By Raising Children Network
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It’s the end of the day, you’re about to pop baby into bed with a bottle, and then put your feet up for a rest. Before you do, you might like to know that there are a few problems with this picture. 

Baby drinking bottle of milk credit

Why bottle-feeding in bed is not recommended

Choking risks: babies who fall asleep while drinking a bottle of breastmilk or formula milk can draw liquid into their lungs. They might then choke on it or inhale it. This is like what happens to grown-ups when they have something ‘go down the wrong way’. It’s more dangerous for your baby than it is for you, because your baby isn’t as good at waking up if something interferes with breathing. Although it’s more likely that your baby will cough and be uncomfortable, you might want to avoid the risk altogether.

Sleep associations: if babies get used to having a bottle-feed every time they fall asleep, they might develop an association between the bottle and sleep. They might then find it hard to fall asleep without a bottle.

Risk of tooth decay: milk is quite high in sugar. Soaking your baby’s teeth in it overnight can cause tooth decay. Read more about tooth decay.

Risk of ear infections: when a baby drinks lying down, milk can flow through to the ear cavity, which can cause ear infections. Read more about ear infections.

Instead of propping your baby up with a bottle in bed, holding your baby during bottle-feeding can help you bond and connect.  It’s also a great opportunity for partners to take turns at bonding with baby.

Bottles of water

If you’re thinking of weaning your baby off night feeds, you might also think about replacing a breastfeed or bottle-feed with a bottle of water. This has two main downsides:

  • You could be swapping sleep associations from a milk feed to a bottle of water. This means your baby might find it hard to fall asleep without the bottle of water before bed.
  • Your baby can drink so much liquid that baby’s nappy soaks through. Then your baby calls out for attention during the night.

If your baby seems happier at nights after a bottle of water, you might just want to go ahead. You can deal with the sleep association whenever you have to.

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  • Last Updated 17-12-2009
  • Last Reviewed 12-10-2009
  • Ferber, R. (1996). Sleep disorders 1: Childhood sleep disorders. Neurologic Clinics, 14, 493-511.

    Lotan, N. & Yirimiya, N. (2002). Body movement, presence of parents, and the process of falling asleep in toddlers. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 26(1), 81-88.