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Bottle feeding - making up formula

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It is best to use tap water to make up your baby's formula. Most tap water has fluoride in it, which is important for your baby's teeth. Remember to boil the water until your baby is at least 6 months old

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While breastfeeding is the normal way to feed babies, if your baby is not breastfeeding the only other safe milks to give to a baby are infant formulas.

Formulas are modified milks that are made to be as close as possible to breastmilk, but there are still a lot of extras in breastmilk that cannot be put into formulas.

Babies who are formula fed will still grow well and be healthy.

What do I need to make up formula?

You will need:

Is there a special bottle or teat I should use?

Most babies don't need any special bottle or teat to feed. Plain shaped bottles are easier to clean.

Some babies may prefer a certain type of teat, but no teat is better than the others. Some teats have bigger or smaller holes, and the formula will come out faster or slower. If it's too slow, your baby may get tired from sucking and not drink enough. If it's too fast, your baby might splutter or choke on the milk.

See which teat your baby likes. This may change as your baby gets older.

What kind of water do I use to make up formula?

It is best to use tap water to make up your baby's formula. Most tap water has fluoride in it, which is important for your baby's teeth.

Remember to:

  • Boil the water until your baby is at least 6 months old.
    • When an electric kettle automatically switches off is fine.
    • Kettles with no automatic switch-off should be turned off within 30 seconds of boiling.
  • Water that comes from a tap with a filter also needs to be boiled (until at least 6 months of age).
  • Add fresh water to the kettle each time you make up formula.
  • Let the water cool before you use it so it is lukewarm, or about room temperature.

If you would like to keep boiling tap water for your baby until 12 months of age (when you will change from formula to cow's milk), this is fine.

Spring or rain water does not have fluoride in it. Some bottled water now has fluoride added. Tap water in some country areas also does not have fluoride added. If you can't use water with fluoride for your baby's formula speak to your dentist about your baby's teeth.

  • Spring or bottled water should only be used if you can't use tap water. It needs to be boiled for babies until they are 6 months old.
  • If you have a rain water tank and can't use tap water, the rain water needs to be boiled for all babies and children until they are at least 12 months old. If they have health problems it may be better to boil the water until they are older – talk to your doctor. It is very important to maintain the tank well. There is more information about this in the topic ‘Water – drinking water’. .
  • If you are making up more than one bottle at a time and storing the water or formula in the fridge for later, boil the water until your baby is at least 12 months old.

Never use mineral water for making up formula. It has high levels of salts and minerals. This is not good for your baby's kidneys.

Keep hot water away from babies and young children. Don't walk around carrying hot water.

How do I make up the formula?

Check the instructions on the can. Use the scoop that came in the can. Clean and sterilise the bottle, teat and other feeding equipment before you start. Have a look at the topic Bottle feeding – cleaning and sterilising bottles and equipment.



1


Wash your hands with soap and water first and dry them well.


2


Fill the kettle with fresh tap water. Let it boil and cool down until it is lukewarm, or around room temperature.
3 Wipe down the area where you are going to make the formula with a clean cloth.  



4



Pour the right amount of cooled, boiled water into the bottle.

5

Add the right number of scoops to the water. Use a clean knife to level off the powder on each scoop (turn the knife upside down and use the flat edge).
6 Put the cap and disc on the top of the bottle.  



7



Shake the bottle well to mix the powder.


8


Always check the temperature of the formula before you feed it to your baby. It should be around room temperature, so it may feel a little cool on your wrist. Babies do not need their formula to be warmer than this.

Make sure you can read the markings on the side of the bottle when pouring in the water. If the markings are rubbing away or you can't read them clearly, too much or too little water may be added. This means the strength of the formula will not be right for your baby. Use a new bottle, or use a clearly-marked measuring jug instead (you will need to clean and sterilise it).

Warming up formula

If you are making up formula fresh for each feed, the water will be slightly warm (around room temperature) and so usually will not need extra heating. Have a look at the topic.

If you have made up extra bottles of water or formula in advance and get them out of the fridge, some babies will drink the cold formula, but most like it warm.

The best way to warm the formula or water is to put the bottle in a container of warm water (not hot or boiling). Or place the bottle in a sink of warm water. If you have warmed up water in a bottle, then add the right number of scoops of formula. Shake it well.

Don't warm the water or formula for more than 10 minutes. This is because germs might grow in the formula, or it may be too hot for your baby.

Bottle warmers can also be used. Follow the product instructions carefully.

It is not recommended to use a microwave to heat your baby's bottle. Most microwaves heat things unevenly, so the milk might have "hot spots" that could burn your baby's mouth.

Once you think the formula is warm (around room temperature), check the temperature, then test a few drops of milk on your wrist first. It should feel just a little warm or even cool, not too warm or hot.

How much formula should I make up?

The safest way is to make up one bottle at a time.

The table on the can of formula gives you a guide for your baby's age and how much he might drink. Do not worry if your baby takes a little more or less than this, as each baby is different. Your baby might even take different amounts of formula at each feed. Your child and family health nurse, doctor, or the Parent Helpline can assist you if you are concerned about the amount of formula your baby is drinking.

If you can't boil the water fresh for each feed, boil the water you are going to use (for all babies up to 12 months). Then pour out the cooled, boiled water into separate clean and sterilised bottles. Put them in the fridge, and take them out one at a time. When you need them, warm the water first (to about room temperature), then add the powder. Shake the bottle well.

If you have to make up extra bottles of formula in advance, put them in the back of the fridge (where it is the coldest), not the door. Throw out any unused water or made up formula after 24 hours.

Can I save leftover formula?

Germs can start to grow in the milk after about an hour. Once a bottle has been warmed and your baby has been drinking from it, do not keep it for later. Throw out any leftover milk once your baby has finished feeding, or no more than 1 hour after a feed has started.

Even if you haven't warmed the formula, or your baby hasn't been drinking from the bottle, germs will still grow if the formula is not in the fridge. Throw out any made up formula that has been out of the fridge after 2 hours from when it was made.

How can I make up formula when I'm not at home?

The best thing to do is to take the (boiled) water in a sterilised bottle and the powder in a separate sterilised container. Mix it just before you need it.

If this is not possible, make up the formula at home and put it in the fridge until you are going out. Then put the bottle in a cooler (insulated) bag with some freezer packs to keep it cold. Use the formula within 2 hours.

Can I make the formula stronger or weaker than the instructions on the can?

No. The number of scoops and amount of water on the label of the can is just right for your baby.

Sometimes if your baby has a special medical reason, your doctor or dietitian might tell you to use a different number of scoops to water. Make up the formula exactly as they have told you. Keep seeing them while your baby is on a special formula recipe.

Unless you are advised by your doctor because of a medical reason, do not add anything else to the bottle (such as baby cereal, biscuits or other solid foods).

Resources

South Australia

  • Parent Helpline - phone 1300 364 100

More information

The full booklet 'Infant formula' produced by Women's and Children's Health Network is available for downloading:  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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