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Bottle feeding - drinks for babies

drinks; formula; cow's; milk; soy; rice; sheep's; goat's; fat; full; cream; cup; emergency; guide; A2; A1; juice; water;

Use formula as your baby's main drink until 12 months of age. After this age, you may offer full cream cow's milk from a cup.


Stopping using formula

cow's milkWhen can I stop using formula and change to cow's milk as my baby's main milk drink?

  • Use formula as your baby's main drink until 12 months of age.
  • After this age, you may offer full cream cow's milk from a cup.
  • After your baby is 12 months old, it is best to stop using the bottle. Small amounts of cow's milk can be used in solid foods after 6 months of age.
  • Children up to the age of 2 need the energy and nutrition of full cream milk. Children aged 2 to 5 years may have reduced fat (1.5-2.5% fat) milk with the rest of the family.

Are soy, rice, sheep's or goat's milk good for my baby?

Soy, rice, sheep's or goat's milk are not healthy to give to babies as their main milk drink under 12 months of age. They do not have enough of the right nutrients (vitamins, iron etc) or the right balance for babies. Your baby will not grow properly or get all she needs from these milks.

After 12 months of age soy milk can be used instead of cow’s milk if preferred. Choose soy milk that has added calcium (at least 100mg per 100ml). Rice milk is very low in protein and should not take the place of cow’s milk or soy milk.

Do I need to give my baby water to drink?

Young babies usually do not need to be given water. But if the weather is hot, your baby may want to drink more than his usual amount of formula feeds. In hot weather you can give your baby extra formula, or you may give him some extra water. Remember to boil the water if your baby is under 6 months old. (For spring or bottled water, boil it until your baby is 12 months old, and for rain water, boil it until your child is at least 12 months old).

When you are starting solid foods (by around 6 months of age) you can offer your baby small drinks of water from a cup. It is important for your baby to learn the skills of drinking from a cup. Continue formula from a bottle until around 12 months.

Can I give fruit juice or other drinks to my baby?

Babies under 12 months should not be given fruit juice - it is very acidic and can cause tooth decay. Too much juice can cause diarrhoea (runny poos) and can reduce your baby's appetite. Breastmilk or formula and water are all your baby needs to drink for the first 12 months of life.

If you choose to give your older child juice, dilute 1 part juice to 3 parts water. Don't give your baby or toddler more than 1 small glass (125ml) of juice each day with a meal. If you are giving your toddler/older child diluted juice, offer it from a cup, not a bottle.

Tea (including herbal teas and iced teas), coffee (hot or iced), hot chocolate, flavoured milks, vitamin drinks, cordials, fruit juice, "sugar-free" or "diet" drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, soft drinks (fizzy drinks) or alcohol are not suitable for babies. Many of these drinks are very sweet, some contain caffeine (eg. tea, coffee, cola, chocolate drinks, energy drinks), high levels of sugar (fruit juice, cordials etc.) and some can be unsafe for your baby's kidneys and health (eg. sports drinks, energy drinks, alcohol). Too much juice can also cause diarrhoea (runny poos) and can reduce your baby’s appetite. Breastmilk or formula and cool boiled water are all your baby needs to drink for the first 12 months of life.

Parents can set a good example by drinking water.

What about toddler milks?

Toddler milks should not be used for babies under 12 months of age. Toddler milks do not have the right balance of nutrition for babies, and can be hard to digest. They are made for children aged 1 to 3 years.

But a toddler who is eating a balanced diet does not need to drink toddler milk. Full cream cow's milk is suitable until at least 2 years of age - when reduced fat milk may be used.

When should I start using a cup instead of a bottle?

drinking from a cup Children who drink from a bottle for too long have a higher chance of tooth decay, ear infections, and it may reduce their appetite for foods. This can lead to poor nutrition (such as low iron).

Drinking from a cup is also an important skill for your baby to learn. Once you are starting to give your baby solid foods, (around 6 months of age), you can give your baby some cooled boiled water to drink from a cup.

When you change your baby from formula on to regular cow's milk at 12 months of age, use a cup. The bottle is not needed any more.

A2 milk

A2 cows' milk has been promoted as having health benefits. A2 milk has one slightly different protein (a beta-casein) compared to A1 milk. Different breeds of cows make different cows' milk proteins. Most milk in Australia is a mix of A1 and A2 milk.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has reviewed the small amount of research that has been done so far, and considers that there is not yet enough evidence that choosing A2 milk leads to any health benefit for children.

Research done in Australia has shown that children who were allergic to A1 cows' milk were also allergic to A2 cows' milk. Children who may have cows' milk allergy should not be given A2 milk.


South Australia

  • Parent Helpline - phone 1300 364 100
  • Child and Family Health Service (South Australia) – call 1300 733 606 to make an appointment with a child health nurse (Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30 pm)

More information

The booklet 'Infant formula - a guide to safe preparation and feeding of infant formula' produced by Women's and Children's Hospital Nutrition Department is available for downloading: Infant Formula Booklet

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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