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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 at higher risk of:

  • ear infections,
  • diarrheal infections,
  • lower respiratory infections,
  • obesity, and 
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

A parent who does not breastfeed may be at higher risk for:

  • cancer of the breast and ovaries
  • postpartum bleeding

It is important to read and follow the directions on the 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 include those who:

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

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

If your baby needs extra milk, try giving your own breastmilk first. Try expressing your breastmilk using hand expression. Expressed breastmilk or formula can be fed to your baby using a spoon, lidless cup or other methods. If you are thinking of using a bottle, consider waiting until breastfeeding is going well. Sucking milk from a bottle is different than breastfeeding and your baby may have difficulty switching from the bottle to the breast.

The more milk your baby takes from your breasts, the more milk your breasts will make. Breastfeeding and/or expressing breastmilk will help the breasts to make more milk. When breastfeeding parents offer formula at a feeding they may make less breastmilk, and the amount of formula needed will go up.

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 making 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 reduce the risks for your baby and support continued breastfeeding. It may be difficult to start to breastfeed again after breastfeeding is stopped.


BFI Strategy for Ontario - Safely Preparing Infant Formula for Your Baby


Infant Formula: What You Need to Know (PDF 10.88 MB) English/Francais

  • Tip Sheet #1 - Informed Decision Making (PDF 0.31 MB)  English / Francais
  • Tip Sheet #2 - Getting Ready To Make Formula (PDF 2.5 MB) English / Francais
  • Tip Sheet #3 - How To Prepare Ready-To-Feed Liquid Formula For Healthy Babies (PDF 1.52 MB) English / Francais
  • Tip Sheet #4 - How To Prepare Concentrated Liquid Formula For Healthy Babies (PDF 1.77 MB) English / Francais
  • Tip Sheet #5 - How To Prepare Powdered Formula For Healthy Babies (PDF 2.1 MB) English/Francais
  • Tip Sheet #6 - How To Bottle Feed Your Baby And Transport Formula (PDF 2.9 MB) English/Francais

Queensland Health - Baby Feeding Cues (PDF 2.9 MB)

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