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Choosing Baby Formula

Follow-Up Baby Formula and Switching Formulas

Sometimes you may need to change the formula your baby drinks. Reasons for switching baby formula include food allergies, a baby’s need for more iron, extreme fussiness, or diarrhea.

These and other symptoms can also be signs of something unrelated to baby’s formula. In that case, a change may not help or could make baby’s symptoms worse. That’s why you should always talk to your baby’s doctor before changing infant formulas. 

Call your doctor if your baby has any of these symptoms:

  • Dry, red, and scaly skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Forceful vomiting

What about switching to follow-up formulas when your baby gets older? Geared for babies 4 to 12 months old, these formulas have more calories and nutrients than regular infant formulas, but again, this change may not be right for your baby. Talk to your pediatrician before trying them.

Are Baby Formulas Safe?

In the winter of 2008, several news stories came out about melamine -- a synthetic chemical used to produce fertilizers, pesticides, and cleaning products -- in baby formula. Should you be concerned?

If you are using formula made in the U.S., the short answer is: no. Most of the reported health problems were connected to a few baby formulas made in China. In the United States, the FDA doesn’t allow melamine to be used as a food ingredient, so there is no risk of it in baby formulas manufactured in the U.S.

To find out the latest about melamine and food products, visit the FDA web site.

12 Tips for Using Baby Formula

Now that you have the basic formula facts, here are some quick tips for safe and effective feeding with formula.


  • Feed your newborn as much baby formula as he wants, but don’t force him to finish a bottle he’s no longer interested in. Most newborns will eat about two or three ounces every two to three hours.
  • Read the instructions on your baby’s formula to find out exactly how much water to add to concentrates and powders. Adding too little water can lead to diarrhea and dehydration.
  • Don’t “stretch” your budget by watering down infant formula or breast milk. Not only will baby get too few nutrients, but there’s also the small but serious risk of “water intoxication.” This over-consumption of water can disturb baby’s electrolyte balance, resulting in seizures or brain damage. Food pantries, social service agencies, and county health departments can supply formula or funds for caregivers who cannot afford baby formula.
  • Feed your baby a little less formula and more slowly than you have been if she has a lingering problem with spitting up. Always keep the baby upright after feeding him. You might also try limiting active playtime after feeding.
  • Don’t give cow’s milk to a baby younger than 1 year old. The proteins in cow’s milk infant formulas have been cooked or processed, making them much easier for babies to digest than regular cow’s milk.
  • Give your 1-year-old cow’s milk if he enjoys it, but only whole milk, not reduced-fat or non-fat milk. Neither has the fat or calories a growing toddler needs.

WebMD Medical Reference

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