Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.3 Requirements for Special Groups or Ages of Children

4.3.1 Nutrition for Infants Techniques for Bottle Feeding

Frequently Asked Questions/CFOC Clarifications


Date: 10/13/2011

Topic & Location:
Chapter 4
Nutrition and Food Service
Standard Techniques for Bottle Feeding

Can infants who are able to sit and hold their own bottles feed themselves or should all infants through 12 months be held during feedings?

Infants should always be held for bottle feeding. Caregivers/teachers and parents/guardians need to understand the relationship between bottle feeding and emotional security.

Infants should always be held for bottle feeding. Caregivers/teachers should hold infants in the caregiver’s/teacher’s arms or sitting up on the caregiver’s/teacher’s lap. Bottles should never be propped. The facility should not permit infants to have bottles in the crib. The facility should not permit an infant to carry a bottle while standing, walking, or running around.

Bottle feeding techniques should mimic approaches to breastfeeding:
a.    Initiate feeding when infant provides cues (rooting, sucking, etc.);
b.    Hold the infant during feedings and respond to vocalizations with eye contact and vocalizations;
c.     Alternate sides of caregiver’s/teacher’s lap;
d.    Allow breaks during the feeding for burping;
e.    Allow infant to stop the feeding.

A caregiver/teacher should not bottle feed more than one infant at a time.

Bottles should be checked to ensure they are given to the appropriate child, have human milk or infant formula in them. When using a bottle for a breastfed infant, a nipple with a cylindrical teat and a wider base is usually preferable. A shorter or softer nipple may be helpful for infants with a hypersensitive gag reflex, or those who cannot get their lips well back on the wide base of the teat (1).

The use of a bottle or cup to modify or pacify a child’s behavior should not be allowed (2).

The manner in which food is given to infants is conducive to the development of sound eating habits for life. Caregivers/teachers and parents/guardians need to understand the relationship between bottle feeding and emotional security. Caregivers/teachers should hold infants who are bottle feeding whenever possible, even if the children are old enough to hold their own bottle. Caregivers/teachers should promote proper feeding practices and oral hygiene including proper use of the bottle for all infants and toddlers. Bottle propping can cause choking and aspiration and may contribute to long-term health issues, including ear infections (otitis media), orthodontic problems, speech disorders, and psychological problems (3). When infants and children are fed on cue, they are in control of frequency and amount of feedings. This has been found to reduce the risk of childhood obesity. Any liquid except plain water can cause early childhood caries (4). Early childhood caries in primary teeth may hold significant short-term and long-term implications for the child’s health (5). Frequently sipping any liquid besides plain water between feeds encourages tooth decay.

Children are at an increased risk for injury when they walk around with bottle nipples in their mouths. Bottles should not be allowed in the crib or bed for safety and sanitary reasons and for preventing dental caries. It is difficult for a caregiver/teacher to be aware of and respond to infant feeding cues when the child is in a crib or bed and when feeding more than one infant at a time. Infants should be burped after every feeding and preferably during the feeding as well.

Caregivers/teachers should offer children fluids from a cup as soon as they are developmentally ready. Some children may be able to drink from a cup around six months of age, while for others it is later (6). Weaning a child to drink from a cup is an individual process, which occurs over a wide range of time. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends weaning from a bottle by the child’s first birthday (7). Instead of sippy cups, caregivers/teachers should use smaller cups and fill halfway or less to prevent spills as children learn to use a cup (8). If sippy cups are used, it should only be for a very short transition period.

Some children around six months to a year of age may be developmentally ready to feed themselves and may want to drink from a cup. The transition from bottle to cup can come at a time when a child’s fine motor skills allow use of a cup. The caregiver/teacher should use a clean small cup without cracks or chips and should help the child to lift and tilt the cup to avoid spillage and leftover fluid. The caregiver/teacher and parent/guardian should work together on cup feeding of human milk to ensure the child’s receiving adequate nourishment and to avoid having a large amount of human milk remaining at the end of feeding. Two to three ounces of human milk can be placed in a clean cup and additional milk can be offered as needed. Small amounts of human milk (about an ounce) can be discarded.
Center, Early Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Responsive Feeding of Infants by a Consistent Caregiver/Teacher Warming Bottles and Infant Foods
  1. Ben-Joseph, E. 2015. Formula feeding FAQs: Getting started. Nemours: KidsHealth.
  2. Lerner, C., & Parlakian, R. 2016. Colic and crying. Zero to three.
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics, Healthy Children. 2015. Practical bottle feeding tips.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics, Healthy Children. 2015. How to prevent tooth decay in your baby.
  5. Çolak, H., Dülgergil, Ç. T., Dalli, M., & Hamidi, M. M. 2013. Early childhood caries update: A review of causes, diagnoses, and treatments. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 4(1), 29.
  6. Hirsch, L. 2017. Feeding your 4- to 7-month old. Nemours, KidsHealth.
  7. Rupal, C. 2016. Stopping the Bottle. Nemours, KidsHealth.
  8. Holt K, Wooldridge N, Story M, Sofka D. Breast Milk/ microwaving, storage of, advantages of. In: Bright Futures: Nutrition. Chicago, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2011: 27, 118, 120