Artificial Baby Milk (Formula)

Artificial Baby Milk (Formula) Topics 
arrowTypes of Artificial Baby Milk (Formula) arrowPreparation and Sterilization
arrowFeeding My Baby arrowFrequently Asked Questions

The World Health Organization states breast milk is the natural food for your baby.

If you have made an informed decision not to breastfeed your baby or if it is not possible to feed breast milk to your baby, a breast milk substitute such as iron-fortified artificial baby milk (formula) may be used to feed most babies.

If feeding artificial baby milk (formula), this is the only food your baby needs for the first six months. Check the Formula Feeding Brochure for more information.

At six months of age, when your baby shows signs of readiness, you can begin to offer iron rich complementary foods with artificial baby milk. You can see more information on the Introduction to Solids page.

Things you will need to consider:

  • Different types of artificial baby milk (formula) available
  • Water used to make artificial baby milk (formula) if needed
  • How to sterilize equipment
  • How to feed your baby with a bottle
  • Safe storage of artificial baby milk (formula)

If you are considering using artificial baby milk (formula), you should speak to your primary health care provider or you can call 519-575-4400 to speak to a Public Health Nurse.

Types of artificial baby milk (formula)

There are many different types and brands of artificial baby milk (formula) available.

For most babies, cow's milk based artificial baby milk (formula) is recommended.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends sterile liquid artificial baby milk for infants who are premature, have a low-birth weight, are ill, or are less than two months old.

Note: Powdered artificial baby milk (formula) is not sterile and may contain germs that may make your baby sick.

Speak to your health care provider before choosing a type of artificial baby milk (formula) or if you are thinking about switching types.

Buying artificial baby milk (formula)

  • Always buy artificial baby milk (formula) with iron: look for "iron fortified" or "added iron"
  • Check the expiry date. Do not use if after that date
  • Check the type of artificial baby milk (formula) (e.g. ready-to-feed, liquid concentrate, powdered)

Types of artificial baby milk (formula)

Ready-to-feed Liquid concentrate Powdered
  • Sterile product
  • No preparation needed
  • Sterile product
  • Water must be added
  • Not a sterile product; may contain germs that may make babies sick
  • Water must be added
  • If you choose to use, follow the preparation instructions closely

Check What Kind of Artificial Baby Milk Should I Buy to know what to look for when buying artificial baby milk (formula)

Visit the Health Canada website for recent recalls and food safety alerts, including recalls of artificial baby milk (formula).

To download the app click here.
To subscribe to updates click here.

Preparation, sterilization and storage


Equipment used to prepare and feed artificial baby milk (formula) should be sterile. Learn more about how to sterilize equipment.

Using water to make formula

Water used to prepare artificial baby milk (formula) must be sterile and safe. There are different sources of water you can use. It is important to follow these steps on how to make sure water is safe.


How to Prepare Ready-to-Feed Artificial Baby Milk (Formula) 

How to Prepare Liquid Concentrate Artificial Baby Milk (Formula) 

How to Prepare Powdered Artificial Baby Milk (Formula) for Healthy-Term Infants

It is safest to prepare only enough for one feeding at a time and to feed it right away after cooling. Check here for more information on preparing and storing feeds for later use. 

Feeding my baby

Do not expect your baby to eat on a schedule. Every baby is different and needs to be fed when they show signs of hunger.

Babies have small stomachs and drink to satisfy both their hunger and thirst. In the first few weeks, newborns will eat small amounts frequently.

Newborns should eat a minimum of eight times in 24 hours and may want to eat more frequently than this. Babies will need to feed during the night for several months.

Feeding cues

Watch for early signs of hunger and try to feed your baby as soon as you see these signs. Crying is a late sign of hunger and can make it harder for you to calm your baby to feed them.

It is important to hold your baby while you feed them. Let your baby eat as quickly or as slowly as they want. Allow your baby to stop and rest during the feeding. Stop feeding when your baby shows signs of having enough.

Signs your baby may be hungry:

Check images showing different stages of baby feeding cues/signs.

Early cues:

  • Putting their hands in their mouth
  • Making sucking motions or soundsfussy baby
  • Sticking out their tongue and licking
  • Turning their head and searching with an open mouth
  • Restlessness

Late Cues:

  • Fussiness
  • Crying
  • Falling asleep

Signs your baby may be satisfied (has had enough):

  • Slows down or stops sucking
  • Closes the lips
  • Turns head away
  • Relaxes, arms and legs stretch outsmiling mom and baby
  • Takes more interest in surrounding things

Signs of a well-fed baby:

  • Your baby has a loud cry and moves actively
  • Your baby's mouth is moist and pink
  • Your baby's eyes are alert
  • Your baby has regular wet and soiled diapers
  • Your baby is gaining weight

If you are having trouble seeing your baby's feeding cues or if you are concerned about how much your baby is eating, contact your primary health care provider.

It is normal for babies to lose an average of seven per cent of their birth weight in the first three days after birth. Your baby should regain their birth weight by 10-14 days of age.

Approximate amounts of artificial baby milk (formula) to prepare:

Guide for the Amount of Artificial Baby Milk (formula) to Prepare

How to feed your baby with a bottle:

Ask your nurse, midwife or health care provider to help you with bottle feeding. Get help right away if you are having problems with bottle feeding.

How to Feed Your Baby with a Bottle

Growth spurts

These are times your baby will grow more quickly. Your baby may need to feed more often and/or drink more artificial baby milk (formula) at a feeding. Growth spurts usually occur around three weeks, six weeks, three months and six months of age and usually last a few days.

Frequently asked questions

  1. How can I re-warm refrigerated artificial baby milk (formula)?
  2. Can I make pre-prepared containers of artificial baby milk (formula) for travelling?
  3. What if I do not have boiling water for sterilizing?
  4. When can I give cow's milk or vegetarian beverages to my baby? To learn more about introducing cow's milk and solids, see Feeding Your Baby Solid Foods booklet  
    • Whole cow's milk may be offered when your baby is 9-12 months of age and your baby is eating sources of iron from foods such as iron-fortified infant cereal, meat, egg yolks or legumes

    • Whole cow's milk (homogenized or 3.25%MF) should be offered until your baby is two years of age

    • Do not give skim, one per cent or two per cent milk to your baby until after two years of age

    • Vegetarian drinks such as soy or rice drinks should not be given to your baby until after two years of age

  5. What if I change my mind and want to breastfeed my baby?
    • It is best if breastfeeding is started right after your baby is born. Every situation is different. Talk to your health care provider or breastfeeding expert about  your situation.

    • If you have been feeding artificial baby milk (formula) since birth, it may still be possible for you to breastfeed
    • If you started to breastfeed and stopped, it may also be possible to breastfeed again. This is called relactation


For more information and to speak to a Public Health Nurse, please call Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400.