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Formula Feeding Tips From a Been-There-Done-That Mom

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Whether breastfeeding isn't working out the way you intended, you're transitioning to formula or you're formula all the way, the tools and tricks of the trade can be a little intimidating to navigate for a new parent. From one formula feeder to another, here's what has worked (so far!) for my two kids and may work for you too:

The Formula

For both kids, I started with what I got for free from the hospital, which was Enfamil for the first, who was born in 2012, and Similac for the second, who was born this year. With both kids, when they were newborns, the hospital gave us the little nursing singles, which are awesomely convenient when they're free but quite expensive when you buy them on your own.

With both kids I was shameless about asking for free samples at both the OB's and the pediatrician's since these days doctors aren't supposed to give the impression that they're promoting formula by widely handing out free samples.

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After the free stuff ran out we started ordering Costco's Kirkland Signature formula which is cheaper than the name brand stuff but, as my pediatrician told me, is essentially the same. We keep one tin in the kitchen and one tin in the baby's room for nighttime bottles.

We've been lucky in that both our kids don't seem to have any sort of dietary issues and our pediatrician didn't recommend any in particular so I've just gone with the "infant" kind. I've always suspected that there isn't a big difference between types of formula within a particular brand although this recent article explores the evolution of formula and might have you thinking. If you aren't sure, ask your pediatrician.

This may not be obvious to first-timers but every new tin of formula contains a scoop inside it so you don't have to hold onto your old scoop when you buy a new tin. Another perhaps-obvious thing is that formula containers provide instructions for you on how much to mix depending on what size bottle you plan to make.

Finally, if you're pregnant and know you're likely to use formula at some point, you can add formula to your shower registry. Nobody may buy it for you but it's worth a shot!

Due to bacterial issues a bottle should be considered "dead" one hour after your baby starts eating it, so when we mix more than the baby really wants, we end up washing a lot of half-used bottles.

The Bottles
We go with Philips Avent plastic which I chose rather randomly. I'm glad we did because the brand is so widely available. If you need to you can buy extra nipples and bottles pretty much anywhere. (In case you weren't aware, you can switch out the nipples on the bottles to faster flow ones as your baby grows and wants to get more formula out of the nipple.)

Prepping and Washing

I boiled the bottles and nipples before using them the first time and then after that washed them in the dishwasher or hand-washed as needed (once again, approved by the pediatrician when I asked whether you need to sterilize the bottles before every feeding.) One practical downside of bottle feeding compared to breast is that we are always doing dishes (or rather, bottles.) Due to bacterial issues a bottle should be considered "dead" one hour after your baby starts eating it, so when we mix more than the baby really wants, we end up washing a lot of half-used bottles. After we wash we dry them on a drying rack.

The water:

I live in Chicago, so we use good old Lake Michigan-sourced tap water to make our bottles. It's safe for us to drink, it's doctor-approved, and I drank it while I was pregnant. Plus "nursery water" isn't always safe or regulated so that helps enforce that decision. If you live someplace where tap water isn't reliable, boil your water first or get a water cooler.

RELATED: How to Pick the Perfect Bottle to Prevent Nipple Confusion


There are a few ways to carry formula around with you when you're out and about. Certain bottle brands' starter sets come with a little container that you can pour pre-measured formula into. For convenience you can't beat the Enfamil single-serve packets because you can just throw several in your diaper bag or in the trunk of your car and all you need to remember is a bottle (or, again, buy one in a pinch at the drugstore) which you can just bring filled with water or filled up if you're going someplace like a restaurant or someone's house. We also received a free sample from Similac (if you're cost-conscious it's not a bad idea to get on the mailing list for some formula companies) of a bottle carrier and tiny ice pack that we keep in the freezer for when we pre-make a bottle and take it with us. Other versions are easy to find.

The Baby Brezza Formula Pro

This item verges on silly. It's like the Keurig of baby formula. Fill it up with water and formula, press a button, and boom, instant warm bottle. If you have multiple bottle-fed kids in the house or you're making a lot of bottles at one time (maybe you're packing for daycare) it's more of a lifesaver, but it's certainly something you can live without.

I'm sure there are cheaper, faster, healthier ways to do all this but that's just one bottle-feeder's take, and so far, based on a sample size of two, the results have been good. If you have other recommendations, please share them!

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