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Formula feeding

If you are pregnant and are thinking about using formula, talk to your health care provider first.   It is important to learn what formula is, the risks and how to use it, as part of making a decision about how to feed your baby.

Formula is not the same as breastmilk. It is usually made from cow’s milk.  Although nutrients are added, it does not contain all the same elements as human breastmilk. Store bought formula is recommended when breastmilk is unavailable or when families make a decision to use formula. Making your own formula from a recipe is not recommended.

 Children who are formula fed can be more at risk of:

  • Ear infections
  • Diarrheal infections
  • Lower respiratory infections
  • Obesity
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
 

A parent who chooses not to breastfeed can be more at risk of:

  • Cancer of the breast and ovaries
  • Postpartum bleeding

It is important to read and follow the directions on the infant formula can. Ready-to-feed and liquid concentrate formulas are sterile when manufactured. They remain sterile until the can is opened. Powdered formula is not sterile when manufactured. It is possible for it to be contaminated by germs. Following instructions when mixing powdered formula can help reduce the risk.

Sometimes babies become sick from drinking formula because it was not manufactured, mixed or stored correctly. Babies who are at the greatest risk of infections from powdered formula are those who:

  • are premature
  • low birth weight and are under 2 months of age
  • have a weakened immune system
 

Talk with your health professional to decide what formula is safe for your baby.

When breastfeeding parents use formula they may make less breastmilk. If the breasts are not stimulated frequently enough, the breastmilk supply will go down and the amount of formula needed will go up. If your baby needs extra milk, try giving your own breastmilk first.

It is recommended that breastfed babies only get formula for medical reasons.

If you are considering supplementing your baby because they seem unsatisfied or you are worried that you are not producing enough breastmilk, visit how to tell when your baby is getting enough.

Any time you choose to use formula it is important to develop a plan with your health care provider. This plan should include ways to minimize the risks for your baby and support continued breastfeeding. It may be difficult to breastfeed again once breastfeeding is stopped.

Review:

Formula Feeding Your Baby (PDF 888 KB)

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