Home > Health Library > Bottle-Feeding
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 health care provider to help you make your
choice. Some moms choose to both breast-feed and bottle-feed their
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.
There are many types of 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 health care provider about the type of formula your baby needs. Most of the time, parents start with formulas
made from cow's milk.
Talk to your health care provider before you try other types of formulas:
When you make formula, use safe water and be sure your hands and equipment are clean. Follow the advice of your health care 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
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 health care 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 12 months old, he or she can start to drink whole-fat
cow's milk. Other kinds of milk, such as goat's milk, soy 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.
Learning about bottle-feeding:
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 health care 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 health care provider advises otherwise. If you have questions about which infant
formula is right for your baby, talk with your health care 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.
Some things to keep in
mind when you prepare infant formula:
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
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:
For routine medical checkups or
problems related to your baby's health, the following health professionals can
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
health care provider about your baby's nutritional needs, which change as he or she grows and
develops. At about 6 months, most babies can start to eat solid foods. Some babies may be ready for solid foods at 4 or 5 months.
A well-baby visit is a good time to talk about any
feeding problems or developmental concerns that you have. You may want to make
list of questions(What is a PDF document?) before your visit.
Early and regular dental
care is important for your child. Talk with your health care provider 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
Basic Dental Care.
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.
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Feeding your baby: Breast and bottle. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., chap. 4, pp. 91–93. New York: Bantam.
Erler C, Novak J (2010). Bisphenol A exposure: Human risk and health policy. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 25(5): 400–407.
Greer F, et al. (2006). Optimizing bone health and calcium intakes of infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics, 117(2): 578–585. Also available online: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/2/578.full.
Kirby M (2011). Infant formula and complementary foods. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 99–105. New York: McGraw-Hill.
O'Connor NR (2009). Infant formula. American Family Physician, 79(7): 565–570.
Simmer K, et al. (2011). Longchain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in infants born at term. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (12).
Stettler N, et al. (2011). Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 160–170. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Trahms CM, McKean KN (2012). Nutrition in infancy. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13 ed., pp. 375–388. St Louis: Saunders.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2012). Consumer factsheet on lead in drinking water. Available online: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/lcr/fs_consumer.cfm.
Whitney E, Rolfes SR (2011). Life cycle nutrition: Infancy, childhood, and adolescence. In Understanding Nutrition, 12th ed., pp. 529–568. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth..
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsSpecialist Medical ReviewerThomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Current as ofJuly 29, 2015
Current as of:
July 29, 2015
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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