Bottle Feeding and Returning to Work

There’s lots of information around for mothers who plan to continue breastfeeding when they return to paid work. But there’s less when it comes to bottle feeding. Perhaps because the practicalities seem a whole lot easier.  After all, what could be simpler than making up a couple of bottles in advance and keeping them in the fridge until the baby’s hungry?

However, for most parents, the reality is very different.

Read on to see what you can do to make the bottle feeding/work combination as streamlined as possible.

First things first

  • Make sure your baby is used to bottle feeding before you go back to work. Forward planning is the key when it comes to successfully transitioning back to work.  Some babies take longer than others to accept a bottle, especially if they’ve been happily breastfeeding.   Allow plenty of time and patience.
  • Expect some hesitation as  your baby adjusts to someone else feeding them. Plan some time with your baby’s caregiver to discuss how you’d like your baby to be fed and what they prefer too. Feeding times and positions can all vary between individual babies. Have a couple of practice sessions so they can get used to each other.
  • Ask the caregiver to try and stick with your baby’s usual feeding times. Routines need to be flexible but there are real benefits for babies in having a semi structured routine when it comes to feeding and sleeping patterns.
  • If you’re doing a combination of breast and bottle feeding, don’t feel you need to stop. You may want to think about expressing your breast milk at work and storing it for bottle feeds. Check here for information on safe storage and feeding of Expressed Breast Milk (EBM). And speak with your manager at work about your break entitlements to express.
  • Be organised with plenty of bottles, teats screw caps and formula to cover the number of feeds your baby will need. Consider how you’d like the bottles and feeding equipment rinsed, washed and sterilised when your baby’s at day-care.
  • Get an insulated feeding bag or esky to keep your baby’s bottles cold. This is especially important if you’ll be transporting EBM or pre made formula (not advisable).
  • Work out a labelling system for your baby’s bottles. Childcare centres and in-home day-care often cater for more than one child. Make sure your baby’s feeds and bottles are clearly named to avoid mix-ups.
  • Get your partner involved in the organising and decision making plans. Different perspectives and sharing tasks is a good way to avoid frustrations.

But how do I know how much milk my baby needs?

A General Guide for Feeding Volumes:

  • From 5 days to 3 months 150ml/kg/day
  • Between 3-6 months 120 ml/kg/day
  • Between 6-12 months 100 ml/kg/day

Five Top Tips for bottle feeding and returning to work

  1. Remember, your baby needs breast milk or formula until 12 months of age. Don’t offer straight cow’s milk as their main milk drink before they’ve turned one year of age.
  2. From around six months your baby can be offered a sipper cup to practice their drinking skills. So pack a cup and some cooled boiled water for in-between fluids as well as their milk bottles.
  3. Be confident about your choice of carer for your baby. Doing as much research as you can beforehand and supporting a gradual introduction to childcare will help all of you adjust.
  4. Be organised. Avoid the early morning scramble of packing the nappy bag and getting bottles sorted. Don’t underestimate the value of investing time and energy the night before to help the morning go more smoothly.
  5. Expect some glitches as you and your baby adjust to your daily changes. Feeding is a large part of a young child’s life and often reflects other things going on in their life.

And some other things to consider

  • Encourage your baby’s caregiver to focus on the emotional side of bottle feeding as much as the practicalities. Holding, cuddling and talking to your baby will be an important part of their overall feeding experience.
  • Ask the caregiver to prepare one bottle at a time, rather than have bottles made up in the fridge. You may want to be prepared with pre boiled water already in each bottle, but keep the formula powder and water separate until just before feeding. Investigate container options of individual formula dispensers.
  • If your baby is over six months old, they’ll need solid foods as well as formula/EBM. Ask the caregiver to offer your baby the bottle first and then solids.
  • Don’t assume the caregiver will have the same feeding practices as you do. Prop feeding, heating formula in the microwave, re-offering formula from one feed to the other or leaving a baby unattended during feeds can all be considered standard feeding management.
  • Make sure the bottles have their levels clearly marked. You may know where the water needs to be filled to but the caregiver may not. Throw away any bottles or feeding equipment which is damaged or broken.
  • Allow for spills and accidents when it comes to bottle feeding. Prepare for emergencies by including extra formula and a spare bottle or two.
  • Bibs come in very handy for bottle feeding. Pack a supply in your baby’s nappy bag but remember to empty it out each day. Warm, moist bibs are a perfect medium for mould. Throw away bibs which are clearly past their use-by-date.
  • Don’t put solid food in your baby’s bottle. Learning how to chew and self feed are skills which take many hours of practice.


Jane Barry has qualifications in general, paediatric, immunisation, midwifery and child health nursing. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science (Nursing) and has almost 30 years specialist experience in child health nursing. She is a member of a number of professionally affiliated organisations including AHPRA, The Australasian Medical Writer’s Association, Health Writer Hub and Australian College of Children and Young People’s Nurses.

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