all babies get the same positive benefits of this bonding experience. Don't forget, skin to skin is a great way for baby to bond with dads, partners or other carers too.

There are lots of benefits from spending time with your baby skin to skin:

  • It helps your baby stay warm or cools them if they are too hot
  • Calms your baby’s heartbeat
  • Regulates your baby’s breathing
  • Helps your baby to feed
  • Releases oxytocin - a feel-good hormone - in you and your baby
  • Reduces stress hormone release for both you and your baby.

When you're out and about, slings can help as babies love being close to you and you can still have your hands free. If you would like to use a sling but don’t want to buy one why not use a local sling library.


Keeping Baby Safe

When bottle feeding your baby there are some things that you need to remember to keep your baby safe.

Don't 'prop feed' your baby. This means propping up the bottle with a blanket or other object so they can drink unaided. This carries a high risk of choking and is very dangerous. It can also increase the risk of tooth decay even in teeth that you can't see yet and ear infections due to milk pooling in the mouth.

Follow the responsive/paced feeding advice and keep your baby's head upright, higher than their feet when they are feeding. Remove the bottle at regular intervals so they can take a breath.

    • Don't leave your baby unattended when they are feeding from a bottle.
    • If they fall asleep on the bottle, remove it from their mouth. 
    • Use a slow flow number one teat with newborn bottle fed babies.
    • Don't bottle feed your baby while they are laying flat in a cot or crib. 

A Product Safety Alert for baby self-feeding pillows and prop feeders presenting a risk of serious harm or death has recently been issued (2022). Consumers, local authority trading standards and businesses are asked to take specific action to cease use or remove them from the market. 

Prop Feeders Consumer Safety Alert Poster

Who can Help?

If your baby is less than 28 days old you can contact your local midwifery team or you can contact the Healthy Child Programme at any time following your baby's birth by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590.

Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

Norfolk Healthy Child Programme has a team of infant feeding champions who can contact you by video call/telephone initially to discuss your questions and refer you to further help if required. All of our staff are trained to Unicef standards to provide you with the best possible breastfeeding support and advice.

It may help in the first instance to read the Essential Guide to Feeding & Caring for your Baby

Norfolk’s Early Childhood and Family Service (ECFS) offers support for all parents and carers with children aged 0 to 5 years.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

Log In / Create An Account

Forgot password?

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Was This Page Helpful?

Latest From Social Media