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Deciding to bottle feed your baby from birth

There are a number of options if you can't breastfeed or decide not to ahead of your baby's birth.

You can:

Types of formula milk

Formula milk is also known as formula feed, baby formula or infant formula. Most formula milk is made from cow’s milk. It comes in powdered form or ‘ready to feed’ cartons or bottles.

First infant formula or first milk is recommended for newborns. You should use this type until your baby is 12 months old. There are no benefits to switching to ‘follow-on formula’ at 6 months.

You should avoid switching your baby's formula milk. Talk to your Public Health Nurse (PHN) or GP if you think a particular brand of formula is not suitable for your baby.

After 12 months you can switch to full-fat cow’s milk from a cup or beaker.

Preparing formula milk

Powdered infant formula is not sterile and may contain bacteria. You should only use boiled water cooled to 70 degrees for preparing the feed. This kills bacteria without spoiling the nutrients.

Equipment like bottles and teats need to be sterilised each time you prepare formula. You must do this until your baby is at least 12 months old. An unsterilised bottle can make your baby sick.

Do not use a microwave to heat formula as they cause ‘hot spots’ that can burn your baby’s mouth.

Re-starting breastfeeding

It's possible to start breastfeeding after formula feeding. Get advice from a lactation consultant, your PHN or a breastfeeding support group if you're considering switching.

What to get before the birth

You will need bottles, teats, feeding equipment and first infant formula milk.

You can use boiling water, chemical steriliser or a steam kit to sterilise your equipment. A steam steriliser works best. Plug-in or microwaveable sterilisers are also available.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) does not recommend the use of formula preparation machines or automatic machines. There is not enough research to show these machines are safe for preparing your baby's bottle.

Read about what you need to make up a bottle of formula feed

What to bring to the hospital

You don’t need to bring bottles or formula milk with you to hospital.

Formula milk is provided in the hospital if needed. It comes in small bottles with a pre-sealed teat so it can be given to your baby straight away.

How hospital staff will support you

You will get advice on how to hold your baby while giving a bottle. There will also tell you how to safely prepare a bottle for when you are back at home.

You may feel your breasts are heavy because you haven’t breastfed. Staff will let you know how to manage this.

Related topics

Find out about bonding with your baby during bottle feeds

Read about some common breastfeeding myths

Get tips on getting breastfeeding off to a good start

Read about what to pack in your hospital bag

Learn about how much sleep newborns need

Page last reviewed: 9 November 2021
Next review due: 9 November 2024

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.