Formula Feeding FAQs: Starting Solids and Milk

The major health organizations — including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Medical Association (AMA), the American Dietetic Association (ADA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) — agree that breast milk is the ideal form of nutrition for babies (especially during the first 6 months). However, it's your choice to decide what's best for you and your baby.

Whether you've decided to formula feed your baby from the start, are supplementing your breast milk with formula, or are switching from breast milk to formula, you're bound to have questions. Here are answers to some common inquiries about formula feeding.

When should I introduce solid foods?

Although in the past many parents started giving their babies solids early on, the AAP now recommends waiting until babies are 4-6 months old. Why? Because feeding solids earlier than this can increase the chances of your baby developing food allergies.

Water and other foods are usually unnecessary during a baby's first 6 months. Breast milk or formula provides everything babies need nutritionally until they start eating solid foods. Juice is completely unnecessary as a regular part of any infant or child’s diet.

Watch for signs of solid-food readiness, such as your baby having good head control, losing the tongue-thrusting reflex and seeming interested in other people's food. Always start with baby cereal (rice cereal is usually the best one to introduce first, but may be constipating) on a spoon before advancing to fruits and vegetables. But do not add cereal to your baby's bottle unless your doctor instructs you to — it can be a choking hazard and can make babies overweight.

Never put your baby to bed with a bottle or capped cup. Doing so can cause choking and increase your baby's risk for cavities from the sugar in the juice, formula, or breast milk.

When can I start giving my baby cow's milk?

Infants under 1 year still need the nutrients in breast milk or formula. But at 1 year old, you can begin offering your little one whole cow's milk. Why not skim or 2%? Because babies need the fat in whole milk for normal growth and brain development during the busy early toddler period.

You can transition your baby from formula to whole milk by beginning to replace bottles of formula with bottles — or sippy cups — of milk. By 1 year old, your baby should be eating a variety of other foods and only 2-3 cups (480-720 milliliters) of milk per day.

If your baby was put on a soy or hypoallergenic formula for a milk allergy, talk to the doctor before introducing milk.

Reviewed by: Joseph DiSanto, MD, and Karin Y. DiSanto, IBCLC
Date reviewed: January 2012

Kids Health

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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