Getting your baby used to bottles can feel like a big change. We’re here to put your mind at ease with our top tips to help make combination feeding or introducing bottle feeding run smoothly

Breastfeeding can be a rewarding and important time for many. Not only does it offer an opportunity to build a strong, emotional bond with your baby via skin-to-skin contact, but breastmilk can also meet all your baby’s nutritional needs to support their growth and development. Breast milk also protects your baby from infections and diseases and provides health benefits for you too.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for around the first six months of your baby’s life. According to the NHS, breastfeeding alongside solid foods is best for babies from six months.

Although there are many great benefits associated with breastfeeding, how you choose to feed your baby is a personal decision. It may be that combining breast and bottle feeding is a better option for you than transitioning completely to bottle feeding. There are also some people who can’t breastfeed. It’s important to do what’s best for you and your baby.

Why might some people choose to combination feed or introduce a bottle?

For breastfeeding mums, there are times when breastfeeding may feel uncomfortable, such as when nipples become cracked and sore. This problem can happen when your baby is not positioned correctly or latching on well at the breast. Your midwife or health visitor can help with positioning your baby and getting them properly latched. If you want to combine breast and bottle by expressing your milk, it’s best to wait until breastfeeding is well established (usually by around six weeks of age).

Getting pregnant again can also make breastfeeding more challenging as changes in your appetite and fatigue can start to take over. However, this doesn’t mean you have to stop. It’s important to note that continuing to breastfeed whilst you are pregnant won’t affect your baby or the pregnancy and it’s possible to feed more than one baby so don’t be put off breastfeeding an older baby.

Some women may worry that their baby is not getting enough milk when in fact they have plenty to meet their needs. If you think you’re struggling to produce enough breast milk for your baby, try not to worry. Talk to your midwife or health visitor who should be able to suggest ways that you can increase your milk supply if necessary.

There are also other instances, like returning to work or going on holiday, where combining breast and bottle or transitioning to bottle feeding can be practical and convenient. Although, lots of mums still choose to breastfeed when they return to work.

No matter which way you choose to feed your baby, we’re here to give you the support and advice you need to help you get started.

When is the best time to switch from breast to bottle?

According to the NHS, it’s recommended that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Although this may not be possible for all mums, it can be referred to as a guide.

Your baby can carry on enjoying the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as you like. Some people prefer to breastfeed their child up to two years old and beyond, alongside solid foods. You can choose to switch to a bottle when it’s right for you. Or you can choose to continue or combine breastfeeding with bottle feeding. We’ll be sharing some top tips to help later in this article.

Using expressed milk for combination feeding

It can take some babies longer than others to get comfortable with bottle feeding. So, you may have to try a few attempts before both you and baby are happy. Try not to worry if the transition is going slower than you think. Every baby is different.

Sometimes it can be best to let someone you know give your baby their first bottle feeds, like your partner. It can help your baby transition to a bottle more quickly as they’ll be further away from you which means they can’t smell your breast milk.

Trying different breastfeeding positions can also prove useful as well as giving your baby their first few bottles at a time where they seem happy and relaxed, not necessarily when they’re hungry.

If you want to bottle feed using expressed milk, you’ll need to decide how you want to express your breast milk. Although advice from others can be useful, always do what’s best for you and your baby. There’s no right or wrong way to express breast milk. Some prefer to use a breast pump while others may prefer to express by hand.

In terms of how much milk you’ll express and how often, this will depend on what suits both you and your baby best. Once you have expressed your breast milk, you can store it in a sterilised container. Alternatively, you can also use breast milk storage bags.

The NHS recommends the following storage guidelines for expressed milk:

• Store in the fridge for up to eight days at 4°C or lower – you can use a fridge thermometer if you’re unsure, these are easy to find online. Alternatively, if you aren’t sure of the temperature of your fridge or it’s higher than 4°C, use the milk within three days

• You can store expressed milk for two weeks in the ice compartment of a fridge

• Alternatively, you can store for up to six months in a freezer. However, it needs to be at a temperature of -18°C or lower

If you need further support and advice on expressing and storing your breast milk, don’t hesitate to talk to your midwife or health visitor.

Using formula milk for combination feeding

When using formula, you should always follow the instructions on the pack every time. To bottle feed with formula, you must make sure that you prepare each bottle correctly.

Good hygiene should always remain a priority to help minimise your baby’s risk of getting an infection. An infection can often cause diarrhoea and vomiting. You can achieve good hygiene by washing and sterilising bottles, teats and any other feeding equipment before each feed until your baby is at least 12 months old. This same advice also applies to using bottles for expressed milk.

To help you prepare a formula feed, we’ve provided a few helpful tips below. As discussed, you should always follow the instructions on the pack of your chosen formula, but you can refer to the tips below as a guide:

• Before you boil the kettle, dispose of any water that has been boiled previously and always fill the kettle with at least one litre of fresh tap water

• Once the water is boiled, leave it to cool for no longer than 30 minutes as it needs to be at a temperature of more than 70°C

• Wash your hands and make sure the area you use to prepare the bottle has been cleaned and disinfected

• If you are using a cold water steriliser, shake off any excess solution from the bottle and teat

• Always follow the pack instructions of your chosen formula and pour the amount of water you need into the bottle before any powdered formula. Fill the bottle to the correct water level, make sure you place it on a flat surface

• Only use the scoop that comes with your chosen formula and follow the instructions to ensure you measure the powder correctly (scoops from different brands of formula may differ in size)

• Once you’ve secured the bottle and shaken it until the powder is dissolved, cool the bottle further by holding the bottle with the lid attached under cold running water

• Always test the temperature of the formula before giving it to your baby. You can do this by shaking a few drops of milk onto the inside of your wrist. As a guideline, it should be body temperature, which means it should feel warm or cool, but not hot

How can I help my baby adjust to a bottle?

It’s normal to feel a little apprehensive about your baby adjusting to a bottle. After all, you want to ensure they’re getting enough food each day. To help ease your concerns, we’ve compiled a list of tips below to help you get started:

Tip 1: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different temperatures of milk & different teats

Not all babies are the same. So, when it comes to finding the right bottle temperatures it may take some experimenting. Some babies who are used to breastfeeding may prefer their bottle at body temperature, while others prefer it cool.

The same goes for bottle teats. There are plenty of different types and makes, so if your baby is struggling to get used to bottle feeding, switching up their bottle teats might be the solution you’re looking for.

Tip 2: Try to distract your baby

Sometimes an attempt to distract your baby while they’re bottle feeding can prove useful. Try holding up their favourite toy or put some calming music on in the background.

Tip 3: Keep the bottle in a horizontal position

Holding the bottle correctly is essential as it allows the milk to flow steadily. Once you’ve gently placed the teat into your baby’s mouth, hold the bottle in a horizontal position so it’s just slightly tipped.

If you’re unsure whether you’re holding your baby’s bottle in the correct position, speak to your midwife or healthcare visitor.

Tip 4: For breastfeeding mums, express some breastmilk to bottle feed with

If you’re a breastfeeding mum, you may choose to bottle feed with expressed milk. Using expressed milk can help your baby get used to bottle feeding while you continue to breastfeed. If your baby is struggling, put some breastmilk onto the teat of the bottle, this can encourage the sucking reflex to start.

Tip 5: Don’t give up!

If you have a few failed first attempts, try to remain calm and relaxed. The more relaxed you are, the more it’ll help to settle your baby. Don’t be afraid to keep trying. It can feel disheartening when it doesn’t work for the first time, but your baby should adjust eventually.

What equipment do I need to bottle feed?

To help you get started on your bottle feeding journey, you’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment. From bottle brushes to breast pumps, here are some of the products you can get for you or your baby, available at Boots.

Try: MAM Milk Powder Dispenser

• For three extra-large servings

• Each compartment holds eight scoops; up to 40g

• Sterilised and dishwasher safe

If you’re looking for a convenient feeding solution while on-the-go, this powder dispenser can come in handy. Both travel-friendly and lightweight, you can relax while away from home knowing your baby has three separate servings to keep their tiny tummies happy – it’s also versatile and can be used to store snacks and teats too!

Try: Tommee Tippee Complete Feeding Kit White

• Includes: One x electric steam steriliser

• Two x Close to Nature bottles

• Two x Advanced Anti-Colic bottles

• One x Easi-Warm bottle warmer

• One x Insulated bottle bag

• One x Ultra-light soother

• One x Breast-like soother

Make sterilising bottles quick and easy with this complete feeding kit, equipped with all the items you need to make bottle feeding a total walk in the park. The Electric Steam Steriliser featured in the kit uses natural steam to help protect your baby without using chemicals. The kit also comes with a wide range of accessories, from bibs to bottle brushes.

Try: Boots Standard Neck Bottle & Teat Brush

• Ideal for standard neck bottles

• BPA free

A staple for bottle feeding, this specially designed brush is ideal for a good clean. On the bottom of the brush, you’ll find a teat brush which also makes cleaning the inside of teats easy, helping you get into those hard-to-reach places. It’s also great value for money too!

Try: Medela Breast Milk Storage Bags

• 50 bags

• Includes bonus transport pouch

• BPA free

These ready-to-use breast milk storage bags allow you to store, transport and warm your breast milk both conveniently and hygienically. Whether you want to store your supply in the fridge or freezer, the freezer-proof, double zipper protection makes it possible and also helps prevent leakage. Worried your supply will take up valuable storage? Don’t be, as each bag lays flat and requires less storage space than conventional bottles.

Try: Lansinoh 2-in-1 Double Electric Breast Pump

• Includes: One x pump base unit

• Four x Comfort Fit breast cushions

• Four x valves

• Two x feeding bottles

• One x NaturalWave® slow flow teat

• One x UK 3 pin plug

• One x AC power adapter

If it’s comfort, flexibility and efficiency you need when using a breast pump, this must-have could be the one for you. With hospital grade performance, three pumping styles and eight suction levels, you can tailor your pumping style to suit your own personal preferences. Use as a single or double pump and wave goodbye to the worry of noise as this lightweight and discreet design is super quiet.

Looks like you’re all set to start your bottle feeding journey. If you need further support and advice to help your baby adjust to bottle feeding, don’t hesitate to reach out to your midwife or health visitor.

You can also find advice, support and more by signing up to Boots Parenting Club. This club is exclusive to Advantage Card holders. If you don’t have one, you can sign up now but what’s in it for you? Free gifts at key stages of your baby’s development, expert parenting advice, offers** and much more!

Join us today.

*Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life and should continue beyond 6 months, alongside the introduction of appropriate solid foods.

**Formula milk is excluded from promotional offers.