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The Next Best Thing: What to Know About Feeding Infants Formula

Kristi King, MPH, RDN, LD

National Spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Breast milk is considered the gold standard for infant nutrition in the first year of life because it provides the ideal combination of nutrients and helps to build your baby’s immune system. When breastfeeding is not an option, use commercially prepared infant formula for full-term, healthy infants.

Formulas are made to provide similar nutrition as breast milk and are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The most common infant formulas are made from specialty treated cow’s milk that is fortified with iron. If your child is premature or has other medical conditions, a specialized formula may be recommended. Homemade formulas could be harmful and should not be fed to infants.

Numerous brands of infant formula come in a variety of forms — ready-to-use, concentrate, or powder. Use what works best for your lifestyle and follow the directions on the label for mixing and feeding, unless instructed otherwise by your child’s medical team.


Safety tips

Practice food safety by washing your hands before mixing formula or feeding your baby. Clean each bottle, including the lid and nipple, after each use in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher.

Use premixed, refrigerated formula within 24 hours, and discard any leftover formula in the bottle within one hour after feeding. Infant formulas should not be used beyond their “use by” date indicated on the package. If necessary, warm the formula by running the bottle under warm tap water or placing it in a bowl of warm water. Never use a microwave to warm your baby’s formula. Shake the bottle after warming it, then check the temperature of the formula by testing it on your inner wrist before serving. It should feel slightly warm, but not too hot.

When feeding your baby, pick a quiet, comfortable spot where you can hold your baby upright, and you can cuddle them and talk quietly. Follow your child’s cues on when he or she is hungry or full, and burp your baby midway and at the end of feeding.

Talk to a registered dietitian nutritionist for more information about infant nutrition, and nutrition through all stages of life. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ online Find an Expert service to find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you. 

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