Infant formulae and follow on formulae

Breast milk is the best nutrition for an infant and contains all the nutrients that the baby needs, with the exception of vitamin D. Breast milk is sufficient as sole nutrition for the first six months for most babies of normal birth weight. Exclusive breast feeding is recommended until the age of 6 months, and at least until the age of 4 months. *

If breast milk is not enough for the child despite more intensive breast feeding, if the mother wishes to stop breast feeding or if breast feeding has to be discontinued for medical reasons, the child is transferred onto infant formula.  Infant formulae have been developed for under 6-month old infants who are not breast fed or do not get enough breast milk. A corresponding product designed for infants aged 6–12 months is called follow on formula. The use of formulae is terminated at the age of one year, when the child can start drinking regular fat-free milk.*

The composition of infant formula is as close as possible to the nutrient composition of breast milk. Regular cow's milk loads the kidneys of children under 1 year of age due to the high protein content of the milk. In infant formula, the quality of protein and fat has been modified according to the needs of an infant, and it contains more lactose, vitamins and minerals than cow's milk. Owing to these modifications, infant formula and follow on formula are suitable for infants unlike regular cow's milk, plant-based milk-like beverages, such as soy, oat, rice and almond drinks, and home-made milk mixtures. The formula shall be prepared and handled in compliance with the instructions provided on the package.*

Infant formula refers to a food product that

  • is designed as nutrition for an infant during the first months, when the baby is not breast fed.
  • is sufficient as the only nutrition (except for vitamin D) until the baby starts to eat also solid foods.

Follow on formula refers to a food product that

  • is designed as nutrition for an infant over six months of age, when the baby is not breast fed.
  • constitutes the primary liquid part of the infant's diet that continuously becomes more balanced, when the baby starts to eat also solid foods
  • is not designed for use as a substitute for breast milk for infants under six months of age  

The Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2016/127 on infant formulae and follow on formulae prescribes the composition, ingredients, labelling, marketing, sale and other disposal of infant formulae and follow on formulae.

Finnish Food Authority's website provides information about applicable legislation, as well as about requirements for composition and labelling and general safety aspects regarding infant formulae and follow on formulae. Information related to breast feeding and children's nutrition can be found on the website of the National Institute for Health and Welfare (Finland). The website of the National Nutrition Council provides information about nutrition recommendations.

 *Eating together - food recommendations for families with children

Page last updated 11/10/2021