: Feeding Your Baby With Infant Formulas
Although it is strongly recommended that women breastfeed their
babies, for a variety of reasons some mothers may choose not to,
or may be unable to breastfeed. When breastfeeding is not an option,
the only acceptable alternative to breastmilk is commercial
iron-fortified infant formula. Babies should be fed either breastmilk
or formula, or a combination of both, for at least 12 months according
to American health guidelines, or for at least 9 to 12 months
according to Canadian guidelines. Despite popular belief, cow's
milk is not suitable for children younger than 9 to 12
months. Neither are "homemade" formulas, which are nutritionally
inadequate, and may even be harmful.
Are infant formulas safe?
Today, commercial infant formulas are designed to imitate the
content and performance of human milk as much as scientifically
possible. However, there are no formulas which are perfectly identical
to breastmilk, nor as perfectly designed for your baby. But commercial
formulas are a safe and nutritious alternative to breastmilk when
breastfeeding is not an option.
If you're considering using formula to feed your baby, consult
your doctor about the type of formula that is best suited for
your baby's particular needs. The formula you use should
be iron-fortified and contain the recommended levels of other
vitamins and minerals. Contrary to popular belief, research has
shown that iron in formula does not cause constipation.
Iron-fortification is important as it helps protect your baby
from developing iron deficiency anemia, a serious condition which
can lead to long-term delays in mental and physical development
(for additional information, please see Preventing
Iron-Deficiency Anemia During Infancy). Additional vitamin
supplements are generally not needed for formula-fed babies.
How much formula does my baby need?
During the first few weeks, formula-fed babies need to drink between
two and a half to three ounces of formula per pound daily. For
example, a 10 pound baby will need to drink about 25 to 30 ounces
of formula per day. In addition, during this time, your baby will
need to drink quite frequently; during the first week, your baby
may have 6 to 10 feeds per 24 hour period, 6 to 8 per day by one
month, 5 to 6 per day by 3 months, 4 to 5 per day between 3 to
7 months, and 3 per day after 8 months of age.
Commercial formulas come in a variety of forms. Ready-made types
come in disposable, sterile bottles, or in cans for pouring into
bottles at home. Concentrated and powdered formulas are also popular,
and tend to be less expensive. These need to be diluted and poured
into bottles before serving. Be sure to read instructions for
these types of formula carefully. It's very important that directions
for mixing be followed exactly. Incorrectly mixed formula can
result in malnutrition if it is too diluted. Formula which is
made too concentrated can also be dangerous as it is too difficult
for a baby's system to metabolize.
For your baby's first three months, water used in formula should
be sterilized by boiling it. Many people aren't aware that bottled
water is not sterile. If you use bottled water to mix your baby's
formula, boil it first as you would with tap water.
No matter which type of formula you use, always check packaging
for the expiration date. Discard any formula which is past due.
Storage instructions should be read and followed carefully. Do
not reuse formula which is leftover in the bottle after a feeding
- it can easily become contaminated with bacteria.
Bottles and containers used to prepare formula should be sterilized
or washed in very hot soapy water to avoid contaminating the milk
with germs. Never warm formula on the stove, or in the microwave.
Excessive heat can destroy important nutrients in the milk, and
can burn your baby's mouth. Microwaves are particularly dangerous
as they heat unevenly, often giving a false impression of the
actual temperature of the milk. Formula can be served at room
temperature, or warmed slightly by immersing the bottle in lukewarm
water, then shaking it to distribute the heat evenly.
A word of caution
Never leave your baby with a propped bottle - this could cause
your baby to choke. Until your baby has developed the coordination
to hold the bottle herself, hold both her and the bottle during
a feeding. Besides, holding and cuddling your baby while feeding
her will strengthen the bond between you - so enjoy this time
For related information, please see:
Other Nutrition Topics
The information provided in this site is
designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to
replace the advice and care of your child's physician, nor is
it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If
you suspect that your child has a medical condition, always
consult a physician.
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