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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 breast-feeding, see the topic Breast-Feeding.
When is bottle-feeding with formula the best choice for your baby?
If you are having a hard time breast-feeding and are trying to decide whether to switch to using formula, know that the first few weeks of breast-feeding are the most challenging. You may want to talk to your doctor to help you make your choice. Some moms choose to both breast-feed and bottle-feed their babies.
You may not be able to breast-feed 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. (Babies born early or with health problems may drink formula even longer.)
What are your choices for infant formula?
There are many types of infant formulas for you to choose from. Most of the time, parents start with formulas made from cow's milk, such as Enfamil, Good Start, and Similac.
Talk to your doctor 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.
How do you feed formula to your baby?
When you make formula, use safe water and be sure your hands and equipment are clean. Follow the advice of your doctor 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. It depends on the amount of formula your baby drank during the previous feeding. 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 doctor if you are worried about whether your baby is eating enough.
When is it okay to start giving your baby whole milk?
When your baby is 12 months old, he or she can start to drink whole-fat cow's milk. Other kinds of milk, such as goat's milk, fat-free milk, 1% milk, or 2% milk, don't have as many nutrients as whole-fat milk. It is best not to give your baby these kinds of milk if you can give whole-fat milk instead.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Expected
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 doctor if you are worried about whether your baby is eating enough.
You may have the following concerns about bottle-feeding your baby:
In an emergency, you can give your baby whole milk for a short time until you can get more formula.
Promoting Healthy Growth and Development
Buying formula and supplies
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 doctor advises otherwise. If you have questions about which infant formula is right for your baby, talk with your doctor.
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.
Preparing infant formula
Some things to keep in mind when you prepare infant formula:
Feeding your baby
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.
When to Call a Doctor
Call a doctor if your baby:
Who to see
For routine medical checkups or problems related to your baby's health, the following health professionals can help:
For preventive dental care and problems with your child's teeth, see a dentist . Pediatric dentists specialize in the care and problems of children's teeth.
Your baby needs routine medical checkups. During these checkups (called well-baby visits), your baby's height, weight, and head circumference will be measured to find out whether he or she is growing at the expected rate.
At each well-baby visit, talk to your doctor about your baby's nutritional needs, which change as he or she grows and develops. For example, babies between 4 and 6 months of age may start eating solid foods.
Early and regular dental care is important for your child. Talk with your doctor about how to care for your child's teeth after 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.
Other Places To Get Help
Last Revised: August 1, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
Nix S (2009). Nutrition in infancy, childhood, and adolescence. In Williams' Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 13th ed., pp. 188–208. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Wagner CL, et al. (2008). Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics, 122(5): 1142–1152.
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