Formula Feeding Guidelines

Although nothing truly duplicates breast milk, modern formulas are a good choice for your baby. If you choose to supplement breastfeeding, try to wait until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old so your milk supply is well established.

The moments when you're giving your baby a bottle are wonderful times to feel close and to get to know each other. And your baby's father, as well as other family members, can do some of the feeding right from the start, or whenever you decide to supplement or switch. Whoever is doing the feeding needs to holdthe baby's head at a slightly elevated angle and keep the bottle held up so she doesn't suck in a lot of air.

Choosing the Right Formula

Infant formulas are made to meet your baby's nutritional needs, very much like the breast milk on which they're modeled. Most formulas are modified cows' milk, and all standard brands are very similar. Unless your healthcare provider tells you otherwise, pick one that is fortified with iron.

Formulas come in three types of preparations: ready-to-feed (the most expensive), liquid concentrate (less expensive), and powder (the most economical). Read and follow the mixing directions on the package carefully.

Water and Formula

You don't need to use bottled water in your baby's formula unless there's a problem with your water supply. To confirm that your tap water is safe, check with your local or state health agency, and be sure to bring any questions or concerns to your healthcare provider as well.

After babies are 6 months old, they also need fluoride. Bottled water may not contain any, and your water supply may or may not have adequate quantities. Your healthcare provider can tell you if your baby needs extra fluoride beyond what is used for formula preparation.

How Much Formula Is Enough?

Newborns start out with a stomach that can hold only a small amount at first. One to 2 ounces per feeding is usually enough early on, but by the time your baby is 2 months old, for example, she'll need 24 to 32 ounces a day and about six to seven feedings in a 24-hour period.

Here's a rough idea of how much formula your baby needs, and how often she needs to be fed:

Over a longer period of time your baby’s healthcare provider will be able to check that your baby is eating enough by checking that she’s growing well. Your provider will use tools like the baby growth charts to keep track. Read more about how your provider will use the baby growth charts in the first 24 months.

As your baby grows, she’ll also need to go up a diaper size, too. Take this quiz to check which diaper size is right for your baby and view our diaper size and weight chart to help you decide.

Follow Your Baby's Lead

Remember, each baby is unique and will vary her intake from feeding to feeding, and day to day. Never force-feed her extra formula, and don't leave her still smacking her lips for more. A baby who spits up often may do better with smaller, more frequent feedings. Or, consider using paced bottle feeding, a technique that allows your little one to control the pace of their meals and reduces overfeeding.

Things You Should Know

Here are some important things to keep in mind about formula feeding:

  • Hand washing. Always wash your hands carefully before preparing formula.

  • Washing feeding equipment. If you wash and rinse bottles and artificial nipples carefully — with hot, clean water — boiling or sterilizing them is unnecessary. Be sure to clean out any leftover formula, which can spoil easily and upset your baby's stomach.

  • Heating formula. Never heat formula in the microwave. Microwaves heat the formula unevenly, and hotspots will burn your baby. Place the bottle in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes to bring it up to room temperature.

  • Bottle position. Whoever is doing the feeding needs to hold the baby's head at a slightly elevated angle and keep the bottle held up so she doesn't suck in a lot of air.

  • Throwing out used formula. Prepared formula can be kept in the refrigerator for 48 hours if the baby hasn't touched the nipple. If she has, throw out whatever remains after a feeding.

Read more about how long can formula sit out for once it has been prepared.

Reminders and Precautions

  • Hold your baby during feedings. Propping him up with his bottle presents a choking hazard.

  • Check his diapers. If your baby appears to be wetting fewer diapers than usual, call your healthcare provider. Your baby may be dehydrated or undernourished.

  • Make sure the nipple hole is the right size. If it's too large, your baby will gag and look alarmed at the fast milk flow. If he’s struggling, the hole may be too small or the nipple too hard for him.

If you’re looking for more information on the topic, read up on your baby’s feeding schedule for their first year and when babies stop drinking formula.

With a newborn or a young baby there’s a lot to think about and do. As you know, figuring out formula amounts is just one of the many things you’re juggling day to day. One of the other things you’re doing plenty of, is changing your little one’s diaper. After all, all that formula has got to go somewhere, doesn’t it? You should be rewarded for all those diaper changes! Download the Pampers Club app to start getting coupons on your diaper purchases.