Font Size


Topic Overview

Is this topic for you?

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 Breast-Feeding.

When is bottle-feeding with formula the best choice for your baby?

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 babies.

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 even longer.)

What are your choices for infant 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, such as Enfamil, Good Start, and Similac.

Talk to your doctor before you try other types of formulas, including:

  • Soy formulas. These formulas are good for babies who have trouble with cow's milk formulas. They are also used by parents who are vegetarians and don't want to feed their baby animal products.
  • Lactose-free formulas. These formulas are used for babies who are lactose-intolerant, which means that they can't digest lactose, a natural sugar found in foods with cow's milk. Most of the time, lactose intolerance starts in later childhood or adulthood. It is rare in babies.
  • Hypoallergenic or protein hydrolysate formulas. These are for babies who have trouble with cow's milk and soy 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.

How do you feed formula to your baby?

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 your baby.

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.

When is it okay to start giving your baby whole milk?

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, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about bottle-feeding:


Next Page:

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

To learn more visit

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Medical Dictionary