Healthy Eating Guideline

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

Why choose formula feeding?

  • Breastmilk is best for baby but some women can’t breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed.
  • Infant formula is the only safe alternative in the first 12 months.
  • It’s important that parents know the benefits of breastfeeding before deciding to formula feed.
  • You can provide information or refer parents to their health worker, or child health nurse.

What can babies drink?

  • Breastmilk or infant formula are the only foods babies need until around 6 months.
  • Babies who are formula fed can also have cooled, boiled water.
  • At 6 months all babies can have cooled, boiled water in a bottle or cup.
  • Babies under 12 months should not drink cow’s milk as the main drink because they can’t process the protein and salt well and it can result in their blood being low in iron.

How to handle infant formula

  • Making up formula the wrong way can cause baby to become dehydrated, constipated or undernourished.
  • Follow the instructions on the formula tin. Don’t add anything else.
  • Parents or carers should provide the centre with clean sterilised bottles and teats and pre-measured powdered formula.
  • Formula should be labelled with baby’s name and the amount of water that needs to be mixed with the formula.
  • You can ask parents or carers to provide bottles already filled with cooled, boiled water.
  • Make up formula when needed and store in the fridge if not used straight away.
  • Made up formula should not be brought from home – bacteria can grow in pre-prepared formula.
  • If formula does need to be stored, put it in the fridge until use.
  • Throw out any formula that has been made up and is left over after a feed.
  • Throw out any made up formula after 24 hours.

Feeding babies

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  • Heat bottles in a container of warm water.
  • Do not use a microwave to warm bottles – microwaves can make the milk too hot and can burn baby’s mouth.
  • Shake the bottle well to make sure the heat is spread evenly.
  • Always check the temperature of the formula before giving it to baby.
  • It is safe to pour a few drops on unbroken skin on the inside of your wrist – the milk should feel warm, not hot.
  • Throw away any formula left in the bottle. Re-using this can make baby very sick.
  • Rinse all bottles and teats in cold water and send them home to be sterilised.
  • Baby can be fed formula from a cup after 6 months.


  • Make up formula in the bottle and feed baby straight away.
  • Babies need help to drink from a bottle.
  • Don’t leave baby alone with a bottle.
  • Propping up and giving baby a bottle can lead to choking and ear infections.
  • Never force baby to finish a bottle – respond to signs of fullness.