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Are you planning to bottle-feed your baby by choice, or are you worried that breastfeeding may be challenging? Whatever your preferences, you will want to have some basic information about baby formula in case you need it.

This article answers some of the most frequently asked questions about formula. 

How to choose the right formula

Baby formula comes in ready to use, liquid, and powder varieties. The overwhelming majority of parents will choose powdered formula, which is easy to store and travel with, and also most affordable. Most parents won't think twice before choosing powdered formula, but the choice within that sub group is overwhelming. Do you want cow's milk or soy? Hypo-allergenic? Fortified with iron and fatty acids? Store brand, or brand name? In the United States, all baby formulas have to be approved by the FDA, food and drug administration, before they can be sold. This means that store bought formula (unless maybe from very, very obscure and illegal stores) is fit for human consumption. Babies that don't have allergies should, according to most doctors, be on a cow's milk-based formula. If you are dealing with allergies, consulting your pediatrician, nutritionist, or other relevant healthcare provider is essential. Signs that you may need to switch your baby's formula include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weird stools and a bad diaper rash
  • Skin rash
  • Growth problems

You and your pediatrician should work together to monitor your baby's progress and watch out for any red flags.

What supplies do you need to formula feed?

If you are new to baby formula, you probably won't know the first thing about it. Don't panic, as the information on how to prepare a baby bottle and how much formula to give to your baby all comes with the package. Here are the basic supplies besides formula and clean water that you will need, as well as some of the supplies that are not strictly necessary but nice to have:

  • A couple of bottles, and a few appropriate nipples
  • An electric kettle to boil the water
  • A measuring spoon, which comes with the formula
  • Either a microwave or bottle warmer
  • A sterilizing system or saucepan with boiling water
  • A brush to clean the inside of the bottle
  • Milk powder storage containers with premeasured formula portions, which also come in a stackable form

Medical reasons to avoid breastfeeding

Breast isn't always best sometimes, breastfeeding is medically dangerous. So, when do you need to avoid breastfeeding? According to some old wives' tales, it is important to quit breastfeeding if you get a cold or take antibiotics. Most people know that that is utter nonsense. Mothers who are HIV positive, however, have an excellent reason to bottle-feed their baby. Today, doctors can almost guarantee that HIV is not passed on from mother to child during pregnancy with the right care. The same does not hold true for breastfeeding. Hepatitis B and C also cross into breast milk.

Moms with Hepatitis B or C infections can breastfeed though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say, as long as appropriate precautions are taken. The baby should receive immune globulin within the first 12 hours of life, as well as the first dose of the vaccine. After that, the relevant immunization schedule should closely be followed. Having an outbreak of herpes, which can appear on the nipples, may also mean you cannot breastfeed at least temporarily. A primary outbreak of genital herpes is a reason to have a c-section, moms with cold sores should avoid kissing their newborn at all costs, and herpes on the nipples means you can pump and dump your milk until the outbreak is over. Read more about the dangers of herpes to a newborn by clicking the link. Some medications are also incompatible with breastfeeding. There are too many of them in too many categories to even attempt a list, but this is something to be aware of. Don't assume that all medications that cross into the breast milk are dangerous enough to warrant weaning, but do consult your doctor about this issue and double check with other sources, such as a competent lactation consultant and the medication's manufacturer. Sometimes a drug that would pose a danger to a nursing baby can be avoided in favor of a more breastfeeding friendly drug, and sometimes it can't.

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