You might think that preparing your little one’s formula will become second nature in no time, but portion sizes change quickly for a growing baby. Staying on top of your baby’s new formula requirements can be overwhelming. You might find yourself in need of a “cheat sheet” to know how many scoops of formula you need for your baby’s bottle.
Most types of baby formula require one scoop of powdered formula for every two ounces of water. However, it’s important to keep in mind that scoop sizes vary even within the different lines of a brand. While a one-time mistake shouldn’t cause harm, consistently giving your baby improperly prepared formula can lead to serious health consequences.
Continue reading for quick tips and safety guidelines for preparing your baby’s powdered formula.
How many scoops of formula do I need to make my baby’s bottle?
Baby formulas are developed to replicate the nutrients found in breast milk, providing little ones with everything they need to thrive in their first year. There are many baby formulas available on the market today. Though they share a common purpose, it is important to remember that they are not all formulated alike.
When preparing your baby’s formula, the safest method is to follow the instructions detailed on the side of the formula can. These can also sometimes also be found on the brand’s website. Most manufacturers require one scoop of powdered formula for every two ounces of water. Though this ratio is common, scoop sizes vary from brand-to-brand.
Comparing popular brands, most scoop sizes are around 3.5 teaspoons, which is a little over 1 tablespoon. If you have lost or forgotten your formula scoop, making an educated approximation once shouldn’t pose a significant risk; however, consistently giving your baby diluted or over-concentrated formula can be dangerous.
Are all baby formula brands the same?
The FDA regulates all baby formula to ensure that they meet specific nutrient guidelines. These guidelines include minimum or maximum ranges for nearly 40 nutrients; however, formula recipes can vary quite a bit while still satisfying these standards.
Differences between some baby formulas might simply be due to variability in brands’ recipes, raw materials, and manufacturing processes. While other differences are more deliberate, relating to health needs.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), some variations between formulations include:
- Cow’s Milk Protein Formula is the basic formula recommended for most infants. These formula lines are made from cow’s milk that has been modified to mimic human breast milk.
- Hypoallergenic Formula is recommended for babies with dairy allergies or intolerances. These formulas contain partially or fully hydrolyzed proteins, which are easier to digest.
- Soy Formula can be given to babies with dairy allergies or intolerances. It is also a good option for vegan families.
- Lactose-Free Formula can be recommended for babies who are lactose intolerant or sensitive to lactose. Though it is made from cow’s milk, the lactose, or milk sugar, has been removed and replaced with other sugars (typically corn syrup or sucrose).
- Anti-reflux or Anti-Spit Up Formula is thicker than other formulas, which helps to prevent reflux. Special care must be taken when preparing this formula to ensure there are no lumps.
In contrast to the variety of baby formulas that address specific health needs, some formulas contain specialty ingredients that are said to enhance the formula’s benefits.
Here is a list of common additions:
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Arachidonic acid (AA) are omega fatty acids that are said to be good for brain and eye development; however, some studies show that these additions provide no benefit to formula-fed babies. Since there are no known adverse effects and DHA and AA are both found in breastmilk, they are still popular ingredients.
- Probiotics are “good bacteria” that are sometimes added to formulas to improve babies’ gut health. Breastmilk contains a multitude of probiotics, and though these can’t be replicated, probiotic enhancements in formula can be beneficial.
- Prebiotics contain nondigestible ingredients that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Like probiotics, these are also found in large quantities in breastmilk.
- Nucleotides are nitrogen compounds found in DNA and RNA. They are also abundant in breastmilk. Studies show that supplementing with nucleotides results in weight gain and brain growth.
- Lactoferrin is a protein that is found in breastmilk that has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
- Milk Fat Globule Membranes (MFGM) are composed of proteins, lipids, and sugars, which surround milk droplets. These membranes, which are typically removed during homogenization, have actually been seen to improve cognition in infants.
How much formula does baby need?
Your baby’s formula intake will change a lot during their first year of life.
Newborns’ small bellies will fill up quickly, so they require small bottles, frequently. As babies get older, they can take bigger bottles and go longer between feedings.
Here is a chart detailing the general guidelines for infant feeding per the American Academy of Pediatrics:
General Guidelines for Infant Feeding
|Newborn||1-3 oz||Every 2-3 hours|
|1-3 Months||4-5 oz||Every 3-4 hours|
|3-6 Months||4-8 oz||Every 3-4 hours|
|6-9 Months||6-8 oz||Every 4-5 hours|
|9-12 Months||7-8 oz||Every 6-8 hours|
How many scoops of formula for baby’s bottle?
Preparation instructions vary depending on the brand; however, many popular brands use one scoop of formula per two ounces of water.
Though the 1:2 (powder to water) mixing ratio is common, it is important to remember that most scoop sizes are different. Using the wrong scoop can result in a diluted or over-concentrated formula.
Giving your baby mismeasured formula once or twice will probably not result in any adverse effects, but consistently making this mistake can be extremely dangerous. Dr. Lana Gagin, medical director of Spectrum Health’s Well Baby Unit, explains that incorrectly mixed formula can cause electrolyte disturbances, which can lead to neurological damage.
If you have lost the scoop to your formula, check out my article How Much Is A Scoop of Formula? (By Weight and Volume!).
Many parents will admit that the math involved in preparing their baby’s bottles can be puzzling, especially during those sleepless nights. Here is a chart to make this process easier (based on Similac’s powdered formulas):
How many scoops of formula per ounce of water
|Amount of Formula||Powder Formula|
(Number of Scoops)
|Amount of Water
(By Fluid Ounce)
|1 fl oz|
|2 fl oz|
|3 fl oz|
|4 fl oz|
|5 fl oz|
|6 fl oz|
|7 fl oz|
|8 fl oz|
|9 fl oz |
|10 fl oz|
Preparing an odd number of ounces requires a half scoop, which can be hard to measure precisely. To avoid diluting or over-concentrating your baby’s formula, consider bumping up to the nearest even number and reserving the extra ounce, or use a kitchen scale to ensure you are using the appropriate amount of powdered formula.
How to prep a bottle of formula from powder
Recipes and scoop sizes may vary between formula brands, but there are standard practices for safely preparing a bottle of any powdered formula.
To prepare a bottle of formula:
- Check your formula expiration date to ensure your formula is still good.
- Wash your hands and clean your countertop or prep area.
- Prepare clean bottles and bottle accessories.
- Determine how much formula you need and follow the instructions provided on your formula.
- Add your measured water to a clean bottle. (Any type of clean water will do. If you are concerned about the cleanliness of your water or fluorosis, discuss this with your pediatrician.)
- Add your powdered formula to the bottle, using the scoop provided with your formula.
- Place a nipple and cap on the bottle and shake well.
- If your baby prefers warm formula, warm your bottle in a water bath or bottle warmer. Never use a microwave.
How long does a bottle of formula last?
The task of preparing baby formula can seem endless, especially when your baby is eating every couple of hours.
Though you should avoid preparing bulk batches of formula, you can make formula preparation easier by reserving formula.
- Use prepared baby formula within two hours of preparation and within one hour from the start of the feeding.
- If you are not using the formula immediately, store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.
- Never save formula from your baby’s unfinished bottle. Bacteria from your baby’s saliva can cause bacterial growth.
- Store formula in a cool, dry place with the lid secured.
- Many formulas must be used up within 1 month of opening the container. Check the formula label and consider recording the date it was opened.
- Never use powdered formula after the “Use By” or expiration date.
For additional information on baby formula expiration, see my article Baby Accidentally Drank Old Formula (Old Bottle or Expired Powder).