If you’re planning to feed your baby a bottle with either breast or formula milk, you’ll have plenty to think about. From sterilising and teat sizes to understanding what reflux is, we’ve pulled together some advice tied to the most frequently asked bottle-feeding questions to help make feeding a teeny bit easier when 3am is the new breakfast time! This is just a starting point and if this guide doesn’t give you the answers you’re looking for, there’s always support you can get whether it’s by speaking to your midwife, health visitor, GP, friends, family or communities online.
What’s important, is to remember that you’ve just met your little one in person and you’re both getting to know each other each day so give yourself a chance, be patient and remember you’re not alone.
It’s recommended that infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months from birth but it’s your decision how you choose to feed your baby. And that’s OK! Although nothing truly replicates ‘liquid gold’ aka breast milk, years of scientific research means that today’s formula milk contain the nutrients needed to support your baby’s development from infancy. Luckily most babies just want to be fed… whether that’s from the breast or a bottle!
Some mums choose to exclusively bottle feed from birth, while others breastfeed but supplement with bottles of expressed breast milk or formula, often in preparation for returning to work.
Whatever your choice or reason, bottle feeding doesn’t need to be as complicated as it may seem when you get to know a bit of the lingo.
Feeding time is a great way to bond with your little one so make sure you’re sat in a comfy position and try to look into their eyes as you feed them. Hold your baby fairly upright and keep their head supported so they can breathe and swallow comfortably.
Brush the teat of the bottle against your baby's lips and as they open their mouth wide, let them draw in the teat. Make sure you keep the teat of the bottle full where possible to avoid them taking in air and give your little one plenty of time to feed at their own pace. Babies are unique so its best to follow their lead – you’ll soon know if they’ve had enough or if they’re hungry for more.
When your baby is full up, hold them upright and gently rub or pat their back to wind them. You should also throw away any unused milk.
Once your little one arrives you’ll quickly figure out how much equipment you need to ease stress (and ease that frantic washing up!). But what about those blissful pregnant days when you’re preparing for babies arrival? Just how many baby bottles do you need?
As with most things in parenthood, the answers depend all on you and your new arrival. For example, if you’re a combi feeder (breast and bottle) you will need fewer bottles. Exclusively bottle feeding? Better stock up!
As newborns feed around 8 to 12 times a day and their little tummies can only handle small feeds, you should be prepared with a number of smaller sized bottles. 6 bottles are ideal if you’re bottle-feeding exclusively, allowing you enough spares to not run out during the day when used with a 4 or 5 bottle holding steriliser. As your baby grows and needs fewer, bigger feeds, you can reduce the number of bottles you use (and make room for all the toys and extra equipment coming your way!).
Absolutely! This is commonly referred to as combination, ‘combi’ or mixed feeding. It’s when you choose to feed from the breast and from a bottle (using either expressed breast milk or formula). Combination feeding means your baby can still enjoy the benefits of breastmilk, even if you’re not exclusively breastfeeding.
There are many reasons mums may choose to combine breast and bottle feeding. It could be you have difficulty getting breastfeeding established and you need to top up feeds alongside your own milk supply, or you may be thinking of switching to formula having exclusively breast fed for a period of time already. It could be that you’re preparing to return to work and your baby will need to be fed when you’re not around or that you want your partner to have that important early bonding time with your baby and lend a hand with night feeds too. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that your little one is being fed and is healthy.
You’ll soon work out when your baby is hungry or full, so go with the flow and be guided by them and if it helps, keep a little diary of feeding so you can see if there’s a pattern. Ultimately you don’t need to be there (or be awake) every time your baby needs a feed when there are others who can help if you choose to bottle or combination feed.
When substituting a breastfeed with a formula feed, it may take up to seven days for your breasts to adjust to missing that one feed, so be prepared not to rush it! This will also reduce the chance of your breasts becoming painfully engorged and leaky. If in doubt, your healthcare professional can give you guidance on how best to introduce combination feeding.
If you’re wanting to transition to bottle feeding its important to remember it can take time for your little one to adjust to being fed differently. That doesn’t mean they’ll never take a bottle if they refuse first time round so stick with it and they’ll soon realise they can get their milky goodness from elsewhere.
If you’re switching to bottle feeding because you’re going back to work for example, it’s always best to start bottle feeding 2- 4 weeks beforehand as it can take time for your baby to get the hang of this new skill and for both of you to adjust to a new routine.
If you’re expressing your breast milk for the bottle feed, you will need to express milk at least as many times as you normally feed to maintain your milk supply.
Try to relax, be patient and take it slowly! Similarly to breastfeeding, every baby will react differently. Some will take to a bottle like a duck to water or go back and forth between your breast and bottle like a pro. Others need time to adapt, may seem quite ‘fussy’, or can put up a determined fight if they think you have something better ‘on tap’. Drinking from a bottle uses a different sucking action too so it’s only natural for a new baby to take a while to master this new skill.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-fix solution but there are some things that may help:
You’ll soon know too well that when a baby is going through a phase like refusing to take a bottle, it can feel like it’ll last forever but when you get out of that phase (and you will), it’ll feel like it never even happened.
When it comes to feeding gear, the options can seem endless! So, before you plan a kitchen extension to fit all that oh so tempting new baby equipment, let’s focus on the basic bits and bobs that’ll be plenty to start you off with:
Bottles: Newborns feed around 8 to 12 times a day leaving you with little time to do anything else! As newborn babies have teeny tummies and can’t take in much milk at any one time you may choose to buy a mix of the smaller infant 180ml/6oz and the standard larger 270ml/9oz bottles for when they’re able to take more milk, going longer between feeds.
All babies are different, and none of them are born ‘brand loyal’ remember so even if you have the best intention to feed them with one brand with a particular style teat, they could prefer another bottle entirely so it’s best for you to think of that before you invest in heaps of bottles straight away. If your baby does accept a bottle you can always pop out to store or order online to get more of their favourite bottles in a jiffy!
Teats: Choosing a bottle with a teat that closely mimics your breast can be your next breast friend when it comes to helping your baby move naturally between breast and bottle (combination/mixed) feeding.
As the size of bottle required increases with your baby’s age, so does the flow of the teat. Most bottles come with slow-flow teats included but you can generally buy slow, medium and fast flow teats separately.
When your baby is used to bottle feeding you can change to a medium flow. As a rough guide, with Nuby teats, we suggest the slow flow teat from newborn, the medium flow teat from around 3 months and a fast flow teat from around 6 months. You do have to take cues from your baby though and you’ll know when it seems as if your baby is struggling to get to their milk at the speed they want to be drinking it. Fast flow teats can be used when you’re confident your little bundle can handle the speed of milk flow without spluttering or choking.
Don’t forget, it's important to change the teats every 2-3 months and always remember to check for any damage through wear and tear before use. If your baby is teething check regularly for signs of bite or chew damage by your little nipper.
Sterilisiers: The main types of sterilisers are microwave and electric. Both sterilise using steam, which is why you must add water first. You can also cold sterilise with a cold-water sterilising solution and boil. Here at Nuby we have both an Electric Steam Steriliser and Dryer plus a Microwave Steriliser and its generally down to personal preference which you choose to use. Here’s some pros of ours to help you decide between the two options:
Pros for using our Microwave Steriliser include:
Pros for using our Electric Steam Steriliser include:
When you’ve decided on the type of steriliser that suits you (or think you’ll make use of a few), check to see if it’s available as a starter kit. Newborn starter kits often allow you to tick off lots of items on your list in one swoop and get some other useful bits and bobs too for much less than you’d pay to buy them individually – who doesn’t love a bargain?
Bibs & Muslin Squares: Ask any parent with a newborn and you’ll hear that you can never have too many milk feeding bibs and muslin squares! You’ll fly through them so its always worth having spares to hand while you’ve got others in the wash.
They’re great for catching dribbles during a feed and post feed if your little one brings up some milk when you’re winding them and tend to be super soft against your little one’s skin.
You may be sick of hearing these two words, but really, it depends! Some babies will be able to hold their bottles from as young as 6 months, while some will take until around the 10 month mark.
Either way, you should always be careful when feeding your little one, and remain in control of the process. Never leave your baby unsupervised to feed themselves! Propping a bottle into your baby’s mouth if they don’t have the motor skills to remove it is dangerous, plus, why would you want to lose out on that lovely snuggle time?! Holding your baby and supporting them during feeding will strengthen your bond and help them feel safe. These moments are precious, so enjoy them while they last!
Don’t forget, it's important to change bottle teats every 2-3 months and always remember to check for any damage through wear and tear before use. If your baby is teething check regularly for signs of bite or chew damage by your little nipper.
Generally, colic can be characterised by general irritability (often in the afternoon) and can start when a baby is a few weeks old but usually stops by the time they’re around 6 months old. It’s a common problem but often should get better on its own.
Symptoms of colic can include:
With reflux, often a baby will bring up milk, or is sick, during or shortly after feeding and it can often get better on its own. Sometimes babies may have signs of reflux but won’t bring up milk or be sick which is referred to as silent reflux. It usually starts before a baby is 8 weeks old and gets better by the time they’re one.
Ultimately, if your baby is generally happy, healthy and gaining weight it’s likely they will be totally fine but as reflux is a medical condition it can sometimes require treatment so it’s important you get support and advice if you suspect your baby has severe reflux.
Symptoms of reflux can include:
All newborns cry and during their first 3 months they can cry a lot but when a healthy baby cries constantly for no obvious reason and being comforted doesn’t calm them, it can be a sign of colic. Colic’s exact cause remains unknown but your baby’s growing digestive system, gas and air in the tummy may all aggravate colic which is why using a bottle with an anti-colic teat that prevents excess air getting in your baby’s tummy as they feed can be a great help. It also usually helps to sit your baby upright and gently pat and stroke their back to help any excess air come up before you lie your baby down.
Caring for a colicky baby can be exhausting, so try to remember colic is a common problem, it’s absolutely not your fault, and it’s a temporary phase so there’s light at the end of that tunnel! You know your baby better than anyone else so trust your instincts and always consult your health professional for possible causes of your baby’s crying if you think something is seriously wrong, or if your baby has other worrying symptoms.
Reflux is when a baby spits-up milk or is sick during or soon after feeding. You may not have heard of reflux before your little one came along but it is very common and usually starts before a baby is 2 months old when the muscles at the base of their food pipe haven’t fully developed, meaning milk can easily come back up. It's not nice for you to be wearing their milk and it’s certainly not nice for your baby who can be in a lot of pain.
Not all reflux is obvious and there’s even a type of reflux called ‘silent reflux’ which is harder to diagnose as generally your little one will be suffering (not necessarily quietly) but you won’t see them bringing their milk up and being sick. Instead of bringing their milk up, it’ll stay between their throat and stomach, often causing them pain.
To alleviate reflux symptoms, you can try feeding your baby in a sitting or upright position as recommended by health professionals to help reduce reflux, colic and wind or give formula-fed babies smaller feeds more often. A bottle designed for upright feeding like our Nuby Reduce Reflux bottle comes with a weighted straw allowing feeding from an upright position to help with feeding in that position.
Often reflux can get better on its own, usually by the time your little one is around one year old when their digestive system has matured and they’re able to spend more time sitting upright. As a new parent though, we get that the prospect of dealing with reflux for that amount of time can seem like an eternity so make sure you contact a health professional if you’re concerned as they should be able to help and support you during that time. If you don’t get the support you need at first, keep pushing for it as understanding and diagnosing reflux can be difficult but it’ll be so worthwhile for you and your baby to get their reflux under control as soon as you possible.
Our Nuby Reduce Reflux bottle is designed to make bottle feeding a stress-free experience for you and your baby thanks to the unique, weighted straw that allows your little one to feed in a sitting position. As you tilt the bottle, the straw follows the milk so your baby can feed until the last drop of milk has gone. The bottle comes with an Easy Latch Softflex™ teat, which is the same as those used on the Nuby Combat Colic bottles, so when your baby has outgrown reflux you can simply remove the weighted straw and use the bottle as a standard bottle.
A baby’s immune system is not fully developed making them vulnerable to infection and illness. By sterilising your feeding equipment, you reduce the risk of your little one being exposed to nasty bacteria and germs. After 12 months your baby should have built up a pretty awesome immune system so you should be able to go steriliser-free!
Bottles, lids, teats, breast pumps and any other equipment used to prepare a feed should always be thoroughly washed in warm soapy water (check individual product instructions if you’re not sure on certain parts) and rinsed to remove all traces of expressed breast milk or formula as soon as possible after each feed. It’s always handy to have a specialist bottle and teat brush to access any niggly, hard to reach areas too.
Once cleaned and rinsed, pop them into a steriliser like the Nuby Steam Steriliser and Dryer and your bottles and other equipment will be ready to use again in no time.
Brand new babies are especially vulnerable to germs. Germs can develop in milk, and especially in all those pesky nooks and crannies in your baby bottle, teat or breast pump. You should continue sterilising their bottles, teats and other feeding equipment until your little bundle of joy is at least one year old. At the year mark they’ll have built up a pretty great immune system, so the steriliser can retire, and you can move onto the next journey.
It may not feel like it during the early stages when your whole life is overrun by bottles, sterilisers and milk, but one day there will come the time for the next stage… weaning! So, you may be wondering, at what age should you transition from bottles to cups?
When your baby hits the one year mark you may already be looking at making the change from formula to cow’s milk, so this is a good time to get settled into the change to cups. It is recommended to not wait any later than 18 months for weaning, as your little tyke will be much more set in their ways – meaning more headache for you!
Remember when weaning that your little one likely sees their bottle as a comfort, and the change to cups may take some time to get used to. Wait until they’re generally happy and settled to begin the process (ie don’t begin weaning if your tot is under the weather!) and you’re much more likely to get the results you want.
If you’re moving onto cups, just take it in little steps. For most families, a slow and gradual weaning transition works better than cold turkey. In order to be weaned by one year, you can start introducing sippy cups from around 6-9 months. This way your little human will be used to cups as you start to phase out the bottle, one feeding session at a time.
Sippy, flipper or flexy straw? Every baby is different, so experiment with different cups to find the perfect option for your new little grown-up drinker. Cups with fun colours and patterns are a great way to tempt your little gulper away from the comfort of bottles – the Nuby cups range is full of eye-catching options they’re sure to love (if we do say so ourselves!).
Let the journey begin...
You know best how you want to raise your baby and whether you nurse from the breast, feed from a bottle or combine both breast and bottle feeding, know that feed times provide some of the most wonderful bonding opportunities and precious of moments with your little one.
When starting out bottle feeding, like most new things in life, if you allow time for your little bundle of joy to master the skill you will get there…together.
What often helps is talking about your experiences with others if you’re feeling overwhelmed, like you want to give up in the middle of the night, thinking you’re doing something wrong or generally feeling anything other than super happy to be getting to know your gorgeous new baby. That’s where your health professional, support groups, friends who have bottle fed, your own family or looking online for some support can be really helpful. A problem shared is generally a problem halved after all.
Here at Nuby, we’re all about ‘real talk’ too and encouraging new parents to talk about their bottle-feeding experiences – the good bits, the sleep deprived bits and the ‘sicky uppy’ bits. The more we talk about these ups and downs; the more other new parents can feel less isolated and more supported in their own bottle-feeding journeys.
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