It is best to feed your baby only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. But sometimes it's necessary to bottle-feed your baby. It's also up to you to decide whether to breastfeed exclusively, or to feed your baby breast milk or formula with a bottle.

Bottle-feeding, with either breast milk or formula, can give moms and dads more flexibility in feeding their baby. Bottle-feeding allows dad, grandparents, siblings, and others to help care for and bond with the baby. This allows mom to catch up on sleep or tackle other duties.

Bottle-Feeding Breast Milk

Going back to work is one of the most common reasons for bottle-feeding your baby. Many women use a breast pump while at work and store the breast milk for later use.

This is one way to make sure your baby drinks only breast milk during his or her first 6 months of life.

If you choose to pump and store your breast milk, be sure to store it in a refrigerator, a freezer, or a cooler with ice packs.

Label and date all of your breast milk and use the containers with the oldest dates first.

It's a good idea to build up a stockpile of milk for busy times. You can refrigerate breast milk for 5 days and freeze breast milk for up to 6 months.

Bottle-Feeding Formula

If you choose to use formula, ask your health care provider for a recommendation on which type is best for your baby's needs.

Infant formula is usually cow-milk-based or soy-based. Cow's milk alone isn't good for your baby, because it doesn't have all the nutrients your baby needs to stay healthy. If you use a cow-milk-based infant formula, it should be iron-fortified.

Soy-based formulas don't have any advantage over cow-milk-based formula. Store the formula in a cool and dry place. Make sure the formula isn't expired before you use it.

Talk with your health care provider if your baby doesn't tolerate formula. Special formulas can help babies with allergies or intolerances.

Bottle-Feeding Tips

To make bottle feeding a safe and enjoyable experience for you and your baby, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Many different bottle and nipple types are available. Experts don't recommend one type over another, so choose what works best for your baby.

  • Make sure the hole in the nipple is not too large or too small. If it's too big, milk will flow too fast and can make your baby gag. If the hole is too small, your baby will have to suck too hard and take in too much air.

  • Be sure to wash your hands before preparing formula or bottles, and clean and sanitize each bottle and nipple after every use.

  • Warm the bottle of formula or breast milk in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes.

  • Shake the bottle to prevent hotspots.

  • Test the formula's temperature on the inside of your wrist before giving it to your baby. It should be lukewarm.

  • Never use a microwave to warm a bottle.

  • For feeding, hold your baby in a semi-upright position and make eye contact.

  • Never put your baby to bed with a bottle.

Things to Remember

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby.

You may need to bottle-feed breast milk or formula if you can't breastfeed, or after you return to work.

You can pump breast milk and then refrigerate or freeze it to use when you need it.

Breastfeeding is best, and almost all women should try it. If you want to breastfeed but are having trouble, ask your health care provider for help. If you still have problems with breastfeeding, don't worry. Formula-fed babies do just fine.

What We Have Learned

If you need to use formula, then iron-fortified, cow-milk-based formula is a good one to try first.
True or False?
The answer is true. Soy-based formulas don't have any advantage over cow-milk-based formula.

Working women must use formula to feed their babies.
True or False?
The answer is false. Many women use a breast pump while at work and store the breast milk for later use.