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This topic discusses using a bottle to feed formula to your baby. To learn about using a bottle to feed breast milk to your baby or to learn about breastfeeding, see the topic Breastfeeding.
If you are having a hard time breastfeeding and are trying to decide whether to switch to using formula, know that the first few weeks of breastfeeding are the most challenging. You may want to talk to your healthcare provider to help you make your choice. Some moms choose to both breastfeed and bottle-feed their babies.
You may not be able to breastfeed for different health reasons, such as if you've had breast surgery or if you have certain infections. While breast milk is the ideal food for babies, your baby can get good nutrition from formula. Formulas are designed to give babies all the calories and nutrients they need until they are 6 months old and start to eat a variety of solid foods. When your baby starts eating solid foods continue to offer formula.
There are many types of iron-fortified infant formulas for you to choose from. Almost all infant formulas have some iron in them. If your baby is at risk for low iron, talk to your healthcare provider about the type of formula your baby needs. Most of the time, parents start with formulas made from cow's milk.
Formula-fed babies can become iron-deficient if iron-fortified formulas are not used. Not getting enough iron may cause serious problems in babies, such as weakness, abnormal digestion, and learning problems.
Talk to your healthcare provider before you try other types of formulas, including:
Formulas for toddlers are also available. These formulas have extra nutrients, and you can use them to help your child make the switch to whole milk. But healthy babies and toddlers don't really need them.
Do not use homemade formulas, such as those made with evaporated milk or raw milk. Homemade formulas do not contain the nutrients, vitamins, and, minerals your baby needs. They could also make your baby sick.
When you make formula, use safe water and be sure your hands and equipment are clean. Follow the advice of your healthcare provider and read the label on the formula package. Make sure the formula is not too hot or too cold when you give it to your baby.
The length of time between feedings varies. As you get to know your baby, you will be able to notice his or her signs of hunger and fullness. Don't hesitate to call your healthcare provider if you are worried about whether your baby is eating enough.
After formula is mixed, it needs to be used within 24 hours to be safe. Throw away any formula left in the bottle after you feed your baby, because bacteria can grow in the leftover formula. Reheating or refrigerating won't kill the bacteria.
When your baby is 9 to 12 months old and eating a variety of iron-rich foods, he or she can start to drink pasteurized whole-fat cow's milk. Limit cow's milk to no more than 3 cups (750 mL) per day for children 9 to 24 months old. If you are not breastfeeding and do not want to give your child cow's milk, give your child soy infant formula until your child is 2 years of age. After age 2, you can serve low-fat milk or fortified alternatives.
Other kinds of milk such as skim milk, 1% milk, or 2% milk, or soy beverage don't have as many nutrients as whole-fat cow's milk. It is best not to give your baby these beverages, until he or she is 2 years of age.
Most babies can start bottle-feeding within hours after birth. Most newborns feed about 6 to 10 times every 24 hours. Average feeding amounts will vary depending on your baby's age and how hungry he or she is at that moment.
A baby drinks from a bottle of formula for about 5 to 25 minutes at a time. Pay attention to your baby's nutritional needs and cues. Don't be concerned if your baby doesn't eat much at one feeding. He or she is likely eating enough over the course of a day or two. Forcing your baby to drink more formula than he or she needs can cause tummy aches and spitting up. But don't ever hesitate to call your healthcare provider if you are worried about whether your baby is eating enough.
You may have the following concerns about bottle-feeding your baby:
Try to buy your formula and supplies before the baby is born. You can buy infant formula as a liquid concentrate or a powder that you mix with water. Formulas also come in a ready-to-feed form, which costs the most. Always use an iron-fortified formula unless your healthcare provider advises otherwise. If you have questions about which infant formula is right for your baby, talk with your healthcare provider.
When you buy baby bottles and nipples, make sure you have a supply of small bottles [about 4 fl oz (120 mL)] for your baby's first few weeks. You may want to buy a variety of different bottle nipples so you can experiment to see which type your baby prefers.
You can buy formula as a powder or as a concentrated or ready-to-feed liquid. Ready-to-feed formulas cost the most. But some caregivers find their convenience worth the extra cost.
You must add cool, safe water to powders and concentrates. Be sure to follow the directions on the label and use the measuring device that comes with the product.
Always wash your hands before feeding your baby.
During the first few weeks, burp your baby after every 2 fl oz (60 mL) of formula. This helps get rid of swallowed air, reducing the chances of your baby spitting up. Most babies need less frequent burping as they get older.
You will know your baby is full when he or she stops sucking continuously. Usually, as babies get full, they pause frequently during feeding. Also, your baby may spit out the nipple, turn his or her head away, or fall asleep when full. Throw away any formula left in the bottle after you have fed your baby, because bacteria can grow in the leftover formula.
Feeding is a good time for social contact with your baby, so don't rush. Look into your baby's eyes and talk or sing while you are giving the bottle. This contact helps your baby feel close to you and is important for healthy growth and development. Wear a short-sleeved shirt to give more skin-to-skin contact. Sit in a comfortable chair with your arms supported on pillows.
Call your health care provider if your baby:
Your baby needs routine medical checkups. During these checkups, your baby's height, weight, and head circumference will be measured to find out whether he or she is growing at the expected rate. In some areas, your child may see a public health nurse for routine checkups and immunizations.
At each checkup, talk to your healthcare provider about your baby's nutritional needs, which change as he or she grows and develops. For example, babies 6 months of age may start eating solid foods.
A checkup is a good time to talk about any feeding problems or developmental concerns that you have. You may want to make a list of questions before your visit.
Early and regular dental care is important for your child. Talk with your healthcare provider about how to care for your child's teeth before they start coming in, which is usually between 6 and 12 months of age. For more information, see the topics Teething and Basic Dental Care.
CitationsHealth Canada, et al. (2012). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from birth to six months. A joint statement of Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada. Available online: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/index-eng.php.Health Canada, et al. (2014). Nutrition for healthy term infants: Recommendations from six to 24 months. Health Canada. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/infant-nourisson/recom/recom-6-24-months-6-24-mois-eng.php. Accessed April 28, 2014.Health Canada (2009). Caring for your teeth and mouth: Children. Available online: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/oral-bucco/care-soin/child-enfant-eng.php.Canadian Dental Association (2003, revised 2012). CDA position on use of fluorides in caries prevention. Available online: http://www.cda-adc.ca/_files/position_statements/fluoride.pdf.
Current as of: August 3, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsAnne C. Poinier MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineThomas Emmett Francoeur MD MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Current as of: August 3, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Thomas Emmett Francoeur MD MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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