Home > Health & Wellness > Health Library > Bottle-Feeding
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
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
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
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,
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.
When you make formula, use safe water and be sure your hands and equipment are clean. Follow the advice of your doctor and read the label on the
formula package. Make sure the formula is not too hot or too cold when you give it to
The length of time between feedings
varies. It depends on the amount of formula your baby drank during the previous
feeding. As you get to know your baby, you will be able to notice his or her
signs of hunger and fullness. Don't hesitate to call your doctor if you are
worried about whether your baby is eating enough.
After formula is mixed, it needs to be used within 24 hours to be safe. Throw away any formula left in the bottle after
you feed your baby, because bacteria can grow in the leftover
formula. Reheating or refrigerating won't kill the bacteria.
When your baby is 12 months old, he or she can start to drink whole-fat
cow's milk. Other kinds of milk, such as goat's milk, soy milk, fat-free milk, 1% milk, or 2%
milk, don't have as many nutrients as whole-fat milk. It is best not to give
your baby these kinds of milk if you can give whole-fat milk instead.
Learning about bottle-feeding:
can start bottle-feeding within hours after birth.
Most newborns feed about 6 to 10 times every 24 hours.
Average feeding amounts will vary depending on your baby's age and how hungry
he or she is at that moment.
This table provides general guidelines for feeding amounts.
6 to 8
2 fl oz (60 mL) to
3 fl oz (90 mL)
20 fl oz (600 mL)
6 to 7
4 fl oz (120 mL) to
5 fl oz (150 mL)
28 fl oz (850 mL)
5 to 6
6 fl oz (180 mL) to
7 fl oz (210 mL)
30 fl oz (900 mL)
4 to 5
6 fl oz (180 mL) to
8 fl oz (240 mL)
7 fl oz (210 mL) to
8 fl oz (240 mL)
34 fl oz (1000 mL)
38 fl oz (1150 mL)
A baby drinks from a bottle of formula for about 5 to 25
minutes at a time. Pay attention to your baby's nutritional needs and cues.
Don't be concerned if your baby doesn't eat much at one feeding. He or she is
likely eating enough over the course of a day or two. Forcing your baby to
drink more formula than he or she needs can cause tummy aches and spitting up.
But don't ever hesitate to call your doctor if you are worried about whether
your baby is eating enough.
You may have the following
concerns about bottle-feeding your baby:
In an emergency, you can give your baby whole milk for a
short time until you can get more formula.
Try to buy your
formula and supplies before the baby is born. You can buy
infant formula as a liquid
concentrate or a powder that you mix with water. Formulas also come in a
ready-to-feed form, which costs the most. Always use an iron-fortified formula
unless your doctor advises otherwise. If you have questions about which infant
formula is right for your baby, talk with your doctor.
When you buy baby bottles and nipples, make sure you have a supply of small bottles [about
4 fl oz (120 mL)] for your
baby's first few weeks. You may want to buy a variety of different bottle
nipples so you can experiment to see which type your baby prefers.
Some things to keep in
mind when you prepare infant formula:
Always wash your hands before
feeding your baby.
During the first few weeks,
burp your baby after every
2 fl oz (60 mL) of formula.
This helps get rid of swallowed air, reducing the chances of your baby
spitting up. Most babies need less frequent burping as
they get older.
You will know your baby is full when he or she
stops sucking continuously. Usually, as babies get full, they pause frequently
during feeding. Also, your baby may spit out the nipple, turn his or her head
away, or fall asleep when full. Throw away any formula left in the bottle after
you have fed your baby, because bacteria can grow in the leftover
Feeding is a good time for social contact with your
baby, so don't rush. Look into your baby's eyes and talk or sing while you are
giving the bottle. This contact helps your baby feel close to you and is
important for healthy growth and development. Wear a short-sleeved shirt to
give more skin-to-skin contact. Sit in a comfortable chair with your arms
supported on pillows.
doctor if your baby:
For routine medical checkups or
problems related to your baby's health, the following health professionals can
For preventive dental care and problems with your child's
teeth, see a
dentist. Pediatric dentists specialize in the care and
problems of children's teeth.
Your baby needs routine medical
checkups. During these checkups (called
well-baby visits), your baby's height, weight, and
head circumference will be measured to find out whether he or she is growing
at the expected rate.
At each well-baby visit, talk to your
doctor about your baby's nutritional needs, which change as he or she grows and
develops. For example, babies between 4 and 6 months of age may start eating
A well-baby visit is a good time to talk about any
feeding problems or developmental concerns that you have. You may want to make
list of questionslist of questions(What is a PDF document?) before your visit.
Early and regular dental
care is important for your child. Talk with your doctor about how to care for
your child's teeth after they start coming in, which is usually between 6 and
12 months of age. For more information, see the
Basic Dental Care.
This American Academy of Pediatrics website has information for parents about childhood issues, from before the child is born to young adulthood. You'll find information on child growth and development, immunizations, safety, health issues, behavior, and much more.
The website FamilyDoctor.org is sponsored by the American Academy of Family Physicians. It offers information on adult and child health conditions and healthy living. There are topics on medicines, doctor visits, physical and mental health issues, parenting, and more.
The American Dental Association (ADA), the professional
membership organization of practicing dentists, provides information about oral
health care for children and adults. The ADA can also help you find a dentist
in your area.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The FDA provides accurate, science-based information about medicines and foods and helps protect public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of:
Wagner CL, et al. (2008). Prevention of rickets and
vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. American Academy of
Pediatrics Clinical Report. Pediatrics, 122(5):
Other Works Consulted
American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Feeding your baby: Breast and bottle. In SP Shelov et al., eds., Caring For Your Baby And Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 5th ed., chap. 4, pp. 91–93. New York: Bantam.
Erler C, Novak J (2010). Bisphenol A exposure: Human risk and health policy. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 25(5): 400–407.
Greer F, et al. (2006). Optimizing bone health and
calcium intakes of infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics, 117(2): 578–585. Also available online:
Kirby M (2011). Infant formula and complementary foods. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 99–105. New York: McGraw-Hill.
O'Connor NR (2009). Infant formula. American Family Physician, 79(7): 565–570.
Simmer K, et al. (2011). Longchain polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation in infants born at term. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (12).
Stettler N, et al. (2011). Feeding healthy infants, children, and adolescents. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 160–170. Philadelphia: Saunders.
Trahms CM, McKean KN (2012). Nutrition in infancy. In LK Mahan et al., eds., Krause's Food and the Nutrition Care Process, 13 ed., pp. 375–388. St Louis: Saunders.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2012). Consumer factsheet on lead in drinking water. Available online: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/lcr/fs_consumer.cfm.
Whitney E, Rolfes SR (2011). Life cycle nutrition: Infancy, childhood, and adolescence. In Understanding Nutrition, 12th ed., pp. 529–568. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth..
June 3, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
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