Formula feeding FAQs

Formula is a safe and nutritious alternative to breast milk, and can be given to a baby in the first 12 months. If you’ve chosen to or need to give your baby formula for whatever reason, there are things you should know before you get started.

To help you, here are the answers to the most common questions on formula feeding.

Formula feeding FAQs

What is formula?

Formula, when mixed with cooled boiled water, is a nutritionally complete food. It’s a dried milk powder mostly made from cow’s milk and added fats, vitamins, and minerals necessary for a baby to grow and thrive. Some formulas have protein sources other than cow’s milk such as rice or soybeans, and should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

How does it compare with breastmilk?

Many formula brands contain ingredients that closely match breastmilk, but one of the main differences is that breast milk contains antibodies to protect a baby against a range of illnesses. The nutrients in breast milk also adapt as the baby grows, whereas the nutritional content in formula stays the same.

Are there any downsides to giving my baby formula?

Infant formula feeding is a healthy and wonderful way to provide your baby with the best start in life. If you have any doubts, read 5 things that are great about formula feeding.

What are the different types of formula?

All formula sold in Australia needs to meet strict nutritional and hygiene standards. Before deciding on a brand, speak to your healthcare professional. Aside from cow’s milk-based formulas, there are also soy-based, goat’s milk-based, and specialty formulas (including hypoallergenic formulas for babies who have a proven intolerance or allergy to cow’s milk, or for specific cultural and religious reasons). There are also anti-reflux formulas with thickeners added.

How do I know which one to choose for my baby?

Speak to your midwife or maternal and child health nurse before introducing formula to your baby. Healthy babies are usually fed with cow’s milk-based formula before trying another type.

When it comes to brands, the price has nothing to do with its quality, so words like ‘gold’ or ‘superior’ are usually just marketing ploys. Settle on a brand that is readily available.

Read the label and ensure that it’s suitable for your baby’s age. Avoid switching brands and types too often. If you do need to swap brands, check the number of scoops required and whether the scoop to water ratio is different. Read this first.

How do I know if my baby is intolerant or allergic to the formula?

Symptoms of an intolerance can include eczema, reflux, chronic diarrhoea, and failure to thrive. Speak to your paediatrician if you have any concerns, or would like to know more about allergy testing. An allergic reaction to cow’s milk might include hives, vomiting, or swelling around the mouth. If this happens, seek urgent medical assistance.

What bottles should I use?

Check out the Top 10 baby bottles for 2021.

Should I bottle feed my baby on a schedule or on-demand?

Sometimes you won’t know if your baby is fussing because they’re hungry or if it’s due to something else. Breastfed babies can regulate how much milk they have, and will stop when they’re full. It is possible to overfeed a bottle-fed baby since they aren’t in as much control of how much milk they drink.

Therefore, you can offer a bottle when you think your baby is hungry rather than on a schedule, and consider using the paced bottle feeding approach. Read more about it here. The benefits include allowing your baby to be in control of the flow of milk, feeds are slower and calmer, and it helps to reduce wind pain, colic, and tummy discomfort.

What is the step-by-step guide to preparing formula?

Read our paediatric dietitian’s comprehensive Formula Preparation Guide.

How do I transition my breastfed baby to a bottle?

Read Tips to encourage your breastfed baby to take a bottle.

How can I make overnight bottle feeds easier?

Read 10 tricks to make overnight bottle feeds easier and quicker

What about feeding my baby when we go out?

Read Out and about with baby: keeping bottles and food warm.

What’s the best way to clean and care for the bottles?

Read Everything you need to know about sterilising bottles and When to replace your bottles and teats.

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