Formula feeding

The Ministry recommends exclusive breastfeeding to around 6 months of age. From around 6 months, babies start to need food and continued breastfeeding to at least one year, or beyond. If a baby is not breastfed, a commercial infant formula should be used until the baby is 12 months old.

Choosing how to feed your baby is an important decision. If you are thinking about using formula, you should talk with your midwife, doctor, or nurse first.

Breast milk is the best food for babies. Breast milk is specially made for your baby. It is warm, safe, nutritious and free, which makes it ideal for healthy growth and development and helps protect your baby from illness. It can take some practice for both the mother and the baby before breastfeeding happens easily, but then it can be a very rewarding experience. 

Giving infant formula to a breastfed baby will reduce your milk supply and may make returning to breastfeeding difficult, should you change your mind.

A healthy balanced diet is important for all women but especially for supporting and maintaining breastfeeding.

It is important that you consider issues of cost and convenience when deciding how you will feed your baby.

Infant formula must be prepared and used as directed by carefully following the instructions on the formula tin. Incorrect or unnecessary use of infant formula can be harmful to the health of the baby.

More information

If you have made a decision to use infant formula, read the booklet Feeding Your Baby Infant Formula. It contains information about preparing and using infant formula. It will tell you:

  • what equipment you need
  • how to prepare formula safely
  • how to bottle-feed your baby.

View Feeding Your Baby Infant Formula.

In this section

  • Formula should not be marketed for babies under 6 months. Find out how to lay a complaint if you see or experience inappropriate infant formula marketing. Read more
  • Avoid using any kind of recipe for homemade infant formula. There is no guarantee that these are safe or nutritious enough to give to your baby. Read more
  • Not all baby bottles sold in New Zealand have accurate markings. Check yours does by looking for the standard mark EN14350 on the bottle or packaging. Otherwise take your baby bottles to a pharmacy and ask a staff member to check if your bottles are accurate. Read more
  • Whole cows’ milk is not suitable for babies under 12 months. Use breast milk or formula as the main drink until baby is 1 year old.  Read more
  • Learn about the risks associated with formula feeding.  Read more
  • You can warm infant formula before feeding it to your baby, but it’s not necessary to do so. Below are some options for warming your baby’s formula. Read more
  • A paleo style diet is not suitable for babies, toddlers and children. It recommends cutting out entire food groups, such as whole grains, legumes, and dairy foods. Read more
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