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Choosing baby formula

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Follow-up baby formula and switching formulas

Sometimes you may need to change the formula your baby drinks. Reasons for switching baby formula include food allergies, a baby’s need for iron, extreme fussiness or diarrhoea.

These and other symptoms can also be signs of something unrelated to baby’s formula. In that case, a change may not help or could make baby’s symptoms worse. That’s why you should always talk to your baby’s doctor or health visitor before changing infant formulas, and seek medical advice if your baby has any of these symptoms:

  • Dry, red and scaly skin
  • Diarrhoea
  • Extreme fatigue or weakness
  • Forceful vomiting

What about switching to follow-on formulas when the baby gets older? Geared for babies six to 12 months old, these formulas have more calories and nutrients than regular infant formulas, but again, this change may not be right for your baby. Talk to your GP or health visitor before trying them.

12 tips for using baby formula

Now that you have the basic formula facts, here are some quick tips for safe and effective feeding with formula.

Feeding

  • Feed your newborn as much baby formula as they want, but don’t force them to finish a bottle he’s no longer interested in. Most newborns will eat about 60-90ml (2-3oz) every two to three hours
  • Read the instructions on your baby’s formula to find out exactly how much water to add to concentrates and powders. Adding too little water can lead to diarrhoea and dehydration.
  • Don’t ‘stretch’ your budget by watering down infant formula or breast milk. Not only will the baby get too few nutrients, but there’s also the small but serious risk of “water intoxication”. This over-consumption of water can disturb baby’s electrolyte balance, resulting in seizures or brain damage. If you are having trouble affording baby formula, speak to your health visitor or doctor for advice.
  • Feed your baby a little less formula and more slowly than you have been if they have a lingering problem with spitting up. You might also try limiting active playtime after feeding.
  • Don’t give regular cow’s milk to a baby younger than one year old. The proteins in cow’s milk infant formulas have been cooked or processed, making them much easier for babies to digest than regular cow’s milk.
  • Give your one-year-old cow’s milk if he enjoys it, but only full-fat milk, not semi-skimmed or skimmed milk; neither has the fat or calories a growing toddler needs.

Safety

  • Don’t heat baby’s bottle in the microwave. Microwave ovens heat unevenly, creating hot spots in liquids that can burn baby’s mouth. You can make use of the microwave’s convenience by heating a mug of water in it and then warming the bottle in that mug for a minute or two. Or heat a baby’s bottle to a lukewarm temperature under a warm tap. Check the temperature on your skin before offering it to your baby.
  • Feed your baby a cool or room temperature bottle if they seem to prefer it.
  • Sterilise new baby bottles and teats in boiling water for five minutes. The teats will change colour, but they’re still fine to use. After that, simply wash bottles, teats and caps in the dishwasher. Or wash them by hand with a bottle and teat brush in hot, soapy water and rinse very well.
  • Wash your hands with soap before preparing baby’s bottle.
  • Always keep prepared baby formula in the fridge until you need it. Read the instructions on the formula container to see how long it may be stored. Generally, a prepared bottle of powdered infant formula should be used within two hours, and must be used within 24 hours, and a prepared bottle of liquid concentrate or ready-to-use formula within 48 hours.
  • Buy own-brand infant formulas if they’re more affordable for you. Name-brand and own-brand formulas made in the UK must both meet the same strict guidelines for nutrition and safety.

The difference between baby formulas is small, so no matter which one you choose, there’s a good chance it’s the right one for your little one. When in doubt, always talk to your doctor or health visitor. They’re very used to questions from worried new mums and dads, and they are there to help.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 10, 2014

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