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Health & Baby

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Bottle-Feeding - Topic Overview

Is this topic for you?

This topic discusses using a bottle to feed formula to your baby. To learn about using a bottle to feed breast milk to your baby or to learn about breast-feeding, see the topic Breast-Feeding.

When is bottle-feeding with formula the best choice for your baby?

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 doctor to help you make your choice. Some moms choose to both breast-feed and bottle-feed their babies.

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 until they are 6 months old. (Babies born early or with health problems may drink formula even longer.)

What are your choices for infant formula?

There are many types of infant formulas for you to choose from. Most of the time, parents start with formulas made from cow's milk.

Talk to your doctor before you try other types of formulas, including:

  • Soy formulas may be recommended for babies who are unable to tolerate cow's-milk formulas or for vegetarian parents who don't want to feed their babies animal products. Or soy formulas may be chosen for cultural, ethical, or religious reasons.
  • Soy formula is not recommended for all infants. It should not be given to any infant who has a soy protein allergy.
  • Lactose-free formulas. These formulas are used for babies who are lactose-intolerant, which means that they can't digest lactose, a natural sugar found in foods with cow's milk. Most of the time, lactose intolerance starts in later childhood or adulthood. It is rare in babies.
  • Hydrolyzed protein or amino acid formulas are used for babies who cannot tolerate formulas made from cow's milk or soy.

Formulas for toddlers are also available. These formulas have extra nutrients, and you can use them to help your child make the switch to whole milk. But healthy babies and toddlers don't really need them.

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