Bottle Feeding Troubleshooting

row away unused milk

Throw away any unused formula or breast milk after you have finished bottle feeding your baby.

Be guided by your baby

All babies are different. Some want to feed more often that others, and some want more milk.  Just follow your baby’s lead.  Feed them when they seem hungry and don’t worry if they don’t finish the bottle. Look at for more information.

Don’t leave your baby alone

Never leave your baby alone to feed with a propped-up bottle as they may choke on the milk.

How much formula does my baby need?

Newborn babies need quite small amounts of formula to start with. By the end of their first week, most will need around 150 to 200ml per kilo of their weight a day until they’re 6 months old. This amount will vary from baby to baby.  Although most babies settle into a feeding pattern eventually, they vary in how often they want to feed and how much they want to drink.  Feed your baby when they show signs that they want it. Babies tend to feed little and often, so they may not finish their bottle. Having a big feed doesn’t mean your baby will go longer between feeds. The amount of formula may change if your baby is unwell, in pain due to teething, or having a growth spurt. 

How do I know if my baby is getting enough formula?

Your baby weight gain and the number of wet and dirty nappies will tell you whether your baby is getting enough formula.  Your baby should have around 6 wet nappies a day from a few days after the birth. Nappies should be soaked through with clear or pale yellow urine, or feel heavy.

For the first few days after birth, your baby will pass a dark, sticky substance known as meconium. After the first week your baby should start to pass pale yellow or yellowish brown poo.

Your baby will usually be weighed at birth and again at around 5 and 10 days. After that healthy babies only need to be weighed once a month up to 6 months of age.

How will I know if my formula-fed baby is hungry?

After a while, you’ll get to know the signs that show your baby is ready to feed as they will start to get restless, turn their open mouth (this is called rooting) or they will look for something to suck. Crying is a sign of late hunger so don’t wait for that to happen.

What do I need if I’m formula feeding away from home?

If you need to feed your baby away from home, take with you:

  • a measured amount of formula powder in a small, clean and dry container
  • a vacuum flask of hot water that’s just been boiled
  • an empty sterilised feeding bottle with cap and retaining ring in place

The vacuum flask doesn’t need to be sterilised, but should be clean, and only used for your baby. The boiling water should kill any bacteria present in the flask. If the flask is full and sealed, the water will stay above 70C for several hours.  Make up a fresh feed only when your baby needs it. The water must still be hot when you use it, to destroy any bacteria in the formula powder.  Remember to cool the bottle (with the lid on) under cold running water before you feed it to your baby. 

Alternatively, you could use a carton of ready-to-feed liquid formula when you’re away from home.

What if I need to transport a made-up feed?

If it isn’t possible to follow the advice above, or if you need to transport a feed (for example, to a nursery), prepare the feed at home and cool it for at least one hour in the back of the fridge.  Take it out of the fridge just before you leave and carry it in a cool bag with an ice pack, and use it within four hours. If you don’t have an ice pack, or access to a fridge, the made-up infant formula must be used within two hours.

If made-up formula is stored:

  • in a fridge – use within 24 hours
  • in a cool bag with an ice pack – use within four hours
  • at room temperature – use within two hours

Why doesn’t my baby settle after feeds?

If your baby swallows air while bottle feeding, they may feel uncomfortable and cry.  After a feed, hold your baby upright against your shoulder or propped forward on your lap. Gently rub their back so any trapped air can find its way out.

There’s no need to overdo it – wind isn’t as big a problem as many people think.

Why does my baby sometimes vomit after feeds?

It’s normal for babies to bring up a little milk during or just after a feed. This is called possetting, regurgitation or reflux.  Keep a muslin square handy just in case.  Check that the hole in your baby’s teat is not too big. Drinking milk too quickly can make your baby sick.  Don’t force them to take more milk than they want during a feed.  Sitting your baby upright on your lap after a feed may help.  If it happens a lot, or your baby is violently sick, seems to be in pain or you’re worried for any other reason, talk to your health visitor or GP.

Can formula make my baby constipated?

When using formula, always use the amount of powder recommended on the packaging.

Don’t add extra formula powder. Using too much can make your baby constipated and may cause dehydration.

If your baby is under 8 weeks old and hasn’t done a poo for 2 to 3 days, talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP, particularly if they are gaining weight slowly.

Your baby should be gaining weight and have plenty of wet and dirty nappies.

Infant formula and allergies

If you think your baby might be allergic to or intolerant of formula, talk to your GP. If necessary, they can prescribe a special formula feed.  Some formula is labelled as hypoallergenic, but this isn’t suitable for babies with a diagnosed cows’ milk allergy.  Soya formula should only be given to babies under medical supervision.

Always talk to your GP before using hypoallergenic or soya-based formula.