Healthy Eating Guideline 2

If an infant is not breastfed, is partially breastfed, or if breastfeeding is discontinued, use an infant formula until 12 months of age.

Infant formula is the only safe alternative to breastmilk in the first 12 months. Breastmilk is the usual option for babies, so it is important that mothers know about the benefits of breastfeeding before they make the decision to combine breastfeeding with formula-feeding or to offer formula instead.

If a baby is not breastfeeding, or is partially breastfed, infant formula should be the only other food they have until solids are introduced. Babies should still be given breastmilk or formula when starting solids, which is usually at around six months of age, and continue to have breastmilk or formula until they are around 12 months of age.


Infant formula

Many types of infant formulas are available. A formula that is appropriate for the age of the baby should be prepared safely in a clean environment, according to the manufacturer’s directions and using the scoop provided to measure the powder. Formula that is not made up correctly can cause babies to become dehydrated, constipated or even undernourished. It is important that nothing is added to infant formula. Adding infant cereal or other foods to formula can interfere with a baby’s feeding.

For babies in care, parents should provide the setting with sterilised bottles and teats, as well as premeasured powdered formula, each day. These should be clearly labelled with the date, the baby’s name and the amount of water to be mixed with 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. Infant formula should always be prepared as close as possible to the time it is needed. It is safest to prepare feeds individually, and not in bulk.

It may be preferable for parents to bring bottles already filled with the correct amount of pre-boiled, cooled water, so that staff and carers do not have to boil and cool water before feeding babies. Water boiling units are not suitable for use when preparing formula for babies. Once made up, infant formula should be stored in the refrigerator until used, and discarded after 24 hours.

It is not safe for parents to bring preprepared infant formula for their child. This is because of the small risk of bacteria not killed during the formula preparation process growing in the bottle after it is prepared.

To ensure that formula is heated evenly and to reduce the risk of burning the baby, bottles should be warmed in a water bath for no longer than 10 minutes, and not in the microwave.

It is crucial to supervise babies while they are feeding – never leave them unattended with a bottle, or prop a bottle up for a baby. Propping a bottle is dangerous, as the baby risks choking or developing an ear infection. In addition to supervision, babies benefit from close interaction with a parent or carer while feeding.

Babies should be allowed to decide the amount of milk they wish to drink, and should never be urged to finish a bottle. Unfinished formula should be discarded and not stored, even in the refrigerator, for later use.

After use, all bottles and teats should be rinsed in cold water and sent home to be washed and sterilised.

Cow's milk

Cow's milk should not be given to babies as a main drink until they are at least 12 months of age. Small amounts of cow's milk can be used in mixed foods for babies after about nine months. Reduced-fat milks are not recommended for children under the age of two years.


Checklist

  • Feeding babies infant formula is recommended in cases where breastfeeding is discontinued within the first 12 months.
  • Infant formula is prepared according to the manufacturer's directions and offered in a clean, sterilised bottle.
  • Infant formula is prepared as close as possible to feeding time.
  • Correct procedures for preparing and handling infant formula are carried out.