Infant formulas - overview

Definition

During the first 4 to 6 months of life, infants need only breast milk or formula to meet all their nutritional needs. Infant formulas include powders, concentrated liquids, and ready-to-use forms.

Food Sources

There are different formulas available for infants younger than 12 months old who are not drinking breast milk. While there are some differences, infant formulas sold in the United States have all the nutrients babies need to grow and thrive.

TYPES OF FORMULAS

Babies need iron in their diet. It's best to use a formula fortified with iron, unless your child's health care provider says not to.

Standard cow's milk-based formulas:

Soy-based formulas:

Hypoallergenic formulas (protein hydrolysate formulas):

Lactose-free formulas:

There are special formulas for babies with certain health problems. Your pediatrician will let you know if your baby needs a special formula. DO NOT give these unless your pediatrician recommends it.

Newer formulas with no clear role:

Most formulas can be purchased in the following forms:

Recommendations

The AAP recommends that all infants be fed breast milk or iron-fortified formula for at least 12 months.

Your baby will have a slightly different feeding pattern, depending on whether\they are breastfed or formula fed.

In general, breastfed babies tend to eat more often.

Formula-fed babies may need to eat about 6 to 8 times per day.

Infant formula can be used until a child is 1 year old. The AAP does not recommend regular cow's milk for children under 1 year old. After 1 year, the child should only get whole milk, not skim or reduced-fat milk.

Standard formulas contain 20 Kcal/ounce or 20 Kcal/30 milliliters and 0.45 grams of protein/ounce or 0.45 grams of protein/30 milliliters. Formulas based on cow's milk are appropriate for most full-term and preterm infants.

Infants who drink enough formula and are gaining weight usually do not need extra vitamins or minerals. Your provider may prescribe extra fluoride if the formula is being made with water that has not been fluoridated.


Review Date: 5/17/2019
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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