Is High-Calorie Baby Formula Suitable for Your Infant?

By: Dr. Maria Cerino - Updated May 6, 2024 - 9 Minute Read

Is High- Calorie Baby Formula Suitable for Your Infant?  | The Milky Box

For most parents, nutrition is the center of caretaking. Ensuring children are growing the right amount and developing all milestones sets them up for a successful, healthy life. Most babies do perfectly well with breastfeeding or high-quality organic formula.

A newborn usually requires between 472 to 572 calories per day for male babies and 438 to 521 calories per day for female babies. This requirement increases progressively as they grow, and usually during the first six months of life, babies don’t require extra supplementation.

However, when their growth is challenged or they’re born prematurely, they often require some extra love and special care. This is nothing to worry about, about 10% of the children born in the US are diagnosed with failure to thrive at some point during their childhood.

In today’s article, we will discuss the dietary modifications an infant might require to catch up with their age-appropriate growth chart.

High-Energy Milks

High-energy formulas are designed for babies with medically diagnosed dietary needs that require a higher caloric content. They provide higher levels of energy, often sourced from fat, protein, or carbohydrate content, depending on the particular formula.

A regular formula contains around 20 calories per ounce, while high-energy milk contains between 21-30 calories per ounce, depending on the ingredients and their specific intent. While a few calories might not seem like a lot, it makes a huge difference in a baby’s weight.

There are a few particular instances where your baby might need that extra push. 

Here are the most common ones:

● Your baby was born prematurely or with low weight

● Your baby's weight is too low for their age

● Your baby was born with Congenital Heart Disease

We will discuss each condition individually in the next few paragraphs.

Medical Considerations | The Milky Box

Premature Birth and Low Birth Weight (LBW) Babies

Premies often have less reserves of all essential nutrients like fat, iron, glycogen, magnesium, calcium, and B12. They need to ingest higher-calorie milk for a few months until they reach the adequate growth relative to growth charts.

Failure to Thrive (FTT) in Infants

Failure to thrive occurs when a baby is gaining less weight than other infants of a similar age and gender. This can appear at various stages of childhood, and it can be a sign of parasitic infections and food allergies, among many others. 

Your healthcare provider will evaluate the causes to make an adequate diagnosis, but it is important to supplement their diet so their immune system isn’t compromised.

Congenital Heart Disease

Babies who struggle with CHD often have higher caloric requirements as their body needs more energy to compensate for the cardiac effort to maintain oxygen in the circulation. They also experience feeding difficulties, which is why a higher-calorie formula will help them compensate for this deficiency. 

Assessing Feeding Tolerance and Digestive Health

While it is important to aim to target all nutrition requirements from the get-go, this will require some adjusting on your baby’s part. Their digestive system is immature and it will react at first. Your medical provider will inform you of things to keep an eye on, but the main symptoms you might notice as you switch to a higher-calorie formula are:


-Excessive gas



-Crying after meals

These are clear pointers that your baby might be suffering from food sensitivity or intolerance. This is pretty common, and you might need to evaluate the ingredients in your formula and look for alternatives after alerting your doctor and following their recommendations.

Signs of Food Sensitivity | The Milky Box

Four Primary Methods for Creating Higher-Calorie Formulas

The method you choose will significantly depend on each family’s circumstances and specific goals. Still, there are four techniques that most healthcare providers will suggest to increase your baby’s caloric intake as needed:

Increase concentration: This method requires a unique formula requiring less water to be added, thus creating a calorically denser product per oz.

Addition of formula: Some doctors recommend adding a specific formula to previously pumped milk. This gives 2 in 1 benefits, they’re still getting their nutrition from mom while increasing each nutrient proportionally.

Specific nutrient addition: Some infants only require the addition of a particular ingredient in their diets, such as glucose polymers, protein powder, medium-chain triglycerides, vegetable oil, or fat emulsions. Their qualified provider will determine the exact nutrients they need and the amount to add to their meals. This is particularly useful in babies with a deficiency in their protein intake.

Combination: Depending on the medical reason your baby needs dietary supplementation, your practitioner might prescribe a mix of any of the three above-mentioned techniques distributed among their mealtimes. For example, their breakfast might need extra glucose, while the rest of their feedings might need increased concentration in their bottle.

Primary Methods for Creating Higher-Calorie Formulas | The Milky Box

Formula-Fed Premies vs. Breast Milk Premies

When the primary source of feeding varies from baby to baby, many parents wonder if ditching Breast Milk in favor of high-calorie formula is necessary.

If your baby consumes breast milk regularly and there aren’t any lactation issues, it’s better to supplement breast milk with a high-quality, allergen-free formula powder. This typically involves adding half a teaspoon of formula every three ounces. That amount might seem like not much, but it dramatically affects their nutritional profile.

On the other hand, for babies whose nutrition is formula-based, most doctors will recommend unique formulas. You’ll typically find them labeled as premature follow-on formulas. This is excellent news because it makes things much easier. You won’t be required to use any special measures. 

Instead, you will only need to follow the package’s instructions to prepare each bottle.

Choosing the Right High-Calorie Formula for Your Baby

You will need a prescription or specific written instructions from your baby's qualified medical provider for a high-calorie formula suited to your baby's needs. Follow the recommendations to the letter and only increase your child's caloric intake as instructed. 

What Is the Healthiest Formula for Babies that Need a High-Calorie Formula? 

If your little one needs extra nutritional support, choosing a clean and pure option is the perfect place to start. The European Union guidelines mandate that all organic baby formulas must not contain any harmful substances such as pesticide residue, growth hormones, synthetic chemicals, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and preservatives.

German formulas comply with these strict guidelines and undergo rigorous testing and thorough checks to eliminate heavy metals and other toxic ingredients that can harm infants. Therefore, opting for a German Organic Baby Formula is smart for parents who want to ensure their child's health and safety.

The process of creating German Baby Formula, from farming to the final product, adheres to the highest quality and safety standards. This dedication results in a natural and safe product that parents can trust for their children's health. You can rest easy knowing that German formulas are dependable for meeting your baby's high-calorie needs.

German Baby Formulas | The Milky Box

Gradual Weaning and Introduction of Regular Formula or Breast Milk

It’s essential to keep in mind that feeding your baby with high-calorie formula is not permanent and it should be switched back to regular formula or breast milk as soon as their doctor indicates.

It’s widely recommended to wean the off-high-calorie formula, reducing the amount of supplementation slowly over some time so they can adapt to the change. For this transition, you will need to change to a nutritionally dense formula that suits them best.

In Conclusion…

Supplemental nutrition for babies should be customized according to their specific needs. Their condition plays a crucial role in determining the type and amount of nutrition they require. A baby's growth and weight gain are the most reliable indicators of their health.

Inadequate nutrition can severely impair a baby's development, which can have long-lasting effects on their functionality as adults. If left untreated, severe nutritional deficiencies in early childhood can lead to permanent damage.

Ensuring that your baby receives the right formula as a breastfeeding supplement or alternative is crucial for their growth and development. Thankfully, there are now high-calorie and nutrient-rich formulas available that can be used to supplement breastfeeding. The Milky Box is a reliable and convenient option for parents who want to ensure their baby gets the proper nutritional support. 

It's essential to carefully follow the qualified health professional's instructions to ensure that the baby receives the right balance of calories and nutrients. With proper guidance, parents can rest assured that their baby's health will improve, and they will grow strong and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a specific way to introduce a high-calorie formula to my baby?

Not really. While babies may require to be weaned off their high-calorie formula, they can be introduced to high-calorie formula as soon as prescribed. 

In the beginning, they might struggle to finish the whole bottle, but they will get used to it much sooner than you think. The relief they will feel from having enough energy to perform their functions and growth will be immediate.

Can I feed a calorie Formula to my baby without a medical recommendation?

No. This should not be encouraged because it can trigger issues such as obesity in otherwise healthy babies. For infants without nutritional deficiencies, a high-quality organic formula will be more than enough to ensure their goals are being met.

Can high-energy milks be used with solids?

Yes. Nutritional deficiencies and failure to thrive are common in all stages of childhood, and their plan of action should be adapted to it. In the case of many infants over six months, your doctor might recommend adding the high-calorie formula to your baby’s grain-based cereal (rice, quinoa, oats). 

How does the doctor know when to stop high-calorie formulas?

When your baby is following a high-calorie diet, they will require more frequent checkups. Their weight and height will be monitored much more closely to ensure the prescribed nutrition is working correctly. Their diet will be adjusted accordingly. 


Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.

Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

Dr. Maria Cerino is a medical doctor and a researcher from Mexico, her works being published in prestigious journals like the American Journal of Human Biology among others. As a medical writer, Dr. Cerino focuses on infant nutrition and healthy neurological development in infants and children. In her free time, she enjoys going on walks, watching indie films, and cooking at home.

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Reviewed by Dr. Eric Wood, ND, MA

Dr. Wood is a licensed naturopathic doctor, with a doctorate degree from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, Canada. He received his post-graduation certification in Mind Body Medicine at Harvard University.

With 15 years of experience, Dr. Wood is an Associate Professor of Holistic Nutrition at the American College of Health Sciences in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Wood is an educator, clinician, author, media figure, consultant, and owns his own holistic (naturopathic) medical practice in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr. Wood is currently researching and drafting books on cancer and pediatrics.

Outside of the medical profession, Dr. Wood loves singing with the Miami Lyric Opera and is an avid musician in South Florida. He also loves spending time with his wife and kids.