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High-Calorie Formula Recipes for Baby Weight Gain

weight management expert
Last updated on January 2, 2023
High-calorie formulas for baby weight gain - featured image.

If parents with babies that struggle to gain weight, whether they take care of premature infants, full-term babies, or toddlers, don't know which formulas are high in calories or how to prepare one, they can neglect their babies’ nutritional needs, which can lead to underdevelopment and serious health problems for the little ones.

But don't worry if you have no idea what high-calorie formulas are.

Get ready to find recipes that tell you how to make high-calorie formulas, lists ranking the best powder, concentrate, and ready-to-feed formulas, and advice that helps you ensure your baby gains weight safely.

To put together everything you'll find in this article, we researched official medical guidelines, topic-related scientific articles, and, not lastly, the recommendations of different children’s hospitals and pediatric health authorities.

Contents

How to make high-calorie formula

To increase your baby’s calorie intake, you can fortify breast milk or switch to high-calorie formula.

Before preparing breast milk or formula with a higher number of calories, however, you must consult your baby’s doctor and get his approval.

What is high-calorie formula

A high-calorie formula is a formula that has more than 20 calories per ounce (30 ml).

Most standard formulas, according to Children’s Minnesota’s formula adjustment guidelines, have 20 calories per ounce (30 ml). Yet, the guidelines claim that some babies need more than 20 calories/oz to grow.[1]

Did you know? High-calorie formulas are the only beverages tailored for infants in the list of the best high-calorie drinks.

Learn below how to make different types of high-calorie formulas, whether you want to use breast milk, powder formula, or liquid concentrate formula.

How to fortify breast milk with formula: high-calorie recipe

If babies are breastfeeding, they can get more calories by having bottle feedings made of breast milk and powdered formula. The bottle feedings can replace breastfeeding sessions or be used as additional feedings between breast sittings.

Breast milk, according to clinical dietitian Lori S. Brizee from Seattle's Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, may be concentrated with a powdered formula to 24 calories per ounce (30 ml).[2]

Yet, the Children’s Minnesota’s fortified breast milk guidelines offer instructions for concentrating breast milk up to 28 calories per ounce (30 ml).[3]

No matter how many calories your baby needs, we have you covered.

After simplifying and improving Children’s Minnesota’s instructions for making high-calorie fortified breast milk, we made an easy-to-follow recipe for enhancing breast milk that you can find below.[3]

High-calorie recipe showing how to fortify breast milk with formula.

1. Reduce risk of feeding contamination

Since you don’t want to feed your baby any harmful substances, you should always make sure you prepare fortified breast milk in a clean way.

Here are actions you can take to prevent feeding contamination:

  • Wash hands with soap and water;
  • Clean the top of the formula container before opening;
  • Wash any tools used in the preparation, like the scoop or breast pump parts.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) point out the importance of washing all infant feeding items, such as bottles and nipples, meticulously. Moreover, you should consider sanitizing feeding items, such as bottles, pump parts, and nipples, for:

  • Infants younger than 3 months of age;
  • Premature infants;
  • Infants with a weakened immune system.[4]

2. Find out how many calories should your fortified breast milk have

The best way to find out how many calories per ounce (30 ml) should your fortified breast milk have is to ask your baby’s dietitian.

If your baby needs a higher caloric intake, then you will be advised to make fortified breast milk that has one of the following caloric intakes, depending on your baby’s needs:

  • 22 calories per ounce (30 ml) of fortified breast milk;
  • 24 calories per ounce (30 ml) of fortified breast milk;
  • 26 calories per ounce (30 ml) of fortified breast milk;
  • 28 calories per ounce (30 ml) of fortified breast milk.

3. Set breast milk to formula powder ratio

Breast milk to formula powder ratio - illustration.

Once you know how many calories should the fortified breast milk have, you can go on and set how much breast milk and formula powder you need to make it.

To measure breast milk, use a liquid measuring cup. To ration powder, use standard measuring spoons or the scoop provided with the formula can.

See below how much breast milk and 20-calorie formula powder you need to make different types of high-calorie fortified breast milk.

For 22 calories/oz (30 ml) fortified breast milk
  • 3 oz (90 ml) breast milk for ½ teaspoon formula powder
  • 4 oz (120 ml or ½ cup) breast milk for ¾ teaspoon formula powder
  • 6 oz (180 ml or ¾ cup) breast milk for 1 teaspoon formula powder
  • 8 oz (240 ml or 1 cup) breast milk for 1 ½ teaspoon formula powder
  • 16 oz (480 ml or 2 cups) breast milk for 1 tablespoon (3 tsp) formula powder
  • 18 oz (540 ml or 2 ¼ cups) breast milk for 1 scoop formula powder
For 24 calories/oz (30 ml) fortified breast milk
  • 2 oz (60 ml or ¼ cup) breast milk for ¾ teaspoon formula powder
  • 5 oz (150 ml) breast milk for 2 teaspoons formula powder
  • 8 oz (1 cup) breast milk for 1 tablespoon (3 tsp) formula powder
  • 10 oz (1 ¼ cups) breast milk for 1 scoop formula powder
  • 12 oz (1 ½ cups) breast milk for 1 tbsp and 2 tsp formula powder
  • 20 oz (2 ½ cups) breast milk for 2 scoops formula powder
For 26 calories/oz (30 ml) fortified breast milk
  • 50 ml breast milk for 1 teaspoon formula powder
  • 2 oz (60 ml or ¼ cup) for 1 ¼ teaspoons formula powder
  • 3 oz (90 ml) for 2 teaspoons formula powder
  • 5 oz (150 ml) for 1 tablespoon formula powder
  • 6 oz (180 ml or ¾ cup) for 1 scoop formula powder
  • 9 oz (270 ml) for 2 tablespoons formula powder
For 28 calories/oz (30 ml) fortified breast milk
  • 50 ml breast milk for 1 ½ teaspoons formula powder
  • 100 ml breast milk for 1 tablespoon formula powder
  • 5 oz breast milk for 1 scoop formula powder
  • 7 oz breast milk for 2 tablespoons formula powder
  • 12 oz breast milk for 3 ½ tablespoons formula powder

Note: you can use either regular or premature formula to make high-calorie fortified breast milk.

4. Warm the breast milk

To avoid clumping the formula powder, warm breast milk at room temperature or slightly above before mixing it with the powder.

To warm breast milk, put it in a bottle and place it in warm water.

5. Mix breast milk with formula powder

The last step you need to follow before finishing the fortified breast milk is to mix the ingredients.

Put the formula powder in the bottle containing the warmed breast milk. Then, shake the bottle well until there is no visible powder left.

How to make high-calorie formula from powder

To increase the calories of infant formula, you need to rise its caloric density by using a higher percentage of formula powder compared to water in the preparation phase.

Starting from CDC’s advice on how to prepare powdered infant formula (PDF), we put together a recipe for making a high-calorie formula using powdered formula.[5]

How to make high-calorie formula from powder.

1. Inspect the formula powder container

To make sure you can safely use the formula powder, check the expiration date on the can, and inspect the condition of the can. Usually, according to CDC, it’s not a good sign if the formula powder container has dents, puffy ends, or rust spots.

2. Reduce risk of feeding contamination

To keep your infant safe and healthy, always make formula in a clean environment.

Here are some precautions to take to avoid contamination:

  • Wipe the countertops;
  • Clean the top of the formula can, the bottle, and all the tools, like the scoop or measuring utensils;
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Besides, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consider sanitizing feeding items, such as bottles, pump parts, and nipples, for the following types of infants:

  • Infants younger than 3 months of age;
  • Premature infants;
  • Infants with a compromised immune system.[4]

3. Find out how many calories should your formula have

The best way to find out how many calories per ounce should your formula have is to ask your baby’s dietitian.

If your baby needs a higher caloric intake, then you will be advised to make a formula that has more than 20 calories per ounce (30 ml).

4. Set water to formula powder ratio

Water to formula powder ratio - illustration.

As a general rule backed up by CDC, when you prepare formula, you should use the specific amount of water and formula powder listed on the infant formula can.

In the case of preparing high-calorie formulas, however, you will rarely get instructions on the can.

Therefore, don’t try to adjust an infant formula on your own. Always get the baby’s dietitian’s approval beforehand because he is the most suitable person for giving ingredient ratio instructions regarding higher caloric intake.

Also, if you have children that are less than 1 year old, don’t add sugar, honey, or any other sweetener to breast milk or formula. Honey, according to the DGA, is especially harmful to babies under 1 year of age because it can cause botulism.[4]

Below are the ratios of water and formula powder needed for different types of high-calorie formulas, as recommended in Children’s Minnesota’s powdered formula recipe chart (PDF).[1]

For 22 calories/oz (30 ml) formula
  • 4 oz formula: 3 ½ oz (105 ml) water and 2 scoops formula powder
  • 6 oz formula: 5 ½ oz (165 ml) water and 3 scoops formula powder
  • 8 oz formula: 7 oz (210 ml) water and 4 scoops formula powder
  • 10 oz formula: 9 oz (270 ml) water and 5 scoops formula powder
  • 18 oz formula: 16 oz (480 ml) water and 9 scoops formula powder
  • 24 oz formula: 21 oz (630 ml) water and 12 scoops formula powder
For 24 calories/oz (30 ml) formula
  • 2 oz formula: 50 ml water and 1 scoop formula powder
  • 5 ½ oz formula: 5 oz (150 ml) water and 3 scoops formula powder
  • 9 oz formula: 8 oz (240 ml) water and 5 scoops formula powder
  • 15 oz formula: 13 oz (390 ml) water and 8 scoops formula powder
  • 20 ½ oz formula: 18 oz (540 ml) water and 11 scoops formula powder
  • 24 oz formula: 21 oz (630 ml) water and 13 scoops formula powder
For 26 calories/oz (30 ml) formula
  • 3 ½ oz formula: 3 oz (90 ml) water and 2 scoops formula powder
  • 10 ½ oz formula: 9 oz (270 ml) water and 6 scoops formula powder
  • 17 oz formula: 15 oz (450 ml) water and 10 scoops formula powder
  • 24 oz formula: 21 oz (630 ml) water and 14 scoops formula powder
  • 27 ½ oz formula: 24 oz (720 ml) water and 16 scoops formula powder
For 28 calories/oz (30 ml) formula
  • 4 ½ oz formula: 4 oz (120 ml) water and 3 scoops formula powder
  • 8 oz formula: 200 ml water and 5 scoops formula powder
  • 14 oz formula: 12 oz (360 ml) water and 9 scoops formula powder
  • 15 ½ oz formula: 400 ml water and 10 scoops formula powder
  • 18 ½ oz formula: 16 oz (480 ml) water and 12 scoops formula powder
Liquid measuring cup filled with water - illustration.
How to measure water

CDC advises people to measure water first before adding the formula powder. Also, the authoritative medical body warns people to not dilute formula by adding extra water because it can be harmful for babies.

In formulas, use water only from safe sources.

Tap water, according to CDC, is generally a safe option. To make sure your tap water is safe, contact your local health department.

Moreover, if you use tap water to prepare formula, you should, according to Children’s Minnesota’s formula adjustment guide, allow the cold tap water to flow freely for 30-60 seconds before adding it the bottle to avoid the water sitting in the pipes.[1]

A type of water that is not safe for children according to the Children’s Minnesota guidelines is well water because it might carry bacteria.

To measure the water, use a clear measuring cup for liquids. After you poured the water in it, put the cup on an even surface and check if the liquid is at the right level.

Scoop filled with formula powder.
How to measure formula powder

When it comes to measuring powder, you should use only the scoop provided in the formula can. Also, make sure to level the powder in the scoop.

Moreover, don’t replace the scoop with a tablespoon.

A tablespoon, according to a Washington study evaluating methods of making powdered formulas, is not an accurate measurement tool for preparing infant formulas, especially for infants with abnormal growth.[2]

5. Mix water with formula powder

After you added the right ingredient ratio to a feeding bottle, you need to mix the water and the formula powder by shaking it, and not stirring it.

Shake until lumps are gone.

6. Feed the formula

The next logical step after preparing the formula is feeding it to your baby.

You don’t need, according to CDC, to warm the bottle before feeding. Nevertheless, if you decide to do so, you can place the bottle under running warm water or into a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Keep in mind that the formula mustn’t be hot when you feed your infant. CDC recommends the wrist test to make sure of this: put a few drops on the inside of your wrist.

Warning: do not warm the formula in the microwave because it creates hot spots, which can be harmful for your baby’s mouth.

How to make high-calorie formula from liquid concentrate

You can also make high-calorie formulas by combining water with liquid concentrate formulas.

Formulas made from liquid concentrate formulas, according to registered dietitians from Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Washington, are the preferred choice if you need to be very precise with measurements.[2]

Below is a recipe, adapted from Children’s Minnesota’s formula adjustment guidelines, for preparing high-calorie formulas from liquid concentrate.[1]

How to make high-calorie formula from liquid concentrate.

1. Inspect the liquid concentrate formula’s container

It can be easy to confound liquid concentrate formulas with ready-to-use formulas because they are both liquids.

Therefore, always make sure to check the formula label for the word “concentrate” and the absence of the phrase “ready to use”.

2. Reduce risk of feeding contamination

To keep your infant safe and healthy, always make formula in a clean environment.

Here are some precautions to take to avoid contamination:

  • Wipe the countertops;
  • Clean the top of the formula can, the bottle, and all the tools, like the scoop or measuring utensils;
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.

Besides, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consider sanitizing feeding items, such as bottles, pump parts, and nipples, for the following types of infants:

  • Infants younger than 3 months of age;
  • Premature infants;
  • Infants with a compromised immune system.[4]

3. Find out how many calories should your formula have

The best way to find out how many calories per ounce should your formula have is to ask your baby’s dietitian.

If your baby needs a higher caloric intake, then you will be advised to make a formula that has more than 20 calories per ounce (30 ml).

4. Set water to liquid concentrate ratio

Water to liquid concentrate formula ratio - illustration.

In the case of preparing high-calorie formulas, you will rarely get instructions on the can. 

Therefore, don’t try to adjust an infant formula on your own. Always get the baby’s dietitian’s approval beforehand because he is the most suitable person for giving ingredient ratio instructions regarding higher caloric intake.

Also, if you have children that are less than 1 year old, don’t add sugar, honey, or any other sweetener to breast milk or formula. Honey, according to the DGA, is especially harmful to babies under 1 year of age because it can cause botulism.[4]

Below are the ratios of water and liquid concentrate needed for different types of high-calorie formulas, as recommended in Children’s Minnesota’s liquid concentrate recipe chart (PDF).[1]

For 22 calories/oz (30ml) formula
  • 24 oz formula: 11 oz (330 ml) water and 13 oz (1 can or 390 ml) liquid concentrate
For 24 calories/oz (30ml) formula
  • 22 oz formula: 9 oz (270 ml) water and 13 oz (1 can or 390 ml) liquid concentrate
For 26 calories/oz (30ml) formula
  • 20 oz formula: 7 oz (210 ml) water and 13 oz (1 can or 390 ml) liquid concentrate
For 27 calories/oz (30ml) formula
  • 19 oz formula: 6 oz (180 ml or ¾ cup) water and 13 oz (1 can or 390 ml) liquid concentrate
Liquid measuring cup filled with water - illustration.
How to measure water

In formulas, use water only from safe sources.

Tap water, according to CDC, is generally a safe option. To make sure your tap water is safe, contact your local health department.

Moreover, if you use tap water to prepare formula, you should, according to Children’s Minnesota’s formula adjustment guide, allow the cold tap water to flow freely for 30-60 seconds before adding it the bottle to avoid the water sitting in the pipes.[1]

A type of water that is not safe for children according to the Children’s Minnesota guidelines is well water because it might carry bacteria.

To measure the water, use a clear measuring cup for liquids. After you poured the water in it, put the cup on an even surface and check if the liquid is at the right level.

5. Mix water with liquid concentrate

After shaking the liquid concentrate, open and pour it into a feeding bottle. Afterward, add the water in the liquid measuring cup over the concentrate.

After you added the right ingredient ratio to the feeding bottle, you need to mix the water and the liquid concentrate.

If you don’t have a large enough bottle to mix the ingredients in, you can use another type of clean container.

6. Feed the formula

The next logical step after preparing the formula is feeding it to your baby.

You don’t need, according to CDC, to warm the bottle before feeding. Nevertheless, if you decide to do so, you can place the bottle under running warm water or into a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Keep in mind that the formula mustn’t be hot when you feed your infant. CDC recommends the wrist test to make sure of this: put a few drops on the inside of your wrist.

Warning: do not warm the formula in the microwave because it creates hot spots, which can be harmful for your baby’s mouth.

Best formula brands for high-calorie recipes

You can't make high-calorie formulas without picking a formula brand beforehand.

Generally, all formula brands, whether it’s Enfamil, Similac, or another one, have similar calories.

After all, to make a formula with a higher number of calories, you need, as we learned earlier in this article, to adjust the ingredient ratio.

Some of the most popular brands you can use to follow high-calorie formula recipes are Enfamil, Similac, Nutramigen, Infatrini, SMA, and Gerber.

Below is a selection of the most popular powder and liquid concentrate formula brands that you can use to prepare high-calorie formula recipes for your babies, whether they are premature, full-term, or already toddlers.

Process of selecting the formula brands

We selected the formulas after checking official medical recommendations, the lists of best-rated formulas on Amazon and Walmart, and the most searched formulas online.

The formulas were chosen objectively. Unfold Today does not receive any commission if you buy any of the formulas listed in this article.

Formulas specifically for premature babies

Powder formulas

The Enfamil NeuroPro Enfacare powder formula is recommended in the Maine WIC program.[7]

The Similac Neosure powder formula is recommended in the Maine WIC program.[7]

The SMA formulas are quite popular since they are frequently searched on Google.

Formulas for infants (premature or full-term)

Powder formulas

The Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Enfamil NeuroPro Gentlease Infant Formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Similac Pro-Advance Infant Formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Gerber Good Start SoothePro Infant Formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Gerber Good Start GentlePro Infant Formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Powder Infant Formula with Probiotic LGG counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

Liquid concentrate formulas

The Enfamil Concentrated Liquid Infant Formula counts among the best-rated formulas at Walmart.

The Nutramigen Hypoallergenic Liquid Infant Formula Concentrate counts among the best-rated formulas at Walmart.

The Similac Advance Infant Formula Concentrated Liquid counts among the best-rated formulas at Walmart.

Formulas for toddlers

Powder formulas

The Enfagrow PREMIUM Gentlease Toddler Powder counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Earth's Best Organic Toddler Milk Drink Powder counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Baby's Only Organic Premium Dairy Toddler Formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Baby's Only Organic Sensitive Toddler Formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Nestle NAN Pro Toddler Drink Powder counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

The Gerber Good Start Grow Nutritious Toddler Drink Powder counts among the best-rated formulas at Walmart.

The Similac Go and Grow Toddler Drink counts among the best-rated formulas at Walmart.

The SMA formulas are quite popular since they are frequently searched for on Google.

Ready-to-feed high-calorie formulas

Ready-to-feed high-calorie formulas - illustration.

You can skip the hassle of preparing high-calorie formulas at home by investing in ready-to-feed high-calorie formulas.

Yet, you need to get your baby’s doctor's approval before feeding your baby ready-to-use formulas.

High-calorie ready-to-feed infant formulas have over 20 calories per ounce (30 ml).

Below is a selection of some of the most popular ready-to-feed formula brands that you can use to feed your babies, whether they are premature, full-term, or already toddlers.

Process of choosing the formula brands

We selected the formulas after checking official medical recommendations, the lists of best-rated formulas on Amazon and Walmart, and the most searched formulas online.

The formulas were chosen objectively. Unfold Today does not receive any commission if you buy any of the formulas listed in this article.

For premature babies

6 high-calorie ready-to-feed formulas for premature babies.

Calories: 30 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Infatrini formula is recommended by UK's National Health Service (NHS).[17]

Calories: 30 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Similac High-Energy formula is recommended by UK's National Health Service (NHS).[17]

Calories: 24 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Enfamil Premature 24 Calorie Infant Formula is recommended in the Maine WIC program.[7]

Calories: 24 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The SMA formulas are quite popular since they are frequently searched for on Google.

Calories: 22 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Enfamil NeuroPro EnfaCare Liquid Formula is recommended in the Maine WIC program.[7]

Calories: 22 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Similac NeoSure Ready-to-Feed Formula is recommended in the Maine WIC program.[7]

For full-term babies

5 high-calorie ready-to-feed formulas for full-term babies.

Calories: 30 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Infatrini formula is recommended by UK's National Health Service (NHS).[17]

Calories: 30 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Similac High-Energy formula is recommended by UK's National Health Service (NHS).[17]

Calories: 30 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Similac Alimentum Hypoallergenic Ready-to-Feed formula counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

Calories: 30 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Enfamil NeuroPro Infant Formula Liquid counts among the best-rated formulas on Amazon.

Calories: 24 per 1 fl oz (30 ml)

The Enfamil 24 Calorie Infant Liquid Formula is recommended in the Maine WIC program.[7]

For toddlers

3 high-calorie ready-to-feed formulas for toddlers.

Calories: 100 per 3.4 fl oz (100 ml)

The Infatrini formula is recommended by UK's National Health Service (NHS).[17]

Calories: 100 per 3.4 fl oz (100 ml)

The Similac High-Energy formula is recommended by UK's National Health Service (NHS).[17]

Calories: 67 per 3.4 fl oz (100 ml)

The Enfagrow NeuroPro Toddler Nutritional Drink counts among the best-rated formulas at Walmart.

What babies need high-calorie formula

Human milk is the healthiest feeding option for babies in the first months of their lives while fortified and normal formulas are the next best choices. Yet, human milk should be replaced by high-calorie formulas when a baby has increased caloric needs.

Infant formula, according to a 2022 study on the effects of formula feeding on premature infants, is a good secondary option to human milk because it has more calories and proteins.[19]

Replacing human milk with formula is a common practice in the USA.

Only 1 in 4 American babies, according to CDC’s 2022 Breastfeeding Report, were fed only human milk until age 6 months. Therefore, 75% of Americans give their babies formula, standard or high-calorie.[20]

Below is a list of babies that are usually recommended high-calorie formulas:

  • Premature or immature babies (preemies);
  • Infants or toddlers with health problems, like coronary heart disease;
  • Ill infants;
  • Infants or toddlers with growth or weight gain problems;
  • Infants or toddlers diagnosed with failure-to-thrive;
  • Babies exposed to prenatal drugs.

Effects of high-calorie formulas on babies

Premature (immature) and ill infants, according to a scientific review about enhanced-calorie formulas, need a high caloric intake to achieve their growth goals.[21]

Conveniently, premature infants, according to a NY University School of Medicine study about the effects of high-calorie feedings on premature infants, increase their weight successfully if they are fed high-calorie formulas.[22]

Besides aiding premature infants, a higher caloric intake, as stated in a pediatric study on the relationship between formula concentration and infant growth, helps infants with normal size gain weight.[23]

Furthermore, high-calorie formulas, according to a clinical trial comparing the effects of standard formulas to the ones of high-calorie formulas on methadone-exposed infants, may be beneficial for babies with prenatal methadone exposure.[24]

Babies fed human milk don't need formula

The DGA recommends people to feed infants only human milk until they're 6 months old and keep breast milk a part of their diet until they're at least 1 year old. Yet, if human milk is unavailable, you should feed iron-fortified infant formula to infants during their 1st year of life.[4]

High-calorie formulas are the only weight-gain foods people can feed their babies with until the little ones are 6 months old.

When to quit feeding formula to babies

Whether you feed babies human milk or formula, introduce them to nutrient-dense foods that will enrich their diet when they are about 6 months old. Once your infant gets to 1 year old and becomes a toddler, he won’t need formula anymore, according to the DGA.[4]

Since a 12-month-old baby should already be accommodated with a variety of food groups, flavors, and textures, he should be able to get all the nutrients he needs from age-appropriate foods and beverages other than formulas.

Therefore, toddler milk, drinks, and formulas, according to CDC’s guide for choosing an infant formula, are not needed to meet nutritional goals because they typically have added sugars and can be replaced by plain whole cow milk or fortified unsweetened soy beverage.[25]

Side effects of high-calorie formulas

Side effects of high-calorie formulas.

Although they can help a baby gain weight, high-calorie formulas need to be fed carefully to avoid side effects.

A few of the known side effects babies can suffer from after ingesting high-calorie formula are dehydration and constipation.

The high-calorie formulas that are considered safe, according to the Washington-based Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, have up to 24 calories/oz (0.8 calories/ml). If you feed your baby formula with over 24 calories/oz, monitor the baby closely because he may get dehydrated.[2]

Besides dehydration, high-calorie formulas may cause constipation.

Constipation in babies, according to the National Health Service’s advice on constipation, commonly appears when they first consume infant formula because formulas are harder to digest than breast milk, and their little bodies need to adapt to digesting new foods.[26]

How to avoid high-calorie formula side effects

To avoid side effects, feed your baby a formula that is higher in calories only if the baby’s doctor, be it a pediatrician or baby nutritionist, gives you a prescription. Otherwise, your baby might show signs of side effects or develop other health problems.

But, even if you have the doctor’s prescription, you still need to monitor the baby.

Here are a few reasons for contacting your baby’s medical provider:

  • Your baby is not growing;
  • You have difficulties making the high-calorie formula;
  • The formula is causing any kind of problems to your baby.

When your baby starts gaining weight without any problems, you can expect to be guided toward a normal formula.

How long can you keep formula

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize the importance of storing both human milk and infant formula safely.[4]

Baby formula made from powder, according to Children’s Minnesota’s formula adjustment guidelines, can safely be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for a maximum of 24 hours.[1]

Yet, according to CDC’s instructions for storing powdered infant formula, you should get rid of the formula if you already fed your baby with it, or if you haven’t refrigerated the formula within 2 hours after preparing it. In case you act otherwise, you risk feeding the baby with bacteria-contaminated leftovers.[5]

Regarding the formula powder itself, you can keep it 1 month after opening the can.

When it comes to formulas made from liquid concentrate, according to Children’s Minnesota’s formula guidelines for liquid concentrate, they can be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of 48 hours. Make sure, however, to check the information on the formula can as well.[1]

How long can you keep human milk

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, human milk should be fed to the baby within 2 hours of expressing it.[4]

Alternatively, according to CDC’s breast milk storage instructions, you can refrigerate fresh human milk within 4 hours of preparing it for up to 4 days. But, if you thaw previously frozen human milk, you should use it within 24 hours and not refreeze it again.[27]

To warm human milk safely, place it in warm water and never put it in the microwave.

Frequently asked questions

How do you make high-calorie (22, 24, etc.) Enfamil, Similac, or Nutramigen formula?

If you are looking to make a high-calorie formula with 22, 24, or more calories per ounce (30 ml) using a specific brand, like Enfamil, Similac, or Nutramigen, you should follow the recipes officially recommended for the kind of formula you want to use (powder or liquid concentrate), or pick a ready-to-feed formula.

No matter what brand you pick, you should, however, get approval and potential additional instructions from your baby’s doctor before feeding the formula.

How to make 30-calorie formula?

Since a formula with 30 calories per ounce (30 ml) is one of the formulas with the most calories, it doesn’t have an easily reachable recipe. Yet, if you found out your baby needs a formula with so many nutrients, you should ask your baby’s dietitian for instructions on how to prepare it.

Alternatively, you can get a ready-to-feed 30-calorie formula and skip the hassle of preparing it.

Conclusion

To sum up, high-calorie formulas are formulas with more than 20 calories per ounce (30 ml) that can be made at home using formula powder (or liquid concentrate) combined with human milk or water by following medically-approved recipes, or bought from stores in ready-to-feed form.

You can find formula brands, like Enfamil and Similac, created for different types of babies, whether they are premature babies (preemies), full-term babies, or toddlers.

Baby dietitians usually recommend high-calorie formulas to help premature infants, babies with health or growth problems, ill infants, or babies exposed to prenatal drugs to gain weight.

Yet, high-calorie formulas should be consumed only with the approval of your baby’s pediatrician or dietitian because they can trigger side effects, like dehydration and constipation.

In the end, with the right approach, high-calorie formulas can help your baby gain weight in a safe and healthy way.

Sources

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Ideas for high-calorie diets
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