Healthy Eating Guideline

If an infant is not breastfed, is partially breastfed, or if breastfeeding is discontinued, use an infant formula until 12 months of age.

Infant formula is the only safe alternative to breastmilk during the first 12 months. Breastmilk is the ideal option for babies, so it is important that mothers know about the benefits of breastfeeding before they decide to bottlefeed with formula instead. It may be helpful for mothers to talk to child health nurses or doctors if they have any questions.

If a baby is not breastfeeding, or is partially breastfeeding, an infant formula appropriate for the baby’s age should be the only other food consumed until solids are introduced. While the baby is starting solids, usually from around six months of age, formula should also be continued.

Formula that is not made up correctly can cause babies to become dehydrated, constipated or even undernourished. Never add anything except water to infant formula. Adding infant cereal or anything else can interfere with a baby’s feeding.

Parents should provide sterilised bottles and teats, as well as pre-measured powdered formula, each day. These should all be clearly labelled with the date, the baby’s name and the amount of water to be mixed with the formula.

Water for infant formula should be prepared by bringing a fresh kettle or jug of water to the boil and allowing it to boil for 30 seconds (or, for an automatic electric kettle, until the cut-off point). Water should then be cooled before use.

Infant formula should always be prepared as close as possible to the time it is needed. It is safest to prepare feeds individually, and not in bulk.

You may prefer to have parents bring bottles already filled with the correct amount of pre-boiled and cooled water, so that you do not have to boil and cool water yourself before feeding babies. Never use water from water boiling units, as it is unsuitable for young children.

Tips for handling infant formula

  • Ensure that infant formula is prepared as close as possible to the time it is needed.
  • If formula does need to be stored after it has been made up, store it in the refrigerator until use, and discard after 24 hours.
  • It is not safe for parents to bring already prepared infant formula for their child. This is to avoid the small risk of harmful bacteria growing in the pre-prepared formula.
  • To ensure that formula is heated evenly and to reduce the risk of burning the baby, warm the bottles in a water bath for no longer than 10 minutes, and not in the microwave.
  • Always supervise babies while they are feeding. Never leave them unattended with a bottle or prop a bottle up for a baby. Propping a bottle up puts babies at risk of choking or developing an ear infection.
  • After using bottles and teats, rinse them in cold water and send them home to be washed and sterilised.

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk should not be given to babies as a main drink until they are at least 12 months of age. Small amounts of cow’s milk can be added safely to mixed foods for babies after about nine months. However, reduced-fat milks are not recommended for children under the age of two years.