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Formula feeding

Formula feeding means feeding your baby cow's or goat's milk that's specially treated to be suitable for babies.

Planning to formula feed

Most mums know that breastfeeding is good for them and their baby, but sometimes still feel that formula/bottle feeding is the best option for them and their family. If you can, do give breastfeeding a try, especially in the first hours and days – you might be surprised at how well you and your baby manage. But don't worry if breastfeeding doesn't work out for you.

How much should I feed my baby?

Even if you are formula feeding, you should still feed your baby responsively as soon as they show signs that they are hungry, don’t try to stick to a timetable. Our page on feeding cues applies just as much to formula fed babies as it does to breastfed babies. You can still experience skin-to-skin contact when formula feeding – this is particularly important for calming your baby and building a special bond in the early days.

When your baby’s first born, their tummy is tiny – about the size of a cherry – so they’ll want to feed frequently – around 8-12 times over 24 hours. However, they won’t need much before they’re full. You’ll soon pick up what your baby wants, whether that’s food, winding or a wee cuddle. If you’re finding it hard working out what your baby wants, talk to your midwife, health visitor or family nurse and they’ll be happy to help.

What you need to know about formula milks and bottle feeding

Formula labelled 'first milks' are all you need for your baby's first year. You don't need 'follow on milk' at any stage, and after a year ordinary full fat cow’s milk is fine. All brands are very similar, and it doesn't matter if you choose cow's or goat's milk for your baby. A higher price doesn’t mean a better milk!

Talk to your midwife or health visitor before opting for soya-based milk. You should only give your baby soya milk if it’s prescribed by your health visitor or GP, and even then only from 6 months.

Watch out for milks claiming added extras, such as preventing allergies, colic or wind. There's no proof that these are needed or that they even work.

Feeding your baby formula milk safely

There are a few things you need to be aware of before you feed your baby formula milk – making up feeds, cleaning and storing bottles must be done in a certain way to avoid your baby getting ill. This video takes you step-by-step through making up a bottle safely.

This video shows you how to safely clean your baby's feeding equipment.

Building a loving bond with your baby

Your baby will feel most safe and secure if feeds are carried out by you and your partner only for the first few weeks. Maintain eye contact with your baby and invite them to take the teat of the bottle, not pushing it into their mouth.

More help and advice

All the information you need to know to safely feed your baby formula can be found in Health Scotland's handy formula feeding booklet, whilst First Steps Nutrition offers detailed information on the different types of formula available in the UK.

This article was created as part of 

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Last updated: 28 Jul, 2021