Formula milk is also known as infant formula or baby formula. It's made from cows' milk that is treated to make it more suitable for your baby.
You might use formula milk if:
- breastfeeding did not go as planned
- you want to do combination feeding (breast milk and formula milk)
- you are unable to breastfeed your baby - this can include practical and health-related reasons
- you decide to formula feed only
- you have finished breastfeeding
Formula milk gives your baby the nutrients they need to grow and develop. But it does not have the same health benefits as breast milk. For example, it cannot protect your baby from infections.
You can get support if you want to breastfeed but are having difficulties. Talk to your midwife, public health nurse or an online lactation consultant. They can give you advice on all feeding options. This includes trying breastfeeding again, if it is an option for you.
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 cows' milk
- sheep's milk
- goats' milk
- condensed milk
- oat milk
- almond milk
- rice milk
First infant formula
First infant formula is the type of formula recommended for newborns. This should always be the formula you use. It's suitable until your baby is 1 year old.
The cows' milk in formula contains 2 types of proteins - whey and casein. First infant formula is based on whey protein, which may be easier to digest.
There are several brands of first formula milk available on the market. These are regulated to make sure they have the essential ingredients your baby needs.
First infant formula will normally have a large number 1 on the packet.
Talk to your public health nurse (PHN) or GP before changing your baby's infant formula.
Hungry baby milk
Hungry baby formula contains more casein than whey. Casein is a protein that is harder for babies to digest.
This type of formula milk is often described as suitable for "hungrier babies". But there is no evidence that babies settle better or sleep longer when fed it.
Hungry baby milk is suitable from birth, but ask your PHN for advice first.
Never feed follow-on formula to babies under 6 months old.
We do not recommend switching to follow-on formula at 6 months. It has no benefits for your baby. Your baby can have first infant formula as their main drink until they are 1 year old.
The labels on follow-on formula can look very similar to those on first infant formula. Read the label carefully to avoid making a mistake. Follow-on formulas normally have a large number 2 on the packet.
Ask your midwife, PHN 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.