A Guide to New Zealand Baby Food and Powders

Also called infant food, baby milk or baby formula

What kind of formula milk does my older baby need?

There are cow's milk formulas that are marketed for babies from six months, because they are high in iron which growing babies need. However, these milks are not nutritionally necessary. Your baby will be getting the iron and other nutrients she needs from her solid foods. There’s no need to switch to a different milk if your baby is happy with breastmilk or her usual formula.

Milks marketed for older babies include:

Follow-on milks

These are milks with higher protein and mineral content than ordinary infant formula. They are sold as suitable for babies from six months old. Follow-on milks are advertised as more nutritious than cow's milk, because they contain added iron, vitamins and minerals. However, bear in mind that cow's milk is not a suitable drink for your baby until she’s a year old anyway.

Goodnight milks

These are follow-on milks with added cereal, which are marketed at parents as helping babies to sleep better at night. However, there’s no evidence that they help babies to settle at night or that they take longer to digest.

Don’t give goodnight milk to your baby if she’s less than six months old because cereal isn’t suitable for younger babies. Also don’t give this milk to your baby if she is overweight.

Growing-up milks

Growing-up milks are marketed at parents as being better than cow's milk because they contain added iron and other vitamins and minerals. They are promoted to be used for babies from about one year old.

However, growing-up milk isn’t needed, as once your baby’s a year old she can have full-fat cow's milk as her main drink. She’ll also be eating a varied and balanced diet, which should provide her with all the essential vitamins and minerals, without the need for growing-up milk.

These extra formula milks are not really necessary at all. Your baby can get all she needs as she grows by having her standard formula milk alongside calcium-rich and iron-rich foods. You can then move your baby onto cow’s milk when she’s a year old.

The only reason you may want to change your baby’s milk is if you’re raising her as a vegetarian. When your start her on solids from six months, you may find it difficult to find enough vegetarian foods that are rich in iron. So an iron-rich formula may be a good option.

What’s the cost and preparation time of formula milk?

Formula milk does take time to prepare. Depending on the sterilising method and the type of formula you use, making up one bottle could take around 30 to 40 minutes. So if you give your baby six bottles a day, you could spend up to four hours a day preparing your baby’s formula feeds.

Most formula milks are sold as dry milk powder, packaged in tins. You make up the formula by adding scoops of the dried milk powder to cooled, boiled water.

Some brands are available in pre-measured sachets which contain the right amount of formula for one feed. These can a bit pricier, but they are useful when you're travelling or when you want to make sure a feed is made up accurately. You can also buy ready-made formula milk, which is more expensive, but very handy for when you're out for the day or on holiday.

Prices vary by brand, type, and retailer, but it costs around £7 for a 900g tin of powdered cow's milk-based formula milk. You generally pay about the same for soya-based infant formulas and lactose-free formulas. Hydrolysed-protein formula costs more, although you can get this on prescription if your baby has a cow's milk intolerance or allergy.

If your baby is a year old and can drink cow's milk, you may like to stop giving her formula milk. Formula milk is more expensive than cow's milk and you may find it a hassle to prepare. Cow’s milk just needs pouring into a beaker, and warming up, if your baby likes it that way.