Bottle Feeding vs Spoon Feeding – Risks & Advantages

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


There may come a time when you need to consider bottle feeding or spoon feeding especially if you’re breastfeeding your young baby. Are you wondering which feeding method is best for your breastfed baby? 

Spoon feeding is introduced when smaller, breastfed babies are struggling to suck. Many doctors and mothers prefer this method when encouraging babies to breastfeed. Bottle feeding can be used for both breastfed and formula-fed babies and is introduced from four to six weeks.  

Key takeaways

  • Spoon feeding can be used to encourage breastfeeding, especially when the baby is battling to suckle in the beginning.
  • The risks associated with spoon-feeding include weight gain in formula-fed babies.
  • Bottle feeding can lead to nipple confusion, infections, and diarrhea but has many benefits including the baby getting the right amount of milk during a feed. 

What’s the difference between spoon and bottle feeding 

Spoon feedingBottle feeding
What it relies onUses a teaspoon to feed breast milk or formulaUses a baby bottle and artificial nipple for feeding breast milk or infant formula
PurposeEncourages breastfeedingUsed for breastfed and formula-fed babies
Suckling needsHelps babies who battle with suckling reflexesDifferent nipple types can help with latching and sucking
SwallowingHelps with babies struggling with swallowingNipples come in different flow rates to help babies with controlled or paced feeding
Used at what age6 to 9 months 3 to 4 weeks 

Why would you spoon-feed instead of bottle feeding a baby?

You can spoon-feed as an alternative to bottle-feeding for several good reasons including:

  • Reduced nipple confusion: If you want to continue breastfeeding your baby but introduce the bottle too soon, they may battle nipple confusion. This could lead to rejecting the breast altogether.
  • Better milk flow control: Some babies struggle with milk flow from the breast or bottle, making it difficult for them to swallow properly. This could lead to gagging, coughing, or choking. See the image below where I spoon feed my daughter when we were having some milk flow issues.
  • Less sucking effort needed: Newborns and younger babies may battle to suck correctly from the breast (or bottle) and find it easier to drink from a spoon. 
  • Helps babies avoid choking on cereal or oatmeal: in case of oatmeal or cereal added to a baby bottle, there’s a risk or choking for the baby. However, when these are introduced via spoon-feeding, that risk gets eliminated.
Dad spoon feeding his baby while sitting on the chair and holding the baby in his arms.

Is spoon-feeding better than bottle feeding? 

Spoon feeding is better than using a bottle if you want to encourage your baby to breastfeed. It allows your baby to drink at their own pace without struggling with a strong milk flow rate. Spoon feeding is more hygienic as it’s easier and quicker to clean with fewer parts compared to a bottle. 

What are the risks and advantages of spoon-feeding compared to bottle feeding?

Risks of spoon feeding

The risks associated with spoon-feeding include:

  • Weight gain: This is more of a problem for infants who are spoon-fed while drinking formula from a bottle. However, spoon-fed and breastfed babies showed less weight gain. 
  • Underfeeding: Milk often gets spilled during spoon-feeding which means your baby is getting less during a feed. This could lead to underfeeding and not meeting your baby’s nutritional needs. 
  • Overfeeding: On the other hand, if you don’t measure the right amount of milk for your baby’s growth and development, you could end up overfeeding them. 

Advantages of spoon feeding

Spoon feeding can be easily learned by new moms who want to continue breastfeeding. It encourages weight gain in preemie babies while giving them time to develop their suckling and swallowing reflexes. 

Spoon feeding also helps prevent breast engorgement when the baby is battling to latch, suckle, or swallow when breastfeeding. 

This video demonstrates how to spoon-feed a newborn.

What are the risks and advantages of bottle feeding a baby (over spoon-feeding)?

Risks of bottle feeding

Here are some risks associated with bottle-feeding especially when your baby is still young:

  • Breast rejection:  If you introduce your baby to the bottle before four to six weeks old, they may reject the breast completely. 
  • Diarrhea: Some babies battle with loose stools when bottle-fed. 
  • Increased infections: Microorganisms can cling to the teat or other parts of the bottle, giving rise to infections when reused for feeding. 
  • Ear infections: Milk can flow into your baby’s Eustachian tube and pool in the middle ear, resulting in painful inflammation or infection of the ears. 

However, if you use the right feeding position and introduce a bottle with features that mimic breastfeeding you can prevent a lot of the abovementioned risks. 

Advantages of bottle feeding

Both spoon and bottle-feeding can be handled by someone else besides the mom, giving her a break when she needs it. It’s easier to measure the right amount of milk for a feed when using the bottle. 

Bottle feeding is less messy than spoon-feeding and can be used when expressing breast milk. Some babies do better on infant formula and using the bottle makes it easier to ensure their getting their daily nutritional requirements. 

Using anti-colic bottles also helps to reduce painful conditions such as colic, infant acid reflux, or stomach cramps in babies. 

How do you transition from bottle feeding to spoon feeding? 

You may have decided to transition from bottle feeding to spoon feeding because your baby is battling to suck on an artificial nipple or they’re ready for solids. Whatever the reason, use my tips to introduce spoon-feeding to your baby. 

Introduce the spoon with breast milk or formula

Start giving your baby spoonfuls of breast milk or formula while still bottle-feeding. This helps your little one to start adjusting to this feeding method before weaning them completely off the bottle. 

Use the right feeding position

Your baby should be in an upright position when spoon-feeding. Make sure your little one’s head, neck, and body are in alignment before giving them milk or solids from a spoon. This not only prevents spills but reduces choking hazards. 

Feed when your baby isn’t too hungry

Start spoon-feeding your baby before they’re too hungry. Otherwise, they’ll be frustrated or crying and too unhappy to take milk or solids from a spoon. 

Master one type of food first

When transitioning from bottle feeding, introduce a small spoonful of one food type to your baby such as infant rice cereal. This allows your baby to get used to spoon-feeding without getting overwhelmed with too many different tastes or textures in the beginning. 

Role model

Babies love to imitate their parents! Feed yourself with a teaspoon and wait for your baby to reach out for the spoon – my wife and I used this trick with much success with our daughter. She was curious and wanted to do the same and was soon spoon-feeding like a pro!

Use a flatter spoon

Babies transitioning from the bottle find it easier to take food off a flatter spoon. It’s easier for them to use their lips to scrape off the food. We also found it useful to use a spoon with a wider handle as our infant daughter found it easier to grasp when she wanted to hold it herself. 

Don’t get frustrated

Spoon feeding can be a messy business and getting frustrated will only create more tension for your baby. Accept that liquids or solids are going to go all over the place including inside your baby’s mouth and know that it’s all part of your baby’s growing up. Using a bib is handy for protecting your baby’s clothes and a burp cloth can be used to wipe away spills. 


If your baby cries during bottle feeding there could be several reasons. Spoon-feeding your little one may be a good solution, especially if you still want to continue breastfeeding your baby. However, bottle feeding has its advantages worth considering before deciding which feeding method is best for your newborn or younger baby.

Photo of author


I’m Balint, founder of this site and a father (and dad) to a baby-turned toddler. I found the world of babies so fascinating that I started a blog dedicated only to that topic. By the way, I studied physics, engineering (PhD, MSc), and therefore I do a thorough research when I write about something. Since it’s a blog, of course I also write about my personal experiences.

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