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Formula (Bottle) Feeding: Brief Version

Breast milk is best for babies, but breast-feeding isn't always possible. If you choose to bottle-feed, be sure to always use formula until your baby is 1 year old. When your baby is 1 year old, you may start to give your baby whole cow's milk.

Formulas are made especially for babies. Most are made with cow's milk. Others are made from soybeans for babies who are allergic to or have a hard time digesting regular formula.

You can get formula in 3 ways:

  • Powder
  • Concentrated liquid
  • Ready-to-serve liquid

How do I mix formula?

  • If you use powder, mix each level scoop of powder with 2 ounces of water.
  • If you use concentrate, mix it with equal parts of water.
  • If you use ready-to-serve formula, do not add any water.

Always follow the directions. Do not add more powder or liquid or water than you are directed. If the formula is too concentrated or too diluted, your baby will not get what he needs.

Most city water supplies are safe. If you are making one bottle at a time you can use fresh, cold water from your tap. Let the water run for 2 minutes before you use it. Do not use warm or hot tap water. The warm water can cause lead to get into the water from the pipes. After you mix the formula with cold water, you can heat the bottle to the temperature your baby prefers.

If you have well water, you need to boil the water for 10 minutes (plus 1 extra minute for each 1000 feet you are above sea level). You can buy and use distilled water instead of boiling well water.

Babies do not need to drink extra water.

If you would rather make a batch of formula:

Use boiled or bottled water. Follow the directions printed on the side of the formula can. Put formula in the refrigerator. Use it within 48 hours.

How often should I feed my baby?

Most babies need:

  • 6 to 8 formula feedings per day for the first month
  • 5 to 6 formula feedings per day from 1 to 3 months
  • 4 to 5 formula feedings per day from 3 to 7 months
  • 3 to 4 formula feedings per day from 7 to 9 months

Your baby may start with 1 ounce per feeding. By 7 days, he may take 3 ounces. Divide your baby's weight (in pounds) in half to find the amount (in ounces) he will probably need. For example, if your baby weighs 8 pounds, your baby will probably drink 4 ounces per feeding.

When you are traveling, ready-to-serve formulas are the easiest.

What about fluoride?

When your baby is 6 months old and until she is 16 years of age, she may need fluoride to prevent dental caries. If the water supply where you live has fluoride and your child drinks at least 1 pint each day, the water should provide enough. Otherwise, it may be a good idea to use fluoride drops or tablets. Formula-fed babies should not take vitamins with the fluoride drops or tablets. Talk to your healthcare provider.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-04
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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