Inside: Formula feeding tips and tricks from a mom who’s been there. Includes benefits of formula feeding, must-haves, common mistakes to avoid, and formula feeding tips that will make your life as a formula-feeding mama easier.
Welcome to the world of formula feeding! Maybe you plan to use formula from day one, or perhaps you plan to switch from breastfeeding to formula feeding.
You might be wondering how on earth there could possibly be so many different kinds of formula and seemingly endless choices when it comes to bottles.
I know – it’s SO overwhelming.
When I first started formula feeding, there was very little information out there about how to formula feed. I’m going to pass on some of my hard-earned knowledge (read: you can learn from my mistakes), so you can feel more confident about using formula and bottle-feeding exclusively.
This article will hopefully provide you with all the formula feeding tips and recommendations you need to get your formula feeding journey off to a great start.
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The Benefits of Formula Feeding
Before I hit you with formula feeding tips, I first want to reassure you about your choice to formula feed. There is so much information out there about breastfeeding, and pressure to do so.
Whether you chose formula feeding or you were forced to because of low supply, health issues, or something else, “fed” really is best. You don’t need to feel guilty.
If you’re wrestling with guilt, here are several benefits of formula feeding to help you ditch the guilt. That emotional energy is so much better spent bonding with your baby, instead.
1. When you formula feed, you know exactly how much your baby is eating.
This can be so helpful if you have a baby who is not gaining weight properly. Knowing the exact amount your baby is taking in will be important information when talking with your pediatrician.
That knowledge can also give you added peace of mind that your baby is getting enough to eat.
2. Mom is not the only source of nutrition.
Having your partner’s assistance in feeding the baby gives you a little break (especially if they help with night-time feedings!), but it also allows them to bond with your baby in a unique way. The same goes for grandparents and siblings.
Letting older siblings feed the baby makes them feel important and gives them a more active role in taking care of their little brother or sister.
Not having to be a milk dispenser 24/7 also allows you to have more flexibility in your day-to-day life. You can be away from the house for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time, something breastfeeding moms definitely envy.
You can feel free to go on a date with your significant other and not have to worry about rushing home to feed the baby.
3. You can kiss the pump goodbye!
I’ve never met a mom who loves to pump, and I was not at all sad to pack up mine for the last time.
Pumping can be a huge time suck, and can also be an inconvenience if you are heading back to work after maternity leave, not to mention the hours spent cleaning all those darn pump parts!
4. Your wardrobe and body can get back to “normal” more quickly.
You won’t need to worry about:
- wearing special nursing bras and “easy-access” clothing for breastfeeding,
- having battered nipples or painfully engorged breasts,
- buying nipple cream and breast pads, or
- having milk leak out at the worst possible moments
Let’s be honest, your body will probably never be the same as it was prior to having a child (I’m not sure how those celebrities do it!). However, reclaiming your wardrobe and your body can feel liberating for a lot of mamas.
Formula Feeding Tips (when you’re new to formula)
It might take you a while to get the hang of formula feeding, especially if you’ve breastfed in the past, but you’ll get there – promise!
These formula feeding tips are essential to formula feeding success.
1. Make sure you always have extra formula on hand.
When you have a new baby, sometimes you’re pinching pennies. I’ve been there: I get it.
But formula is NOT the place to skimp and run the risk of being completely out.
It is the worst when you realize you are on your last bottle, and you don’t have a back-up container of formula tucked in the pantry.
And when you are heading out for the day, ALWAYS pack more formula than you think you’ll need. You just never know what the day might bring.
I also suggest filling your bottles with water before you leave the house. Then, you don’t have to track down the nearest drinking fountain with a hungry, screaming baby in tow!
One way to make sure you always have a back-up is to add formula to your Amazon subscribe & save list.
If you have more than 5 items on your list, you automatically save 15% on each item, but joining Amazon Family gives you a 20% discount on baby items like diapers, wipes, and formula!
Don’t have Amazon Prime? They offer a 30-day free trial for new members, so you can try it out. The free 2-day shipping can also be a lifesaver when you’re running low and can’t get to the store.
2. Prep for night feedings before your head hits the pillow.
Nighttime formula feedings are a bit more complicated than nighttime breastfeeding sessions.
Any leftover formula that has been sitting at room temperature needs to be thrown away within an hour. It also isn’t advisable to reheat formula.
Basically, a fresh bottle will need to be made for each night feeding.
You need to make bottle prep part of your regular evening routine.
Have formula pre-measured and plenty of clean bottles ready to go on your counter. Or keep bottles out on your drying rack so they are easy to locate!
Doing dishes isn’t the funnest activity in the world. Washing bottles at 2 a.m. with a hungry, screaming baby in the background? Even less fun.
You should also have dim lighting in your kitchen, so your eyes aren’t blasted in the middle of the night with bright lights (these night lights have a warm, orange glow with two settings).
3. Include the cost of formula in your grocery budget.
Formula is not cheap, my friends. If your baby requires specialized formula, formula will cost you even more.
If you are able to switch to a generic brand, you will certainly save some money that way. But I still recommend recommend budgeting around $100 per month for formula.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Formula Feeding
1. Using a nipple that flows too fast.
Nipples have a labeling system to indicate how fast liquid flows out. This is usually either a number or a description—slow, medium, or fast.
Feeding a newborn with a nipple that flows too fast can cause him to choke or gulp excessive air, which can lead to gas.
As your baby grows and consumes more formula in one feeding, you will be able to increase the speed of the nipple flow. Bottle manufacturers will indicate the general age range that is appropriate for each nipple speed, but if it seems like your baby is taking an excessively long time to eat you can try moving up a level to see if that helps.
2. Allowing yourself to feel guilty about using formula.
I know I already hit on this, but it deserves special emphasis here.
We have probably all heard the phrase “breast is best”. While I’m completely supportive of breastfeeding and will never try to argue against the benefits of breastmilk, I have seen too many mothers (myself included) racked with the guilt over their choice to use formula.
The reality is not all women are able to breastfeed, or they have to stop earlier than originally planned. Some women also choose to use formula for personal reasons.
If you are feeling guilty about giving your baby formula, please remember that when it comes down to it, “fed is best” and formula is a wonderful alternative to breastmilk.
Think about it: before formula, if you couldn’t breastfeed, you needed a wet nurse or your baby died. That definitely puts things in perspective.
From one mama to another, I encourage you to let go of any guilt you may be holding onto.
Formula Feeding Must Haves
Some of these formula feeding accessories are essentials, while others will make formula feeding SO much easier. I’m including the products I used and loved when I was formula feeding my own babies.
Yes, this is an obvious one, but choosing your baby’s name can feel simpler than choosing the right bottle when you see how many choices there are!
Some babies prefer a nipple with a wider base, which is more like the shape of a breast.
Other babies seem to prefer nipples with a smaller base.
I recommend buying a bottle with each type of nipple and seeing which one works the best for your baby. Even though both of my kids started out breastfeeding, they both adapted better with smaller-based nipples.
Once you determine which type of nipple your kiddo prefers, stock up, sister! Your baby will go through several bottles each day, and trust me — you do not want to be stuck at your kitchen sink every hour.
Personally, I love the VentAire bottles by Playtex because they are easy to clean, and their angled design helps prevent the baby from ingesting too much extra air.
2. Bottle Washing Supplies
Spoiler alert: You will be washing a crapload of bottles in the first six months of your baby’s life.
At the very least, you need a bottle brush (I used this one), but it’s worth grabbing a few extra items to make this process as painless as possible.
A bottle drying rack like this one will keep all the bottle parts in one place instead of scattered all over your counter.
A dishwasher caddy that holds nipples and valves is also nice to have for those times you would rather not wash them all by hand.
3. Microwaveable Steam-Clean Bag
It is recommended that you sterilize nipples before their first use, and it’s also a good idea if your baby has been sick. Having a microwaveable steam-clean bag makes this process so easy!
Just throw the recommended amount of water in the bottom of the bag along with the items you want to sterilize and pop it into your microwave for a few minutes.
(These bags also work great for sterilizing pacifiers.)
This one is also obvious, but how do you know which kind of formula is best suited for your baby? That can be a little tricky.
Within the major brands of formula, there are several different specialized types that address different issues your baby might have:
- excessive gas
- milk protein allergy, etc.
If there are no known issues, your pediatrician will probably have you start with the basic version. Unless your baby ends up needing a very specific brand/type, you will probably be able to switch to a generic version.
Most large box stores (Target, Walmart, Costco etc.) sell their own generic version of formula that is very comparable to the brand name. This can save you a ton of money over the long run.
5. Formula Dispenser
When you are formula feeding on the go, you NOT want to be lugging around a huge container of formula in your diaper bag. You can buy little bottles of pre-mixed formula, or single serving pouches when you are on the go, but eventually, it will kill your budget.
Instead, one of my best tips for formula feeding on the go is to buy a formula dispenser.
This small container holds pre-measured formula (usually enough for 3 or 4 bottles) and is perfect for when you are traveling or will be away from your house for long stretches of time.
It is also way more cost effective to use a formula dispenser than buying the pre-mixed formula or single-serve pouches.
Helpful Links for Formula Feeding Guidance
During those first few weeks and months, you’ll probably be wondering/worried whether or not you’re feeding your baby enough and how many ounces to prepare per bottle (so that “liquid gold” doesn’t go to waste!).
Your pediatrician is obviously the best source for guidance on how much you should be feeding your baby at different ages, weights, and stages.
He or she will likely give you a printable with this information to keep on hand for reference as your baby grows.
Final Thoughts for Formula-Feeding Mamas
Before you know it, your sweet little baby will be discovering the joy of grabbing food off his tray with his pudgy little hand and throwing it all over your freshly mopped floor.
In the meantime, I wish you and your baby many hours of bottle-feeding bliss.
Mary Ann Blair is a stay-at-home mom living in the Pacific Northwest with her two little gentlemen and hubs. She loves connecting with other parents who like to keep it real!
Her writing has been published on Her View From Home, Perfection Pending, That’s Inappropriate, Pregnant Chicken, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Red Tricycle and in Chicken Soup For the Soul. She can be found at https://www.maryannblair.com