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Guidelines for Child Care Providers

Bottle Feeding Basics

Feeding infants is a key part of your job. It is important to feed them the right way. Below are some important tips for you to know when bottle feeding the infants in your care.

Bottle Feeding Do's

  • Hold the infant upright or feed him/her sitting up. This prevents choking and decreases the risk of ear infections.
  • Infants who are not able to sit should always be held when bottle feeding. Make sure to support their head when they are in a cradled position.
  • Maximize face-to-face contact with the infant while feeding. This increases bonding and makes the infant feel secure.
  • Use hard plastic bottles or hard plastic bottles with liners to decrease the risk of breaking.
  • Due to potential harmful effects on infants, avoid bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA). Avoid bottles with the recycling number 7 or consider using certified BPA-free bottles.
  • Burp a bottle-fed infant every 3-5 minutes during feeding. Gently pat or rub the infant’s back while sitting upright on the lap or resting on a shoulder.
  • It is best to not bottle feed more than one infant at a time, because it may be hard to act on feeding cues (e.g. pulling away from the bottle) if feeding more than one infant.
  • Offer infants fluids from a “sippy” cup when they are developmentally ready, which may be as early as 7 months. In order to prevent dental cavities, only offer 100% juice in a “sippy” cup and never in a bottle. Remember, juice is not a requirement for infant nutrition.

Bottle Feeding Dont's

  • Infants should not have bottles in their cribs or carry bottles around with them during the day.
  • Do not force infants to finish their bottles; it is important to know signs that the infant is full (e.g. turning head away, not wanting bottle anymore).
  • Most infants will finish their bottle in 15 to 30 minutes. Infant feedings should not exceed this time frame as oral or bottle issues may be present. Encourage parents to speak with their health care provider if problems are suspected.
  • Bottle propping should never be done. It can cause choking and may lead to ear infections, cavities, speech and nutrition problems.
  • Milk left in a bottle for greater than 1 hour is not good to drink because of bacteria from the infant’s saliva. It should be thrown away.
  • Bottles should only be used for formula or breastmilk. Juice, added sugar or other foods such as infant cereal should NEVER be put into a bottle. Although many people think that infants sleep better after eating solid foods, this is not true! Researchers have shown that sleeping through the night is due to developmental reasons and not nutrition reasons.
  • Bottles should never be used as pacifiers. This can lead to dental cavities and extra calories that the infant may not need.

Updated April 5, 2014

© 2016 All Rights Reserved, University of Northern Colorado, Alena Clark, Author