Should I feed my baby formula?
Breastmilk is best for babies, and while almost every mother is able to breastfeed a new baby, a very small proportion are unable to do so due to illness or medications they may be taking. If you have concerns about breastfeeding, discuss them with a lactation consultant, doctor or community health nurse.
You may choose to partially breastfeed your baby, and supplement their diet with an appropriate infant formula. If you cannot breastfeed or have decided not to, then infant formula is the only safe alternative for your baby.
If you do choose to use formula, this should be the only food given to your baby for the first six months. At around six months of age, your baby will be ready to start trying solid foods, but formula should also continue until 12 months.
Just like breastfeeding, bottle-feeding gives you a chance to hold, cuddle and talk to your baby while feeding them. Not only does your baby enjoy this, but these social interactions are also important for your baby’s development and learning.
Always stay with your baby while they are feeding. Never prop a bottle up or leave a baby alone with a bottle, as the milk may flow out too quickly and your baby may choke or develop an ear infection as a result.
How should I make up the formula?
You will need bottles and teats, which should be sterilised before each use. Always make up infant formula according to the directions on the container. Read the directions carefully to make sure you add the correct number of scoops to the proper amount of pre-boiled, cooled water, and mix it well. You don’t need to add anything else to the formula.
Water for infant formula should be prepared by bringing a fresh kettle or jug of water to the boil and allowing it to boil for 30 seconds (or, for an automatic electric kettle, until the cut-off point). Water should then be cooled before use. Preparing each bottle just before offering it to your baby is best, however prepared infant formula can be kept in the refrigerator for up to, but no more than, 24 hours.
Always heat formula in a water bath, for no longer than 10 minutes, and never in the microwave. This is to make sure that the bottle is heated evenly and doesn't burn your baby's mouth. Test the temperature of the formula on the inside of your wrist before feeding your baby - the milk should feel warm, not hot. Throw out any formula that is left in the bottle after the baby has finished feeding.
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Cleaning bottles for babiesBottles need to be sterilised, sanitised or disinfected to ensure that they do not carry any infections. Thsi can be done with several different methods, including boiling, with an electric sterilising unit, through chemical sterilisation or with a microwave steriliser. Whichever method is chosen, be sure to always follow the instructions carefully.
How do I provide formula for when my baby is in care?
Each day, provide your baby’s early childhood setting with sterilised bottles and teats, as well as pre-measured powdered formula. Label these clearly with the date, your child’s name and the amount of water the formula needs to be mixed with. Alternatively, you may be asked to provide bottles already filled with the correct amount of pre-boiled, cooled water – this is so that staff and carers don’t have to boil and cool water just before feeds.
It is not safe to prepare infant formula at home and then transport it to the early childhood setting each day, as there is a risk of harmful bacteria growing in the pre-prepared formula.
What about cow’s milk?
Cow’s milk should not be given to babies as a main drink until they are at least 12 months old. It is safe to use small amounts of full-cream cow’s milk on cereal, in custard and in mixed foods for babies after about nine months. Reduced-fat milks are not recommended for children under the age of two years.