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Lisa Morris Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP

Lisa Morris Bonsall, MSN, RN, CRNP is the clinical editor for Lippincott's Lisa has been a nurse for 15 years with experience in critical care and women’s health.

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Mother feeding formula to Asian newborn Maneerat

Formula Feeding as an Alternative to Breast Milk

Ask the Expert


I’ve decided to formula-feed my baby and want to know if she's getting what she needs for healthy growth and development?


Yes, infant formula is the only safe and nutritious alternative to breast milk. Not everyone can or will choose to breastfeed ; you have to do what is right for your family.

If you choose to formula-feed your infant, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting with a cow's milk–based formula. Iron-fortified formula is usually the best choice for a baby who will be partially or entirely formula-fed. Iron-fortified formula is designed to have the right balance of nutrients and be easy to digest. Iron is an important nutrient during the baby's first year, and feeding iron-fortified infant formula is the easiest way to ensure adequate intake.

However, if your baby shows signs of not tolerating typical milk-based, iron-fortified formula—for example by vomiting, diarrhea or fussing after feedings or by not gaining weight—your doctor may recommend a soy-based or lactose-free milk-based formula. These are all healthy, nutritionally rich alternatives to milk-based formula.

If you decide to formula-feed your baby, you can feel confident that your child will receive all the nutrients necessary to grow, develop and thrive. If you have questions regarding formula feeding, speak with your health care provider, who should be able to help.

This resource was developed with the support of the International Formula Council.

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