Top of the page
A lot of people bottle-feed their babies. Sometimes it's a personal decision. Sometimes there's a medical reason, like HIV infection or certain cancer treatments. Many adoptive parents bottle-feed. You can bottle-feed using breast milk or formula with iron. You can bottle-feed with your own breastmilk, pasteurized donor human milk, or infant formula. At first, preparing the bottles and formula can seem confusing, but it gets easier and faster with practice. You may decide to bottle-feed your baby using formula only or feed them both formula and breastmilk.
Formula can provide all the calories and nutrients your baby needs in the first 6 months of life. Several types of formula are available. Most babies start with a cow's milk–based formula with iron. Talk to your doctor before trying other types of formula, which include soy and lactose-free formulas. Do not give homemade formula. It does not have the right nutrition and can make your baby very sick.
To learn more about formula feeding your baby, including choosing and preparing a formula, go to healthyparentshealthychildren.ca and search for “bottle feeding.”
Your baby is born knowing how much food they need. Your newborn baby probably will want to eat every 2 to 3 hours. Don't worry about the exact timing for the first few weeks, but feed your baby whenever they are hungry. Signs that your baby is hungry include opening their mouth, sucking on their hands, and smacking their lips. In general, your baby should not go longer than 4 hours without eating during the day for the first few months. Sit in a comfortable chair with your arms supported on pillows.
Doctors sometimes prescribe vitamin or iron drops for newborns. These drops help babies get the nutrition they need.
A baby may need:
If you have questions, talk with your doctor about what is right for your baby.
From birth, babies follow their internal hunger and fullness cues. They eat when they're hungry and then stop eating when they're full. Experts agree that newborns should be fed on demand. This means that you breast- or bottle-feed your infant whenever they show signs of hunger, rather than setting a strict schedule.
How often your baby needs to eat will depend on your baby's age and how hungry they are at that moment. Here are some things to expect or try as your newborn grows.
At about 3 weeks, you can try to delay feeding for a short time by cuddling or talking with your newborn. Your newborn's nervous system is mature enough that they can wait longer between feedings and interact with you more at this age. But take cues from your baby. Don't force your baby to interact when they are not engaging with you or seem very hungry.
You might be able to limit nighttime feedings if you avoid socializing with your baby and lingering after they have finished eating. Your baby will feed and go back to sleep easier if they are calm.
If you want to give your baby more attention during nighttime feedings, plan for a time you can rest the following day to avoid fatigue.
By age 2 months, many babies start to eat less often at night.
At age 3 to 4 months, babies become more and more interested in the world around them. Babies often interrupt feedings by looking around, smiling, cooing, and reaching for a parent's face. This is a normal attempt to turn feeding times into a more social event. It's a good time to interact with your baby.
At about 6 months, most babies can start to eat solid foods. Solid food is given along with breast milk or formula with iron.
Call your health care provider if your baby:
Adaptation Date: 10/5/2023
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.