Formula Feeding FAQs: Starting Solids and Milk

Formula Feeding FAQs: Starting Solids and Milk

Whether you've decided to formula feed your baby from the start, are supplementing your breast milk with formula, or are switching from breast milk to formula, you're bound to have questions. Here are answers to some common queries about formula feeding.

When should I introduce solid foods and juice?

The best time to introduce solid foods is when your baby has developed the skills needed to eat. This usually happens between the ages of 4 and 6 months. How do you know when your baby is ready?

Babies who are ready to eat solids foods:

Wait until your baby is at least 4 months old and shows these signs of readiness before introducing solids. Babies who start solid foods before 4 months are at a higher risk of becoming obese.

When the time is right, start with a single-grain, iron-fortified cereal for babies (rice cereal has traditionally been the first food for babies, but you can start with any you prefer). Start with one or two tablespoons of cereal mixed with formula to achieve the right consistency. (As an alternative, you can give an iron-rich puréed meat.) Feed your baby with a small baby spoon, and never add cereal to a baby's bottle unless your doctor instructs you to do so.

At this stage, solids should be fed after a bottle-feeding session, not before. That way, your baby fills up on formula, which should still be your baby's main source of nutrients until age 1.

Once your baby gets the hang of eating cereal, introduce a variety of puréed fruits, vegetables, and meats. Wait a few days between introducing a new food to make sure your baby doesn't have an allergic reaction.

Note: There is no benefit to offering fruit juice, even to older babies. Juice can fill them up and leave little room for more nutritious foods, promote obesity, cause diarrhea, and even put a baby at an increased risk for cavities when teeth start coming in.

When can I start giving my baby cow's milk?

Before their first birthday, babies still need the nutrients in breast milk or formula. But at 1 year old, your baby can try whole cow's milk. Why not skim or 2%? Because babies need the fat in whole milk for normal growth and brain development during the busy early toddler period.

You can transition your baby from formula to whole milk by beginning to replace bottles of formula with bottles — or sippy cups — of milk. By 1 year old, your baby should be eating a variety of other foods and only 2-3 cups (480-720 milliliters) of milk per day.

If your baby was put on a soy or hypoallergenic formula because of a milk allergy, talk to your doctor before introducing milk.

When can I start giving my baby water?

In their first few months, babies usually don't need extra water. On very hot days, most babies do well with additional feedings. But you may want to offer your infant water, especially if your baby's pee is dark or your baby urinates less frequently than usual.

Once your baby is eating solid foods, you can offer a few ounces of water between feedings, but don't force it. Water that is fortified with fluoride will help your baby develop healthy teeth and gums. If you live in an area with nonfluoridated water, your doctor or dentist may prescribe fluoride drops.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

© 1995-2015 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and

Bookmark and Share

Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Medical Association (AMA) The AMA has made a commitment to medicine by making doctors more accessible to their patients. Contact the AMA at: American Medical Association
515 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 464-5000
OrganizationU.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
Web SiteAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics Offering nutrition information, resources, and access to registered dietitians.
Web SiteWomen, Infants, and Children (WIC) The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children - better known as the WIC Program - serves to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.
OrganizationWorld Health Organization (WHO) WHO, the United Nations' specialized agency, works to give people worldwide the highest possible level of health - physically, mentally, and socially.
Web The Office on Women's Health (OWH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), offers reliable health and wellness information for women and girls.
Related Articles
Calcium and Your Child Milk and other calcium-rich foods help build strong, healthy bones. But more than 85% of girls and 60% of boys don't get enough calcium each day.
Feeding Your 8- to 12-Month-Old At this age, babies start to explore table foods.
Milk Allergy in Infants Almost all infants are fussy at times. But some are excessively fussy because they have an allergy to the protein in cow's milk, which is the basis for most commercial baby formulas.
Feeding Your Newborn How you feed your newborn is the first nutrition decision you will make for your child. Take a closer look at these guidelines for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding so you can make an informed choice.
Feeding Your 1- to 3-Month-Old Whether you've chosen to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, your infant will let you know when it's time to eat.
Feeding Your 4- to 7-Month-Old How can you tell if your baby is ready for solids? Learn how and when to get started.
Formula Feeding FAQs: Getting Started Shopping for formula-feeding supplies can be daunting. Here are answers to some common questions about formula feeding.
Formula Feeding FAQs: How Much and How Often Get answers to some common formula-feeding inquiries, from how much newborns eat to what their diapers might look like.
Formula Feeding FAQs: Preparation and Storage Check out these formula-feeding bottle basics, from how to mix bottles to how to store them safely.
Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding Making a decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. There are some points to consider to help you decide which option is best for you and your baby.
Formula Feeding FAQs: Some Common Concerns Read about how to manage common formula-feeding concerns, from spitting up and fussiness to gas and milk allergies.
A Guide for First-Time Parents If you're a first-time parent, put your fears aside and get the basics in this guide about burping, bathing, bonding, and other baby-care concerns.
Developments Developments
Sign up for enewsletter
Get involved Get involved
Discover ways to support Akron Children's
Join the conversation Join the conversation
See what our patient families are saying