How to Bottle Breast Milk: Answers to the Top 9 Questions
Women choose to bottle feed expressed breast milk for a variety of reasons.The health benefits of breast milk for babies is well documented. Expressing milk is extra work and takes time and dedication. If you are expressing your milk, feel proud of the hard work you are doing to give this gift to your baby!
Please don’t be discouraged if you are unable to express enough milk to meet 100% of your baby’s needs. Any amount of breast milk is beneficial! If you have questions about how to build your milk supply, see the tips in this post.
1. What is the best type of nipple to use?
There are a wide variety of nipples and bottles available. It can be confusing to read the bottle packaging. You may have to experiment to find a bottle and nipple your baby likes.
Bottle nipples come in a variety of flow rates. For healthy, newborns, choose a slow flow nipple. Each brand’s slow flow may be labeled differently e.g. “newborn”, “stage 1”, “0+ months”, “slow flow”.
Milk should drip from the nipple at a rate of about 1 drip per second. If it drips faster, your baby may have trouble keeping up with the flow of milk.
Some brands of nipples claim to be closest to breastfeeding and others claim to reduce gas. Please know that there is no research to say that any bottle or nipple resembles or is most like the breast. But, it is a good marketing strategy!
2. Do I need to sterilize the bottles and nipples?
Sources vary as to the recommended cleaning method for bottles and nipples. This is confusing for both parents and health care workers! Due to this difference of opinion, we recommend boiling all feeding equipment for 5 minutes until your baby is 4 month old. This will ensure you have met the highest standard.
3. How do I sterilize bottles and nipples?
1. Before you begin, wash your hands with soap and warm water.
2. Wash your preparation surface well.
3. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
4. Separate the bottles, nipples, lids, and rings. Wash them in hot soapy water and
rinse them well. A bottle brush may help to clean residue from the bottles. Take care
to ensure the nipple holes are not plugged.
5. When the water is at a rolling boil, completely submerge all the bottles and other
feeding equipment in the water.
6. Boil for 5 minutes.
7. When the water is cool, remove the items with the clean tongs and place them on a rack or clean towel to dry.
8. Once they are dry, and store them in a clean, covered area until use.
4. How long will expressed breast milk last in the fridge?
Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 4-8 days (4 degrees C / 39 degrees F). Milk that has been previously frozen may be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
See this post for more information about storage of expressed breast milk.
5. How do I warm the bottle?
Simply place the bottle of breast milk in a container of warm water. Be sure to keep the nipple out of the water.
Never use a microwave to heat a bottle as it can create hot spots that can burn your baby’s mouth.
6. What if my baby doesn’t finish the bottle? Do I need to throw out the remaining milk?
When a baby feeds from a bottle, bacteria from baby’s mouth can enter the milk. Breast milk contains cells that hamper the growth of bacteria. There are no conclusive recommendations for when to discard an unfinished bottle of breast milk, however based on related evidence, 1-2 hours seems reasonable.
Kellymom.com has an in depth post about this issue.
Newborns need to be held to feed. Never prop a bottle in your baby’s mouth, as it is a choking hazard.
Choose a comfortable chair and use pillows if needed. Hold your baby close during feeds with his head higher than his body. Newborns love to be bottle fed skin to skin (baby in a diaper only, against your bare chest).
See this KellyMom post for a description of how to make bottle feeding more closely resemble breastfeeding.
8. Will it upset my baby’s stomach to use both breast milk and formula?
Our first choice for babies is always breast milk. If breast milk is not available, however, by all means, you may use both. We suggest bottling the breast milk first rather than mixing breast milk and formula in the same bottle. This will prevent wasting any of the precious breast milk!
Burp your baby mid-feeding and at the end of the feed to help expel air.
9. How do I take my bottle of breast milk with me when I go out?
Put your bottle of expressed milk in a cooler bag with an ice pack. Some mothers take a thermos of warm water and an empty container to warm the bottle just before feeding.
- Mohrbacher, N., Stock, J. & Newton, E. (2012 Update). The Breastfeeding Answer Book Schaumburg IL: La Leche League Intl.
- International Lactation Consultant Association (2014). Clinical Guidelines for the Establishment of Exclusive Breastfeeding. Raleigh: International Lactation Consultant Association
- Jones F.(2011) Best Practice for Expressing, Storing and Handling Human Milk in Hospital, Homes, and Child Care Settings. Fort Worth, TX: Human Milk Banking Association of North America Inc.
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
- Download their FREE ebook: 5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding.
- Not sure about breastfeeding? FREE video course Getting Ready to Breastfeed.