Infant Formula – Buying, Preparing, Storing, and Feeding
Follow these tips for safely using infant formula.
Deciding to feed your baby breast milk or formula is a personal matter. If you do choose formula, it's designed to be a nutritional source of food for infants. Let's talk about infant formula. A variety of formulas are available for infants younger than 12 months old. Infant formulas vary in nutrients, calorie count, taste, ability to be digested, and cost. Standard milk-based formulas are made with cow's milk protein that has been changed to be more like breast milk. These formulas contain lactose and minerals from cow's milk, along with vegetable oils, minerals, and vitamins. Soy-based formulas are made using soy proteins. These formulas are useful when parents do not want their child to eat animal protein, or the child has a rare metabolic problem and can't tolerate other formulas. Also, soy formulas do not contain lactose. Other lactose-free formulas are available to help babies with lactose problems. Hypoallergenic formulas may be helpful for babies who have true allergies to milk protein. They can also help babies with skin rashes. One caveat you'll pay a lot more for them. Your baby's doctor may recommend other special formulas. Reflux formulas are pre-thickened with rice starch. They can help babies with reflux problems who are not gaining weight. Formulas for premature and low-birth weight infants have extra calories and minerals. Other special formulas are available for babies with heart disease and digestion problems. So, what's the best way to take care of infant formula and bottles? You'll need to clean bottles and nipples with soap, then for very young babies boil them in a covered pan for 10 minutes. Once the bottles are cooled, you can make enough formula to last 24 hours. Make it exactly as the package directs you to. Once you make formula, store it in your refrigerator in individual bottles. During the first month, your baby may need at least 8 bottles of formula a day. When it's time to feed your baby, warm the formula slowly in hot water. Always test the temperature of the formula before feeding your baby. Hold your child close to you and make eye contact. Hold the bottle so the nipple and neck of the bottle are always filled with liquid. This helps prevent your child from swallowing air, which can cause gas and vomiting. Once you're finished feeding your baby, throw away any formula left in the bottle. Children should get breast milk or formula at least throughout the first year. This is the centerpiece of infant nutrition.
Buying, Preparing, and Storing Infant Formula
The following tips can help you buy, prepare, and store infant formula:
- Do not buy or use any formula in a dented, bulging, leaking, or rusty container. It may be unsafe.
- Store cans of powdered formula in a cool, dry place with a plastic lid on top.
- Do not use outdated formula.
- Always wash your hands and the top of the formula container before handling. Use a clean cup to measure the water.
- Make the formula as directed. Do not water it down or make it stronger than recommended. This can cause pain, poor growth, or rarely, more severe problems in your baby. Do not add sugar to formula.
- You can make enough formula to last for up to 24 hours.
- Once the formula is made, store it in the refrigerator in individual bottles or a pitcher with a closed lid. During the first month, your baby may need at least 8 bottles of formula per day.
- When you first buy bottles, boil them in a covered pan for 5 minutes. After that, you can clean bottles and nipples with soap and warm water. Use a special bottle and nipple brush to get at hard-to-reach places.
Feeding Formula to Baby
Here is a guide to feeding your baby formula:
- You do not need to warm formula before feeding. You can feed your baby cool or room-temperature formula.
- If your baby prefers warm formula, warm it slowly by placing it in hot water. Do not boil the water and do not use a microwave. Always test the temperature on yourself before feeding your baby.
- Hold your child close to you and make eye contact while feeding. Hold the bottle so the nipple and the neck of the bottle are always filled with formula. This will help prevent your child from swallowing air.
- Throw away leftover formula within 1 hour after a feeding. Do not keep it and use again.
American Academy of Pediatrics website. Forms of baby formula: powder, concentrate & ready-to-feed.
American Academy of Family Physicians website. Infant formula.
American Academy of Pediatrics website. Nutrition.
Parks EP, Shaikhkhalil A, Sainath NN, Mitchell JA, Brownell JN, Stallings VA. Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 56.
Last reviewed on: 5/24/2021
Reviewed by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.