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What should I know about formula?

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Breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends iron-fortified infant formula as an appropriate alternative during the first year of life, when breast milk is not available.

A variety of formulas are sold for infants who are not breastfed or who are partially breastfed.

Formulas include:

  • Cow's milk–based formulas and soy-based formulas, which are fortified with iron
  • Hypoallergenic formulas for those with or at risk for allergic conditions
  • Other formulas designed to meet certain dietary needs, such as galactose-free formulas1

Infants who drink enough formula and are gaining weight appropriately usually do not need extra vitamins or minerals, as long as the formula is fortified with vitamin D and iron. Your health care provider may prescribe extra fluoride if the infant formula is mixed with non-fluoridated water.2

Infant formulas can be purchased in the following forms:1

  • Ready to use: Do not need to be mixed with water
  • Powdered: Must be mixed with water
  • Concentrated liquid: Must be mixed with water

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) closely monitors infant formulas to make sure they meet certain standards of nutrition for infants.1

Visit the FDA's webpage FDA 101: Infant Formula to learn more about infant formulas, nutritional specifications, and safety: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048694.htm

Visit the AAP's policy on breastfeeding to learn more about infant formula recommendations:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full External Web Site Policy


  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (n.d.). Infant formula feeding. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://www.nal.usda.gov/wicworks/Topics/FG/Chapter4_InfantFormulaFeeding.pdf (PDF - 815 KB) [top]
  2. MedlinePlus. (2012, April 19). Infant formulas. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002447.htm [top]

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Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 12/19/2013
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