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Bottle feeding your baby

When you choose not to or you are unable to breastfeed or give breastmilk to your baby, you will need to give an infant formula milk. The following information will help you bottle feed your baby safely and keep them healthy.

If you decide to use infant formula, first infant formula (first stage milk) should be the formula you give your baby throughout the first year. Most formula milks are produced from processed cow’s milk which is suitable for babies. Visit the First Steps Nutrition Trust website for more information on formula milk.

All infant formula milks for sale in the UK must meet required nutritional standards. Manufacturers of infant formula may add additional ingredients or use different formulations, but these additions are not agreed to offer any benefit, and simply make the products more expensive for families.

Formula milks either come as a powder to be made up with boiling water or as ready-made. The ready-made formula is sterile until the container is opened at that point it will last 48 hours in the fridge. Powdered formula is not sterile and once open will typically last one month.

It is important for your baby’s safety and health that infant formula milk feeds are made up carefully and this Unicef bottle feeding leaflet will give the information you will need.

Important things to know:

  • Do not add extra formula powder when making up feeds, this can cause baby to be either constipated or dehydrated.
  • Do not add extra water when making up feeds as this can lead to baby being under nourished.
  • Do not add sugar or cereals to formula milk
  • Never warm formula in the microwave as this can lead to the milk being heated unevenly and cause a burn to baby’s mouth.
  • Always use freshly boiled water from the tap, do not use artificially softened water or bottled water.
  • A formula milk preparation machine might not heat the water to 70c

How to bottle feed your baby – responsive bottle feeding

  • Feed your baby when they show signs that they are beginning to feel hungry.
  • Make sure you’re sitting comfortably with your baby close to you. Enjoy holding your baby, look into their eyes and talk to them as you feed them.
  • Babies will feel more secure if most feeds are given by you, your partner or their main caregiver.
  • Hold your baby in a semi-upright position for bottle feeds. Support their head so they can breathe and swallow comfortably.
  • Brush the teat against your baby’s lips and when they open their mouth wide, gently place the teat into the baby’s mouth
  • Keep the bottle in a horizontal position (just slightly tipped), allowing the baby to pace the feed, taking just what they need.
  • Allow your baby plenty of time to feed and it is fine if they do not take all that is in the bottle.

For a demonstration of responsive bottle feeding:


This page was last reviewed on 13-12-2023

This page will be next reviewed on 13-12-2026