Pregnancy and baby

Infant formula: common questions

How do I use the time I spend bottle feeding to help me bond with my baby?

Media last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015

How often should I feed my baby with formula?

Newborn babies may take quite small amounts of infant formula to start with. By the end of their first week, most will need around 150 to 200ml per kilo of their weight per day until they are six months old. This amount will vary from baby to baby.

Although most babies settle into a feeding pattern, they vary in how often they want to feed and how much they want to drink.

Feed your baby when they show signs that they want it. Babies tend to feed little and often, so they may not finish their bottle. However, a big feed does not mean that your baby will go longer between feeds.

How will I know if my formula-fed baby is hungry?

After a while, you will get to know the signs that show your baby is ready to feed:

  • Your baby will start to move about as they wake up.
  • They’ll begin to move their head and mouth around.
  • They’ll find something to suck – usually their fingers.

Try to feed your baby before they cry, as this is a late sign of hunger. 

How do I know if my baby is getting enough formula?

Your baby’s weight gain and the number of wet and dirty nappies will help to inform you whether your baby is getting enough formula.

Your baby should produce around six wet nappies a day a few days after the birth. Nappies should be soaked through with clear or pale yellow urine, or feel heavy.

For the first few days after birth, your baby will pass dark, sticky stools (known as meconium). After the first week, however, your baby should pass pale yellow or yellowish brown stools (poo).

Your baby will usually be weighed at birth and again after around 5 and 10 days. Once feeding is established, healthy babies need to be weighed no more than once a month up to six months of age.

This information should be entered on a chart in your Personal Child Health Record – also known as the PCHR or "red book". If you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s weight gain, speak to your midwife or health visitor.

What do I need if I’m formula feeding away from home?

If you need to feed your baby away from home, take with you:

  • a measured amount of infant formula powder in a small, clean and dry container
  • a vacuum flask of hot water that's just been boiled
  • an empty sterilised feeding bottle with cap and retaining ring in place, which can be removed when you're ready to make up the feed

Make up a fresh feed only when your baby needs it. The water must still be hot when you use it, to destroy any bacteria in the infant formula powder. Remember to cool the bottom half of the bottle under cold running water before you feed it to your baby. 

Read more about making up a feed.

Alternatively, you could use ready-to-feed liquid infant formula when you're away from home.

The vacuum flask does not need to be sterilised, but should be clean, and only used for your baby. The boiling water should kill any bacteria present in the flask. If the flask is full and sealed, the water will stay above 70C for several hours.

What if I need to transport a made-up feed?

If it isn't possible to follow the advice above, or if you need to transport a feed (for example, to a nursery), prepare the feed at home and cool it for at least one hour in the back of the fridge.

Take it out of the fridge just before you leave and carry it in a cool bag with an ice pack, and use it within four hours. If you do not have an ice pack, or access to a fridge, the made-up infant formula must be used within two hours.

  • If made-up formula is stored in a fridge, use within 24 hours.
  • If made-up formula is stored in a cool bag with an ice pack, use within four hours.
  • If made-up formula is stored at room temperature, use within two hours.

Can I use bottled water to make up infant formula?

Bottled water is not recommended for making up infant formula feeds for your baby. This is because it’s not usually sterile and may contain too much salt (sodium) or sulphate. If you have to use bottled water to make up a feed, check the label to make sure that the water contains:

  • less than 200 milligrams (mg) a litre of sodium (also written as Na)
  • no more than 250mg a litre of sulphate (also written as SO or SO4)

You may need to use bottled water to make up a feed if:

  • your drinking water has been contaminated because of flooding
  • you’re travelling abroad and drinking the local water is not recommended

As bottled water is not usually sterile, it will still need to be boiled, like tap water, before you prepare the feed. Always use boiled water at a temperature of at least 70C, but remember to let the feed cool before you give it to your baby.


Page last reviewed: 02/10/2014

Next review due: 02/10/2016

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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

KTP100 said on 07 September 2011

So, it's not safe to use boiled water under 70 degrees but it's ok to make up a formula feed, cool it and then re-heat?

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