Skip to navigation Skip to Content

Bottle-feeding

Bottle-feeding with an approved formula is a good option for those who can't or don't want to breastfeed.

Good nutrition is an important part of your child’s development.

The right nutrition that is age-appropriate benefits your child now and will help them throughout their life.

Good nutrition decisions begin right after birth and continue through adolescence.

Your Marshfield Clinic Pediatrician can help you make the best nutrition decisions for your child.

Health considerations when bottle-feeding

If you decide not to breastfeed, or are unable to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas can give your baby the nutrition he or she needs. 

Infant formulas have the right amounts of protein, calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growth. However, formula does not contain the immune factors that are in breastmilk.

The immune factors in breastmilk help prevent infections and other health conditions throughout a baby's life.

Picture of a baby feeding himself a bottle

Infants who take enough iron-fortified infant formula usually don’t need vitamin and mineral supplements. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplementation for all babies drinking formula until they are drinking at least 32 ounces a day.

Fluoride supplements are recommended for babies whose primary water supply is not fluoridated. Check with your baby's healthcare provider about vitamin D and fluoride supplements.

Types of infant formula

  • Cow's milk-based formula. Most infants should be able to tolerate a standard cow's milk formula. Cow's milk formulas are modified to be closer to human milk. These formulas have lactose as the carbohydrate (sugar) source. They are available in ready-to-feed cans, liquid concentrate, and powder. Regular cow's milk is not an appropriate source of nutrition for a human baby.

  • Soy-based or lactose-free formulas. These formulas are used if an infant can’t tolerate lactose, which is rarely a significant problem in babies. They don’t contain lactose as the sugar source. As many as 50% of all infants who are allergic to cow's milk formula will also be allergic to soy-based formulas. Talk with your baby's healthcare provider before changing formulas. Vegetarian parents may prefer soy-based formulas. But they should be aware that breastfeeding is still the best option.

  • Specialized formulas. There are special formulas for babies who are premature or who have certain rare disorders or diseases. These formulas may have special directions for use. They are prescribed by the baby's healthcare provider.

  • Hydrolyzed formulas. Hydrolyzed formulas are easier to digest. They may be used in babies at risk for allergies. They are more expensive than regular formulas. Talk with your baby's healthcare provider before using these formulas.

  • Low iron formulas. These formulas are not recommended.

Helpful hints for feeding your baby

  • Breastmilk only is the ideal feeding for at least 6 months. This means no water, sugar water, or formula.

  • Wait until breastfeeding is well established before giving your baby breastmilk in a bottle.

  • Working mothers can use a breast pump on break time and refrigerate or freeze the milk for later use as a bottle-feeding. Refrigerated breastmilk should be used within 24 hours after pumping. Frozen breastmilk is good for several months in the freezer. Fathers and other family members can be involved in feeding time if breastmilk is offered from a bottle occasionally.

  • Offer cow's milk-based formula with iron as first choice of formula if not breastfeeding.

  • Keep your baby on breastmilk or baby formula until he or she is 1 year old. After this time, you may switch to whole milk. Children under 2 years old should not drink skim or low-fat milk.

  • It’s important to follow the formula preparation directions exactly as directed on the packaging. Using too much water can result in poor weight gain. It's also important to discuss your water supply with your child's healthcare provider. In some areas, water must be boiled first, or bottled water should be used.

  • Bottles should never be propped up.

  • Babies should never be put to sleep with a bottle. This can cause cavities to develop.

  • All babies, whether breast or bottle fed, should be offered a feeding whenever they show signs of hunger.

Request Appointment

Contact us for care

If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

Call: 1-866-520-2510

(Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)

What Do You Know About Child Development?

Test your knowledge of child development by taking this quiz.

1. When riding in a motor vehicle, how tall should a child be to sit in a regular seat and use an adult seat belt instead of a being strapped into a car safety seat or booster seat?
2. For which of these should you call your doctor instead of trying at-home treatment?
3. Two out of 3 teen girls don't get enough of which of these in their diet?
4. How much has the rate of obesity in children increased in the last 35 years?
5. Menstruation can begin at which of these ages in girls?
6. It's estimated that 3 to 7 percent of American school children have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Which of these famous people is thought to have had the condition?