Bottle Feeding Babies FAQ for Parents

Bottle feeding a newborn baby can be challenging to navigate. New parents often have many questions about how to bottle feed a baby. Lurie Children’s experts have all the information about how to position a baby for feeding, how much newborn babies should eat and the pace at which they should feed. Read more tips below from gastroenterologist and expert on infant feeding, Dr. Mark Fishbein. 

How should you position a baby for bottle feeding? 

A cradle position is typically utilized. A side-lying position may be beneficial for premature babies struggling with a cradle position. Side-lying can be done by placing the baby on your lap and laying them on their side. Once they are slightly bigger you can transition to a cradle position. The same positions are recommended for breastfed babies. 

How much should babies eat? 

Every child is different. Newborns need to be fed every 2-3 hours and infants need to be fed every 3-4 hours. Throughout the first year of life, you should discuss formula expectations with your primary care provider. 

Are there any key differences between bottle-feeding a newborn and an infant? 

Newborns may need more pacing than infants when it comes to bottle feeding. For newborn babies, you should tip the bottle empty every 4-6 swallows to allow for a breathing break. Feeding should take less than 30 minutes for all children who bottle feed.  

Find a bottle that works for your baby. Not all nipples are made the same and babies' mouths are differently shaped. Trial a bottle for 2-3 days to see if your baby takes to the brand. Once you find a bottle that works well do not switch between nipple levels or bottles. This will only confuse your baby. Move up in nipple size when your baby starts to pull at the bottle for the milk to come faster or when the baby is collapsing the nipple. 

How do you pace bottle feeding? 

Paced feeding provides breaks from drinking the bottle to let your baby breathe. You can pace a few different ways. One way to give the baby a break is to tip the bottle empty while keeping the nipple in the baby's mouth and waiting for them to take a breath. You can also remove the nipple from the baby’s mouth and allow the baby to breathe, then place the nipple lightly on the lips for the baby to return to feeding. Not all babies require pacing.   

How often do you need to burp a baby while bottle feeding? 

Do not stop during a feeding to burp a baby unless your baby initiates the break by pulling off the nipple. Burp your baby after they finish their bottle. If your child is experiencing spitting up, try to keep them upright and out of equipment for up to 30 minutes after the feed. 

If your baby is experiencing coughing, choking, gulping or gagging on the bottle discuss a speech-language feeding evaluation with your primary care provider. 

When do babies stop drinking formula? 

Typically, babies should stop drinking formula around 12 months and start to transition from formula to whole milk. But it is important to remember that your child needs to consume enough solid foods to support whole milk. You should talk to your primary care provider to confirm that your child is eating enough.  

Lurie Children’s researchers are currently studying bottle feeding in healthy infants from 1 to 5 months old. To participate, caregivers must send us a feeding survey and a home video of their infant bottle feeding. For more study information please click here. 

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