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Choosing Baby Formula

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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.

Feeding

  • 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.

Safety

  • Don’t heat baby’s bottle in the microwave. Microwave ovens heat unevenly, creating hot spots in liquids that can burn your baby’s mouth. You can make use of the microwave’s convenience by heating a mug of water in it and then warming the bottle in that mug for a minute or two. Or heat baby’s bottle to a lukewarm temperature under a warm tap. Check the temperature on your skin before offering it to your baby.
  • Feed your baby a cool or room temperature bottle if he seems to prefer it.
  • Sterilize new baby bottles and nipples in boiling water for five minutes. The nipples will change color, but they’re still fine to use. After that, simply wash bottles, nipples, and caps in the dishwasher. Or wash them by hand with a bottle and nipple brush in hot, soapy water and rinse very well.
  • Wash your hands with soap before preparing baby’s bottle.
  • Always keep prepared baby formula in the refrigerator until you need it. Read the instructions on the formula container to see how long it may be stored. Generally, a prepared bottle of powdered infant formula must be used within 24 hours, and a prepared bottle of liquid concentrate or ready-to-use formula within 48 hours.
  • Buy generic infant formulas if they’re more affordable for you. Name-brand and generic formulas made in the United States must both meet the same strict FDA guidelines for nutrition and safety.

Talk to your pediatrician if you're unsure which formula to use. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on July 24, 2013
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