Formula feeding


  • If you’re planning to feed your baby formula, ask your baby’s provider to recommend one.

  • When you’re mixing formula, follow the directions on the formula package. 

  • Be sure bottles and nipples are clean each time you use them.

  • Call your baby's provider if you think there’s a problem with your baby’s formula.

How do you choose a formula for your baby?

Breast milk is the best food for most babies. But not all moms breastfeed. If you’re not breastfeeding, you can feed your baby formula. Newborns eat about 2 to 3 ounces of formula every 3 to 4 hours. Talk to your baby’s health care provider about the right formula for your baby. Formula comes as a liquid or powder that you mix with water. When choosing formula: 

  • Ask your baby’s provider if the formula needs to be fortified with iron. Iron helps keep your baby’s blood healthy. If formula is fortified with iron, it has extra iron added to it. 
  • When you find a brand that your baby likes, use only that brand. Don't switch between brands.
  • Call your baby’s provider if your baby has gas, a rash, diarrhea or is vomiting. These may be signs that the formula’s not right for your baby, and you may need to try a different one. 

How do you make sure your baby’s formula is safe?

Here’s how to keep formula and bottles safe for your baby: 

  • Wash your hands before you get the formula ready.
  • The first time you use them, boil bottles and nipples for 5 minutes. After every feeding, wash bottles, nipples and anything you use to prepare the formula in hot soapy water.
  • Check the "use by" date on the formula package. Make sure the date hasn't expired.
  • Follow the directions on the package and fill the bottle with the right amount of formula. Use only the scoop that comes with your formula package. 
  • If you use a bottle with a plastic liner, squeeze out all the air before you fill it so it doesn’t cause your baby to have gas.
  • If you use a powder formula, ask your baby's provider what kind of water to use (tap water or bottled water). Use the amount of water to mix with the formula. Too much water may keep your baby from getting the right amount of nutrients she needs. Too little water may cause diarrhea or dehydration (when your baby doesn’t have enough water in his body).
  • Never heat formula in the microwave; it can get too hot for your baby.

When you feed your baby, tip the bottle to keep the nipple full of milk. Put the nipple in your baby's mouth. Never prop the bottle or put your baby to bed with a bottle; doing these things may make your baby choke on the formula.

Throw out any formula from an unfinished bottle within 1 hour of feeding. If you’re mixing formula and make extra, you can keep it in the refrigerator for 1 day before giving it to your baby. If you’re using ready-to-feed formula, keep the container covered in the refrigerator. Throw out what you don’t use within 2 days.

Last reviewed: April, 2016