8 Questions Newbie Parent Will Ask about Bottle-Feeding

Date Posted:12 December 2017 

8 Questions Newbie Parent Will Ask about Bottle-Feeding

If you're planning to feed your baby expressed breastmilk or formula milk, you'll need to learn how to:

If you’re using formula milk, you’ll also need to know how:

Our beginner's guide to bottle feeding will help get you started.

Do I need to sterilise my baby's bottles?

Yes, sterilise all your baby's feeding equipment before you make each feed. Sterilising will kill germs that can gather on your baby's bottle and in her milk. These germs could make your baby ill. 

Before making your baby's feed:

  • wash all bottles, teats, retaining rings and lids in clean, hot, soapy water
  • rinse them in clean, cold, running water
  • sterilise them
  • clean the surface where you’ll be preparing your baby’s feed

Do this each time you use the feeding equipment.

If you’re using baby formula, it’s best not to wash and sterilise the measuring scoop, as that may introduce moisture to the formula powder, making it go off quickly.

To sterilise your baby's feeding equipment, you’ll need an electric steam steriliser or a microwave steriliser, or you can use sterilising solution. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each method. If you’re using a microwave steriliser or a sterilising solution, make sure all your equipment is made of plastic or glass.

You can also boil the bottles, rings, lids and teats in a pan for five minutes to sterilise them. Make sure the water completely covers the equipment while it’s boiling and there are no air pockets in the bottles. After five minutes, turn off the heat and allow the equipment to cool in the saucepan until you can safely handle it.

Wash your hands well with soap and water before touching the sterilised equipment.

How do I make up formula milk?

To make up a bottle of powdered formula, follow the instructions on the packet carefully, using the scoop that came with that packet. Here's what you'll need to do:

  • Boil fresh tap water, or rainwater, and leave it to sit in the kettle for about half an hour, so it cools to lukewarm temperature (about 37 degrees C, or body temperature).
  • Pour the exact amount of water specified in the packet instructions into the bottle.
  • Add the right number of scoops to the bottle with the scoop provided, using a sterilised knife to level it off. Many formula tins have a straight edge on the rim that you can use instead of a knife.
  • Put the teat, ring and lid on the bottle and give it a good shake until all the powder has dissolved.
  • Test the temperature by tipping a little milk out of the teat on to the inside of your wrist. It should feel just warm, not hot.


Read our article on how to make up a bottle of formula milk for more information.

How often should I feed my baby?

Your baby’s appetite will vary from day to day and month to month, so try to let her set the pace rather than creating a schedule for your bottle-fed baby. Your baby will feed as often as she needs to, as long as you learn to spot her cues and respond to them. 

If your baby is newborn she will need to feed little and often because her stomach is very small. So offer a bottle every two or three hours. Let her feed for as long as she wants to. If she's had enough of a bottle, don’t force her to drink more. As your baby grows, she’ll manage larger feeds and go longer between bottles.

How much formula milk should I feed my baby?

If you’re using formula milk to feed your baby, as a general rule of thumb, once your newborn baby is five days old, she’ll want between 150ml and 200ml of formula milk per kilogram of her body weight, per day. 

So, if your baby weighs 3kg, she'll need between 450ml and 600ml of formula milk over a 24-hour period to satisfy her hunger. Divide this by the number of feeds she has each day. So if she’s having eight feeds a day, she may drink 55ml to 75ml at each feed.

The amounts listed on formula packages are a guide only. At each feed, your baby may not drink the amount the formula packet suggests. 

Read more about how much formula your baby needs and find out how to tell if your baby is drinking enough formula milk.

How much expressed breastmilk should I feed my baby?

Breastfed babies drink different amounts of breastmilk at each feed. At first, when her tummy is tiny, your baby won’t drink much at each feed. During her first few weeks, though, she’ll quickly increase the amount she drinks. 

Once she’s a month old, she’ll drink between 750ml and 800ml of breastmilk every 24 hours. This amount probably won’t significantly change until she’s about six months old and eating solid foods. Warm about 80ml of expressed breastmilk for the feed, then warm up small amounts of extra milk if she still seems hungry. 

You’ll soon get an idea of how much your baby usually likes to drink, and you can store and prepare expressed breastmilk accordingly. 

Check out how to tell if your breastfed baby is getting enough milk.

Talk to your midwife or child health nurse if you’re worried about the amount of formula milk or expressed breastmilk your baby is drinking.

How can I make sure my baby is drinking comfortably from a bottle?

When you're giving your baby her feed, tilt the bottle slightly so the end of the teat is always full of milk, not air. You'll see bubbles inside the bottle as your baby feeds. She may feed in short bursts of sucking with a rest in between. These breaks in feeding give her time to feel if she’s full or not. 

To help your baby swallow less air, hold her so she's propped up a little. Take care to tilt the bottle so that the teat and neck are always filled with milk. 

Find out more about giving your baby a bottle feed.

How can I safely warm a bottle of milk?

If you’re using expressed breastmilk, ready-made formula milk or formula milk you've made using cooled, boiled water from the fridge, you can warm a bottle in a jug or bowl of hot water. Leave it in the water for no more than 15 minutes. 

You can also buy an electric bottle warmer, which takes around four to six minutes to heat a bottle to the perfect temperature for your baby.

It's best not to use a microwave to heat a bottle of breastmilk or formula milk. A microwave heats unevenly, so it can create hot pockets that could burn your baby's mouth. 

Read our article about warming your baby’s bottle.

Can I make up a formula feed to store in the fridge for later?

It's best to make a fresh bottle of formula milk each time your baby needs a feed. Formula powder isn’t sterile, and bacteria may survive in milk even though you use sterile water to mix it. Even if you store formula milk in the fridge, bacteria can build up slowly.

But there may be times when you need to make up a feed in advance. This may be the case if you have twins or more, or if you're out shopping and you don't want to make a feed where there are lots of bacteria around. Ready-made cartons are expensive and can be hard to find, so you may not want to rely on them each time you have to organise feeds in advance. 

It’s best to prepare just one feed for later use. You can do this as safely as possible by putting the feed in the back of the fridge as soon as you've made it. 

After the feed has been in the fridge at least an hour and is cold, you can transport it in a cool bag with ice packs. When you arrive at your destination, put the feed into a fridge if you’re not going to use it straight away.

Use the feed within two hours of preparing it if it's been stored in a cool bag, or within 24 hours if it's been in the fridge. If it’s been sitting at room temperature, use it within one hour.

How can I prepare formula feeds more quickly?

There are a few things you can do to help you prepare formula feeds for your baby a bit faster:

  • Pre-measure formula powder and store it in a container. You can buy special formula powder containers, which have compartments to store formula for three or four feeds. Or you can use any small, clean, lidded containers you already have. When your baby is ready for a feed, you just add the pre-measured amount to a sterilised bottle of cooled, boiled water. No more measuring and counting scoops in the middle of the night!
  • Boil water, pour into several sterilised bottles, put the lids on tightly and store them in the fridge. Then for each feed, you only need to take one bottle out of the fridge, add the powder, mix and warm the bottle as described above.
  • With a little trial and error, you can work out how much freshly boiled water you need to add to your bottle of cooled, boiled water to reach your baby’s preferred milk temperature. For example, you may need to add 45ml of freshly boiled water to 55ml of cooled, boiled water from the fridge, to give you 100ml of water at the right temperature. Then you only need to add the formula powder and shake – no bottle warming required!


Babycenter (2017, April). “Bottle-Feeding Basics”. Retrieved from https://www.babycenter.com.au/a752/bottle-feeding-basics

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