5 tips for holding your baby during bottle feeding

Last updated on August 29, 2022

Man and woman feeding a baby from an nfant bottle.

Do you have a specific way you like to sleep in your bed? It probably maximizes both support and comfort so your body can relax. Whether or not you’ve found the perfect feeding position for you and your baby yet, it’s important to understand that it should achieve the same things: Support and comfort.

We’ve compiled the top 5 guiding principles about positions for bottle feeding that we want you to keep in mind during each session:

Support your baby fully during feedings

Babies, especially newborns, have little control over their own bodies until they are older. They need to be able to relax during feeding so they can focus on eating, and all of the complex movements that go along with learning to coordinate 26 pairs of muscles and 5 cranial nerves to effectively suck-swallow-breathe. If their body is not fully supported, they may feel tense, rigid or uncomfortable, and lose the ability to focus on the task at hand.

Use a feeding pillow

To complement many of our feeding positions, we recommend that you use a feeding pillow, such as the one pictured here, for maximum head and neck support. Feeding pillows are often advertised for breastfeeding mothers, but it’s a very useful tool for any caregiver and can provide great support and comfort for your baby during bottle feeds

Make sure you can see your baby’s face and hands

You should be able to see your baby’s eyes, mouth, arms and hands at all times during each feeding. Your baby uses these body parts the most to communicate discomfort or problems during feedings. Feeding splaying (fingers spread wide apart), clenched fists, tense arms, grimacing or worried looks are all possible signs that your baby is feeling overwhelmed, needs a break or wants to stop. (For this reason, you should also avoid swaddling your baby’s arms and hands during feedings. If your baby falls asleep, you can tuck them back in after the feed for the nap.)

Be mindful of your own comfort

The best feeding position is not only about your baby’s needs. You also need to sit comfortably for as long as 20 to 30 minutes without the risk of losing support or strength. Choose a position that doesn’t leave your arms tired out before the feeding is over.

Give it time

If your baby is clearly uncomfortable and not feeding well, it’s a good idea to adjust your position. If your baby is coughing or choking during feeds, you should definitely adjust the position right away. However, if you are unsure if your position is a factor in feedings not going well, don’t give up too fast. It’s important to try a position repeatedly over a period of a 2-3 days before you abandon it. The reason is that every time you alter a position, you create a wider curve for your newborn, who is learning the complexities of how to feed for the first time. Read more about Stress Cues & Signs that Feeding is Not Going Well.


Reviewed by Dr. Gilson Capilouto & Dr. Jessie Zak

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