How to Feed a Baby A Bottle: Bottle Feeding Essentials Every New Parent Needs to Know

One of the big challenges to formula feeding or bottle feeding a newborn is to figure out the timing of feeding your baby. Here’s what you need to know to help you have success with how to feed your baby a bottle.

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Understanding a newborn feeding schedule can be easy. Or hard af, depending on what you’re navigating with your baby. 

For me, making the switch to go all-in on formula feeding wasn’t the first choice. In fact, during my time of pregnancy I was fully into the world of breast is best and had plans to breastfeed for at least a year. 

My body had other plans and breastfeeding didn’t work for me.

And with those other plans, came a steep learning curve: I had no idea what I was doing when it came to bottle feeding. 

Our pediatrician at the time was also a certified lactation consultant and was heavily pushing me to keep breastfeeding. Even though my body was saying nope in the form of producing very little milk even after drinking all the supplements, water, oatmeal, etc. 

So here I am on the other side of years of fighting my body and my body fighting back and I’ve found myself sharing the details of how to feed a baby a bottle with anyone and everyone who is even considering it. 

Because there are a few things that are worth considering as you venture down this journey of bottle feeding your newborn. And getting your newborn on a feeding schedule. And allll a that. 

How to Bottle Feed Your Baby

Once you have all the goods (more on that below!), this part will be easy. 

Much of it will come instinctually, such as cradling your baby or holding them. 

But you’ll want to take a few more things into consideration.

Check out this video that has some great tips for various holds and burping your baby (an essential step!)

How to bottle feed a baby: 

What is Paced bottle-feeding 

Paced bottle feeding allows you to control the amount of food your baby gets. Just like adults, our fullness cues can lag a bit while we’re still swallowing food and digesting. 

Pacing the amount of food slowly and over time allows the baby to respond to their natural fullness cues. 

As much as the formula is awesome for babies, there’s still room for improvement when it comes to store-bought- nipples. They just aren’t as slow, especially at first, at distributing the milk into your baby’s mouth. 

Even though I was by all means and definitions a “pro” at bottle feeding a baby (because I’d successfully done it with one child, doesn’t that make me a pro?) I thought I knew exactly what to do when my second child was born. 

I had him in a baby-friendly hospital which at the time came along with some preconceived notions of formula feeding. I.e. it was frowned upon depending on which nurse I might get throughout my stay. 

So I packed my own formula, just in case baby #2 had the same issues as baby #1. 

After dutifully putting baby on breast every few hours (or more, or for longer) with little success (I know it takes a while) I heard the telltale grumble of my sweet newborn’s belly. 

He was starving and so far, I wasn’t producing shit. 

It was maybe…3 AM? 


Who knows. 

But fearing the rath of the lactation nazi’s I whipped out my formula and fed him the bottle. 

I didn’t feed my first formula this early in his life…it took weeks before he got a bottle. So I wasn’t aware of paced bottle feeding. 

So Sam gleefully sucked down half of the bottle. And then promptly threw up most of it. 

When the nurse came in to check on me I was busy cleaning up the spit up and she showed me how to pace bottle-feed my baby without any judgment or shame and I’m forever grateful for that moment. 

Moms, we need each other to be more like this nurse at times. 

Exhausted, emotional, and now guilty for having “overfed” my baby, I was just grateful I hadn’t totally fucked it all up. 

Here’s what it looks like to pace bottle feed your baby.

Holding Your Baby – The Best Positions for Bottle Feeding 

When it comes to bottle-feeding your baby you’re going to want to hold them upright as much as possible, gently cradled, and fully supported. 

Sit Your Baby Up 

If your baby is dealing with painful gas or struggling through some acid reflux sitting baby on your lap or against your stomach. Rest his head in the crook of your arm or against your chest, or even against your knees (this was a super comfortable position for me. Knees up rested against a table and baby would lean back against it and look at me while I fed him) 

Cradle Your Baby 

You’ll probably cycle through all of these positions depending on your current aches, pains, and comfort level, but I found cradling in the crook of my arm or against my chest was the best position for my baby during middle of the night feeds. 

I could sit and rock gently and he would eat looking up at me. This position mimics that breastfeeding position most closely and, for some moms, can feel bonding (without the breast). 

Make sure his head and neck are supported and upright (never feed a baby while he’s totally reclined – more on that in a bit). 

Tilt the Bottle for Maximum Flow 

Unless you’re using a bottle meant for feeding a baby upright (like the Playtex Ventaire bottles – my favs) or if you’re not paced bottle feeding (and even if you are) make sure the bottle is tilted all the way so that the milk completely fills the nipples. 

This reduces the amount of air baby may ingest, reducing the chances of painful gas or too much spit-up. 

Get Some Additional Support – Use a Boppy to Help Feed Your Newborn Baby a Bottle 

Boppy’s are one of those must-have baby items but they don’t just have to be for breastfeeding moms. 

Some babies love the support and natural incline of a Boppy Pillow. 

At my son’s daycare, babies were often fed with the aid of a Boppy to allow the caretakers to feed multiple babies at once (just imagine two or three babies with bottles being held by caretakers, or if they could hold their own it helped them too!) 

The help of a boppy is a great way to enlist the support of a second child who really wants to “help” feed baby. Baby stays supported in an optimal position and all the older child needs to do is hold the bottle still (with your supervision).  (This is one of the joys of having a second older child).

Once baby can hold their own bottle (usually around four or five months old) you can allow baby to be supported in this same way to drink the bottle while you supervise. 

We’ve also used other popular baby seats to support baby while he’s drinking. Here’s a few other options: 

Do Not Feed Your Baby Lying Down 

Resist the urge to let your baby drink a bottle for comfort while changing him. 

I know it sounds weird but in the middle of the night I would often just give baby the milk WHILE I changed his diaper thinking I was maximizing the chance of him falling back asleep super fast (and keeping the rest of the house asleep instead of listening to the hungry wails of his cries) 

Bad idea – it took three subsequent ear infections to realize the lying down fully position was causing an imbalance of fluid in the inner ear from the sucking, etc. 

As soon as we stopped feeding him in this position, the ear infections stopped.

How to Burp a Baby 

Now that you’re all good on feeding your newborn baby a bottle, let’s talk about what happens just after she’s been fed. 

The burp is such an important part of the process. 

As the nurse in the following video mentions, burping your newborn in the early days is mostly for practice, as there’s not a lot of food that’s being ingested. 

If you’re noticing severe spit-up, if it’s greenish, or if it shoots across the room, it’s worth calling your pediatrician to discuss the potential of acid reflux or colic. 

How Often Do You Need to Feed Your Baby – A Newborn Baby Feeding Schedule 

9 times out of 10 your baby is gonna let you know when she’s hungry. 

You’ll be able to tell by the cries. 

Specifically, if she’s making a “neh” sound with their cries, that’s typically a hunger cry. 

You can check out additional newborn baby hacks (and tips) here. 

But generally speaking, you’ll be feeding your newborn baby a bottle every 2 – 3 hours during the day, and hopefully (if they’re sleeping longer stretches) you may only feed every 3 – 4 hours at night, or if you’re REAL lucky…5-6 hours at night. Also, some parents wonder “do formula-fed babies sleep longer than breastfed babies?” and I’ve got a lot of info on that too!

Here’s a great newborn feeding schedule from Enfamil on how much and how often your baby should be drinking from a bottle: 

Choosing a Formula for Your Baby

If you’re breastfeeding, then you’ll want to feed your baby breastmilk. (Duh.) 

But if you’re combo feeding or formula feeding your baby exclusively it’s important to choose a formula that fits you and your baby’s needs. 

Fun fact: All formula sold on the shelves is suitable for your baby, but your baby’s individual tolerance to subtle differences in that chemical make up may be the deciding factor for you and your family. 

My firstborn had severe acid reflux and could only keep down a special AR version of formula. 

My second seemed to enjoy any and all formula brands and could easily switch back and forth with seemingly endless ease while we tested out free samples from formula companies and our pediatrician. (I was pleasantly surprised especially with all our trouble with our first!) 

(now at 6 and 4 years old they still have similar ways of eating – My 6 year old prefers specific flavors and textures, my 4-year-old will eat nearly anything as long as it’s not a vegetable (but that’s more of a toddler thing than a him thing – and I expect him to grow out of it soon). 

We finally settled on an organic Similac until he completely weaned off of it. 

If an organic formula is important to you, you will pay a bit more than the non-organic versions. There are also subtle differences in the genetic makeup of generic brands v. the brand name versions that you’ll find on your formula aisle. 

For a more complete breakdown of these differences (especially if you suspect baby may have a sensitive stomach/digestion at this point) check out this post from the  Baby Formula Expert. 

Here’s the highlights though: 

Don’t trust that generic brand baby formula is exactly the same as the name-brand formula it is competing with!  The total number of calories and grams of fat, protein, and carbs will be the same.  BUT, there are often small differences in the list of ingredients that can mean big difference to a baby’s tolerance.

Don’t assume the name-brand is better!  Sometimes the differences in ingredients stack up in favor of the generic brand!

Be a savy shopper.  Go to the store prepared to spend a long time in the formula aisle looking at the back of all the cans before you make your decision.

Also, when choosing formula for your baby, you do have non-dairy options should you prefer/need those. This guide about the best organic non dairy formula has everything you’d wish you already knew about going this route.

Getting Low Cost – Free Formula 

You can get free or greatly reduced cost formula via Planned Parenthood, or through the WIC program which is a US government-funded program that provides very low cost (or free) formula for moms and parents who meet certain financial criteria. 

Here’s some great information about the WIC program and how they’re able to secure such steep discounts and help so many parents. 

Popular Formula Brands 

Here are some of the most popular formula brands and some of their generic counterparts.

Given our #PandemicLife right now, it might be a good use of your time to peruse ingredients online when you can instead of in the grocery store or Walmart/Target.

Here’s some popular Formula Brands for you to check out: 

Pro tip when baby is still in the early weeks of life, opt for the ready-to-feed bottles in 2 Ounce sizes. 

While it may be a bit more expensive at first, you will appreciate the time-saver that they are (twist the cap off, feed) when you’re already so completely sore, exhausted, and overwhelmed with surviving that newborn life.

This is also an optimal time to explore different brands with your baby without investing a ton of money in a large formula. 

Many pediatricians have these available as samples so be sure to ask at your appointments. 

Don’t forget that when it comes to formula you gotta feed a powder mixed bottle within an hour to avoid the risk of bacteria growth in the bottle (that could upset your baby’s tummy or worse). 

For ready to feed formula – if it’s a large bottle size you have about 24 hours to use the contents after opening. 

If it’s the individual bottles, the same rule of 1 hour applies. 

The Best Bottles for Feeding Your Newborn Baby

There are as many bottles to feed your baby as there are types of different formulas so it can feel totally overwhelming as to which one is the “best” one. 

The truth is, some of this may be trial and error although there are some baby bottles that work more universally for your baby.

Most bottles available for retail currently cater heavily toward preventing colic, gas, and other discomforts in your baby. 

Most bottles have nipples that mimic a mom’s breast to help avoid the elusive “nipple confusion” that lactation consultants and doctors have varying degrees of thoughts on. (Spoiler alert it’s not all it’s “cracked” up to be – that’s a nipple joke) Check out this article that goes into the research and science trying to unpack if nipple confusion is real? Or just another marketing ploy. 

Here’s one thing I learned from experience: when you find the “one” you don’t want to let it go or switch. 

In our house, we used the Playtex Ventaire, mostly because it had been recommended with my first baby to help reduce the effects of acid reflux and gas. 

He was already so miserable as it was. 

I’d tried a few of the other sample bottles we received from companies while I was pregnant and for some reason, they just didn’t “take” as easily or as quickly to our firstborn as the Playtex did. 

So when it came time to bottle feed baby #2, we went with what we knew and he seemed to respond just as positively as a big brother.

Here’s what to know when it comes to bottles for your baby: 

The Nipple 

Bottle nipples come in different sizes depending on your baby’s age. These sizes are universal but some brands call them different names. They all are basically a version of the following: 

Newborn to 3 Months: Slow flow nipples. These nipples produce the slowest possible flow of formula or breastmilk to help prevent overeating or choking. When it comes to feeding a newborn a bottle you’ll still want to practice paced bottle feeding because even with slow flow nipples, it can come out too fast. 

Babies aged 3 months and older: Medium Flow nipples. This is a slightly faster pace for a baby who is growing quickly and can handle more food. 

Babies aged 9 months and older*: Fast flow nipples. This is the fastest nipple speed available and can sustain your baby into the toddler years if you continue to bottle feed. 

A note about when to level up your nipple flow:

Pay attention to baby’s cues that it might be time to switch to a faster flow. 

This might look like: 

  • Frustration 
  • Pushing the bottle away 
  • Crying while trying to drink from the bottle 

Ever become so parched from a workout and have to drink water from a water fountain that just dribbles it out? I imagine it’s kinda like that for our babies. 

For both of my boys, this was the telltale sign (along with their age and growth chart) that it was time to level up. 

Have a few additional nipple sizes on hand so if your baby is fussing at the bottle you can rule out the flow size (and not something else like teething, ear infections, sickness, growth spurts, or mental growth leaps as the reason for the fussiness). 

*A note about fast flow. In researching this article I found a wide disparity about the recommended age for when to switch to fast flow. The earliest being 12 months in many cases. 

That just wasn’t the case in our house and when we realized that our babies were needing a new flow bottle we scaled up instead of waiting until the appropriate “recommended” age.

I wrote 9 months because for both my boys between the ages of 9 and 10 months is when they transitioned to fast flow nipples. 

Listen to your momma gut when it comes to these things. She knows best. 

Bottle Size

When your baby is a newborn until about the age of 4 or 6 months, she likely won’t be eating more than 3 – 4 ounces at a feeding. 

For this reason, you won’t need a large size bottle until they’re quite a bit older.

When baby can hold their own bottle, they’ll love the feeling of freedom to do that (my boys LOVED this as babies and I loved the freedom of feeding them while also doing the dishes or laundry or other random shit! )

If you can only invest in a few bottles, opt for a larger size bottle so you can continually adjust the amount of fluid as your baby grows. 

Then it’s only a matter of investing in new nipples, rather than in new bottles.

Avoiding BPA’s and Other Toxins 

Most baby bottles are derived from plastics and it’s well documented that BPA (Bisphenol A – used in the manufacturing of some plastics) can be linked to health problems including cancer. If you can select a BPA free bottle, you won’t even have to think about it.

Also, and I HATE that I’m about to tell you this. Dishwashing plastics has been shown to leach additional chemicals, even in some BPA free bottles. 

Here’s the thing. I washed all of our BPA free plastic bottles on the top rack of the dishwasher for the entirety of the newborn baby bottle feeding days…so I have no idea if this has or somehow will impact the overall health of my baby. 

It’s deemed safe enough.

But if I could go back again I’d probably find some balance of handwashing and dishwasher washing just to be extra safe. But honestly, there are certain things you should pick and choose to give a fuck about, and if handwashing your baby’s bottles puts you over the edge of overwhelm, throw those fuckers in the top rack and let it go. Maybe just avoid the high heat setting. 

Specific Baby Bottle Design

Baby bottles can relieve the effects of several different maladies including acid reflux in babies and colic and gas.

What’s the difference between these two?

Check out this post to help you figure out which is which.

My baby had pretty severe acid reflux and was on a version of baby zantac for the entirety of his first year of life so we opted for a bottle with claims of reducing these effects.

The three top bottles for feeding your newborn. 

In researching this article I found loads of content on the internet recommending the “best” bottle. 

Feel free to take the deep dives that I took, but also know this. Resoundingly the descriptions of why a bottle was the best tend to boil down to three main descriptors: 

  1. Nipples meant to mimic a mom’s breast. 
  2. Bottles with ventilation or tubes to help reduce airflow (and thus reduce painful gas in baby) 
  3. Easy cleaning/care (i.e. dishwasher safe BPA materials. 

Playtex Ventaire Bottles 

They say, write what you know you know?

I know these bottles.

And by the way, they consistently end up on lists of the best baby bottles and for good reason. 

They have a special vent at the bottom that allows for baby to drink while sitting up and a nice curved design to allow for this to happen while preventing additional airflow into baby. 

There have also been studies that show it reduces the effects of acid reflux. 

Even if your baby is a perfect eater and has no issues with colic, reflux, or gas, they’ll likely enjoy the nipple, and holding the bottle is pretty easy for most babies. 

Dr. Browns Newborn Baby Bottles

I’m in a few formula feeding Facebook groups and consistently this bottle is recommended as a favorite from formula feeding moms. 

It’s also designed to prevent airflow into baby’s mouth (reducing symptoms of gas, colic, and acid reflux) and has a small slim design making it super comfortable to hold and easy for baby to hold when they’re strong enough. 

It does require baby to drink in a reclined position which isn’t that big of a deal….really. 

They also tend to be quite affordable.

They also come in a wide mouth version. 

My only beef with Dr. Browns (and something I’ve also seen quite often on the FB bottle-feeding groups) is that they are a mother fucker to clean. 

Stock up on your bottle brushes to get it done quickly and you’ll be fine and will reap all the benefits. 

Tommee Tipee Bottles 

Tommee Tipee bottles can run a bit more expensive, but they’ve consistently run baby bottle awards (weird right – that’s a thing?) and for good reason. 

The nipples are often preferred to other bottles, and the wide bottle allows for a flush design mimicking breastfeeding. 

This set is awesome as it includes a bottle brush, formula feeding travel pods, and bottle for water. 

Picture this: I bought “glass” bottles because my mother-in-law was concerned about leaching plastic. 

I bought the glass, because I thought, honestly, I’d never use them. 

I also bought silicone nipples for these sort of old-timey bottles that were basically useless because…spoiler alert… my first baby came down with the screaming variety of acid reflux (XX LINK TO AF POST) and it seemed to be triggered in part by extra air bubbles being trapped/distributed by the bottle that was made more for party favors than for actually feeding a newborn. 

Or was it that my baby wasn’t really hungry?

Or maybe he’s just tired? Or maybe he misses momma’s breast milk (because I was convinced at the time he could tell the difference!). 

Ooooorrr maybe momma’s breast milk was the reason for all the fussiness. 

Which is part of why I went on the journey to understand that for me, breast isn’t always best. 

Here’s how I learned to bottle feed my newborn baby: 

Calling my one and only friend who decided to formula feed. 

Asking her which bottles and brand of formula she used. 

Buying those. 

The end. 

I picked a bottle because my friend recommended it. 

The end. 

Our pediatrician helped us with some samples of other formula in the hopes of finding a version that wouldn’t send him projectile vomiting across the couch every feeding. 

But other than all of that…we were basically on our own for figuring out this whole feeding thing. 

Do You Need to Heat Formula? 

In a word. Nope.

If you haven’t already been introducing warm breastmilk or formula, then you’ll likely not need to serve warm formula. 

We made a point of offering room temperature formula from the jump so we’d never have to waste precious sleep time warming up a bottle. 

Test it out with your baby to see how they respond. 

Often we “project” what we “believe” our baby cares about without really experimenting with it (i.e. a nipple or bottle preference, and temperature). 

If baby loved warm milk and seems to resist room temp milk one day then try again another day to see if it was just a mood…or a legit preference. 

If you’re looking for a way to speed up your heating/formula mixing life goals, consider investing in the Baby Brezza – aka the Keurig for baby formula. 

I never personally used one but the moms I know who had one SWEAR BY IT being the thing that saved their sanity, especially in middle of the night feedings.

You can buy one here:

If you don’t want to splurge for the expense another formula feeding hack for middle of the night feeds is to prep everything in advance (before you go to bed) 
We’d dish out the formula into the bottle without milk so it was ready to go. 

Have a pitcher of room temp filtered water nearby. And it was a quick pour, shake, (adding a few gas drops to help the bubbles created by the shaking dissipate if necessary) and voila. Formula-fed.

Other Things You’ll Need for Successful Bottle Feeding Your Baby 

Speaking of gas drops you’re going to want to have a few other accessories for formula feeding your newborn baby a bottle.

Especially for on the go feedings.

And while we’re at it make sure you check out my post about diaper bag must haves to make sure you’re making the most of the space in your travel sack.
These include: 

Travel Formula Containers

(I loved this one because it was compact and one container, but some people swear by these for being easy to tote around and throw in your diaper bag or purse.) 

Water bottle 

*a note about water for mixing formula. In researching this article I came across soooo many different opinions on the matter. Some swear by the special bottled water that is sold just for formula…my marketing background is extremely suspicious of this as being a way to sell you overpriced filtered water.

We personally used water from our reverse osmosis tank, but according to the Mayo Clinic, any filtered water will do just fine. Essentially if you can drink it safely, so can your babe.

You can use any type of clean water — tap or bottled — to prepare liquid-concentrate or powdered formula. If you use well water or you’re concerned about the purity of your water supply, talk to your baby’s doctor or the water department. Well water needs regular testing. To kill bacteria that might be present in municipal water, use tap water that has been boiled for one minute and cooled quickly to body temperature, 98.6 F (37 C). Then, mix the water with formula.

Gas drops/Colic relief drops

At around the 3/4 week mark of your newborn baby’s life, their digestive system starts to evolve. I didn’t know this the first time around as it was meant with frustrating screams from my baby, and then a loud adult-sounding-fart!

Remembering how traumatized I was by the screams I anticipated it the second time around and started putting gas drops in every bottle after the first week or so…just in case. Sure enough, there were only a few nights where my second struggled with processing any leftover air bubbles in the formula. And by about the 2-month mark, I didn’t even need to add them anymore.

More from The DGAF Mom:

How to Effectively Treat Acid Reflux in Infants 

The 3 Most Important Things To Do To Get Baby To Sleep Through The Night (& 6 Other Must-Know Baby Sleep Tips)

Want to Formula Feed Your Baby? Here’s What You Need To Know

How to Know If Breastfeeding May Not Be For You 

How to Get your Baby to Wear a Hat 

Formula Feeding Bottle Hacks to Make Formula Feeding Your Baby Easier

What To Make for Dinner When You Just Don’t Give a Fuck


Newborn bottle feeding essentials 

Formula feeding essentials 

Essentials for formula feeding 

Must have tips for formula feeding 


Ranking phrase: Newborn feeding schedule