How to prepare a bottle feed

To help protect babies from infection, knowing how to make up feeds and sterilise equipment correctly is essential

It is important to remember that powdered infant formula milk is not a sterile product. Correct preparation and handling is therefore vital to reduce the risk of serious illness in babies. Each feed should be made up as it is required. Storing pre-made infant formula milk may increase the chance of a baby becoming ill and should be avoided.

Clear instructions can be found on all infant formula milks, so why not take time to familiarise yourself with the steps that need to be followed? Key points for standard milks include:

  • All equipment (e.g. bottles, teats, caps, tongs) should be sterilised, surfaces cleaned and hands washed
  • Freshly run tap water should be boiled in a kettle and allowed to cool to no less than 70ºC to kill any bacteria present in the powdered formula, which means leaving the water for no more than 30 minutes, on average, after boiling. It is important that the water is still hot, otherwise any bacteria present in the milk powder may not be destroyed.

N.B. The required water temperature for some specialist milks will vary – always check the pack first.

Artificially softened, filtered and repeatedly boiled water should not be used to make feeds, as mineral levels may be too high

  • The instructions on the pack should be read by parents to find out the amount of water that is needed per feed
  • The scoop provided with the infant formula milk should be used to add the powder to the water, levelling off each scoop with a leveller (provided in the pack) or with the straight edge of a clean, dry knife. The powder should not be ‘packed down’ into the scoop
  • The bottle should be shaken to dissolve the powder and then cooled quickly under cold running water until lukewarm before offering to the baby. Shaking a few drops onto the inside of the wrist will test the temperature
  • Any remaining milk should be thrown away after two hours.

N.B. Ordinary tap water is best. Artificially softened, filtered and repeatedly boiled water should not be used to make feeds, as mineral levels may be too high. When using still, bottled water, the sodium level needs to be less than 200mg per litre and the fluoride level less than 1.5mg per litre. Additional water or formula powder should not be added to make a baby’s feed stronger or weaker unless advised to do so by a healthcare professional. Food should never be added to a baby’s bottle.

Bottle feeding checklist

Parents will need the following equipment, whether they are bottle feeding with infant formula or expressed breast milk:

  • At least three to four bottles with teats and caps
  • A bottle and teat brush
  • Sterilising equipment
  • Teat tongs.


This website is for healthcare professionals, people who work in pharmacy and pharmacy students. By clicking into any content, you confirm this describes you and that you agree to Infant Feeding Guide's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

We use essential, performance, functional and advertising cookies to give you a better web experience. Find out how to manage these cookies here. We also use Interest Based Advertising Cookies to display relevant advertisements on this and other websites based on your viewing behaviour. By clicking "Accept" you agree to the use of these Cookies and our Cookie Policy.