Types of formula

Formula milk, also known as formula feed, baby formula or infant formula, is made from cow's milk. It has been changed to make it suitable for your baby.

Extra nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are added to help your baby to grow and develop.

Formula milk comes in powdered form or in 'ready to feed' cartons. Formula contains additives like vegetable oils, vitamins and minerals. These make sure that the formula contains the nutrients that babies need.


Breast milk is the best and most natural food for your baby.

Your body makes breast milk that is unique for your baby. The special ingredients are vital for normal growth, development and good health.

It protects your baby against many illnesses and conditions. Infant formula cannot reproduce these ingredients.


Do not use soy formula for babies under 6 months unless your GP or paediatrician recommends this.

Do not give a baby under the age of 1:

  • regular cow's milk
  • sheep's milk
  • goat's milk
  • condensed milk
  • oat milk
  • almond milk
  • rice milk

First infant formula

If you choose not to breastfeed or if you are unable to breastfeed your baby, you need to use formula.

First infant formula is the type of formula recommended for newborns. This should always be the formula you use and is suitable until your baby is 1 year old.

Non-urgent advice: Talk to your public health nurse or GP before you:

  • change your baby's infant formula

There are several different brands of first formula milks available on the market. These are regulated to ensure they have the essential ingredients your baby needs.

Hungry baby milk

Hungry baby formula contains more casein than whey. Casein is a protein that is harder for babies to digest.

It's often described as suitable for 'hungrier babies'. There is no evidence that babies settle better or sleep longer when fed this type of formula.

Hungry baby milk is suitable from birth, but ask your public health nurse for advice first.

Follow-on formula

Follow-on formula is sometimes called 'number 2 milk'. Switching to follow-on formula at 6 months has no benefits for your baby.

From 6 months you should begin weaning to solids and aim for a healthy balanced diet.


Never give 'follow-on' formulas to a baby under the age of 6 months

Your baby can carry on having first infant formula as their main drink until they are 1 year old.

The labels on follow-on formula can look like first infant formula. Read them to avoid making a mistake.


Ask your midwife, public health nurse or GP about giving formula milk to your newborn baby. Check with them if you are considering changing your baby's formula. Avoid changing the type of formula you give your baby.

Page last reviewed: 15 March 2018
Next review due: 15 March 2021