Formula Feeding your Baby

Updated January 18th, 2023

Deciding how to feed your baby may come with a lot of questions. You may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information there is. If you are still deciding and want more information on breastfeeding, click here.

Some families choose to feed formula for medical or personal reasons.  You can choose to feed your baby only formula or supplement breastfeeding. If formula feeding is part of your plan, this information is for you.

This information is for healthy full-term babies.  Ask your health care provider about what type of formula is best if your baby:

  • is premature
  • is ill
  • has a low birth weight or
  • has special needs.

How to Choose an infant formula

  • There are many types and brands of formula on the market. Choose what works best for your situation unless your health care provider says your baby needs a special formula. Don’t choose a formula based on advertising or the brand they gave you in the hospital.
  • All formulas have to meet safety standards set by Health Canada. The law requires that all brands of regular formula have the same basic ingredients.
  • For most babies, a cow’s milk-based, store-bought infant formula with iron is best. Always check the label for the type of infant formula you are buying for your baby.
  • Formula with prebiotics, probiotics or DHA and ARA fats added are available. However, the research is mixed about whether these types of formulas are beneficial for all babies.
  • Organic formula is not necessary. Parents may choose it for personal reasons.
  • Formula with “partially broken down” proteins is not needed by most infants, but may be recommended by a health care provider for some medical conditions.
  • When buying formula check the expiry date on the package.  This is usually printed on the top, bottom or sides of the container. Do no use formula that is expired.
  • Never buy formula if the container is damaged, dented, unlabelled or bulging.
  • Formula fed babies need to stay on infant formula until they are 9-12 months of age. “Follow-up” formula is NOT needed.
Hot parent tip: All breastfed and formula fed babies need a vitamin D supplement.
Do not use…
  • Homemade formula
  • Cow or goat milk
  • Plant-based beverages made from almonds, cashews, soy, rice or other plants. Soy-based infant formulas are  recommended for babies with some medical conditions. Some parents may decide to use soy formulas for personal, cultural or religious reasons.

There are three types of infant formula

  • Ready-to-use – It really is ready to use.  You do not need to add anything to it. This type is generally the most expensive
  • Concentrated liquid – You need to add sterile water according to the directions on the package. This type is also more expensive.
  • Powder – This is the least expensive type of formula.  Unlike the others, powdered formula is not sterile. It is not recommended for babies who :
    • are born premature(<37 weeks gestation) and are under two months of age
    • are born with a low birth weight (<2500g) and are under two months of age
    • have a weakened immune system
    • If you’re are unsure, talk to your health care provider before giving powdered formula to your baby.

More things you need to know about formula feeding

Feeding your baby is more than providing nourishment. It’s also a time to learn about your baby, and connect with each other. This helps your baby grow and develop. Skin to skin contact during feeding has many benefits, including calming your baby and helping him feel safe and secure.

partners holding their baby

How to feed your baby with infant formula: A Nova Scotia Resource
Infant Formula What you Need Know: A Best Start Ontario Resource
Formula Feeding Your Baby: Manitoba Government



Limited Supply of Infant Formula

Canada now has a stable supply of specialized infant formula. Although stock is available for many products, supply of some formula brands may be limited. The Canadian and Manitoba Governments continue to monitor the supply of infant formula. This page will be updated as availability changes and as new information comes forward.

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