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.
Review Date: 2/18/2016
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.