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This may be controversial, but I am a formula feeding mom. I gave breast feeding the college shot, and we made it 3 months, almost to the date, before A dropped all of her breast feeds in favor of formula. It was the best decision for our family and we feel good about our decision to add formula in the first place. Sure, I had a bit of guilt and struggled with the decision for a small amount of time, but at the end of the day, A is thriving and happy and this has worked out beautifully for us.
I wanted to sit down and write some of my experience and things I’ve learned as a formula feeding mommy for other parents that are or will be feeding their baby formula (whether exclusively or combo feeding). This is all just my own experience. I’m aware of the benefits on both sides and have nothing bad to say about formula or breastfeeding. This is not an opinion piece about what I think is best because that will vary per family. This is more about helpful information for parents that use formula in some way for the feeding of their baby.
On all of the feelings associated with formula feeding: I want to get this out the way first: The reason that you are formula feeding your baby really does not matter. It’s no one’s business but your own. At the end of the day, you are feeding your child and that is all that matters. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for how you feed your child.
I was going to launch into this whole diatribe about the guilt that I felt when we started adding formula and when A eventually denied the boob altogether, but it doesn’t matter because your baby is getting fed. That’s really all there is to it; it’s really that simple. You are feeding your baby and anyone who gives you a hard time can go to hell. You are an excellent Mama no matter how you’re feeding you baby and I applaud you.
On choosing a bottle: A didn’t go for the first bottle we gave her. Each baby is different in terms of which bottle they’ll take. I strongly encourage you to register for individual bottles instead of sets just in case your baby denies a few. We ultimately ended up with Playtex Ventaire Bottles after trying a few other brands. The upside is that these are supposed to help with Colic, though I couldn’t tell if they actually did or if the reflux meds took care of that. The downside is they have multiple parts (which aren’t horrible, but not as simple as the ones that are only a cover and a base). I also had to start with a medium flow nipple upon a recommendation from a friend. A was just not a fan of slow flow. Once I made this change, we had a much easier transition into bottles. I have not yet moved to fast flow as A seems happy with medium flow.
On bottle feeding: This really isn’t rocket science, but I received two big pieces of advice. The first is to make sure the nipple stays full so as not to let additional air in and create gas. The other is to try and keep the baby at least somewhat upright as the baby has a better chance of getting an ear infection if they’re feed lying flat. Additionally, though this should go without saying, try and keep a close eye on the baby as they feed to make sure they don’t choke.
It’s also my understanding that formula babies spit up more often than breastfed babies. I really have no frame of reference for this since A was a reflux baby and after she got onto the Zantac boat was quite the happy spitter. We really went out of our way to give A a good burp after each day feed to try and reduce this. I’m not really sure it helped, but I’m pretty sure that I spent 6 months of my life smelling like vomit (and possibly still do, though recently A has been spitting up much less, which is a nice change).
On mixing formula: I always put the water in first and then add the formula as per the directions (I’ve only ever dealt with powder, so I can’t speak for other types) and make sure to give it a good shake. In hindsight, I wish I had just given A room temperature water, she prefers it warm which can be a challenge if we’re out and about. It’s not as much of a pain now that she’s older and we use tap water (the tap water where we live isn’t too bad- I know some places are). But the first 3 months I used filtered water as per a few recommendations. In retrospect, I probably could have used tap water then as well, but I’m not a pediatrician- maybe consult them for the best advice.
On a side note, in the early days I kept a jug of filtered water at room temperature. To warm it I would use a larger-than-average mug and fill it with water from the smallest setting on my Keurig. I’d then put the prepared bottle into that to warm since you can’t use the microwave. It was way easier than boiling water and kept us from having to add yet another baby contraption to our already over sized collection. I know a gal who’s son is down with room temperature bottles who kept everything next to her bed for late night feeds- we started doing this once we switched to tap water.
On choosing a formula: This is another situation that I would encourage you to speak with your Doctor. We began with Enfamil Gentlease which we chose to help with the gassiness and eventually switched over to the Wegmans generic version of the Gentlease because the prices were gouging us. That is what worked for us, but talk to your doctor.
On when and how much to feed: As per the directions of our pediatrician, we started adding a 2oz. bottle into the mix after feeds and added larger amount based on A’s signals. At a little over 7 months old A is just beginning to take 7-8oz. bottles. But every baby is different. I’ve heard that formula fed babies eat less and may have longer amounts of time between bottles- I can’t confirm or deny either of these things as I have no basis for comparison and A was all over the place in terms of when she fed (though it eventually evened out to every 3-4 hours). This is yet another situation where I encourage you to talk to your doctor.
On combo feeding: If this is the way you choose to go, more power to you. It’s hard and you really need to be on top of things, but it can be done. I tried to combo feed for a bit. It didn’t work out very well for me. I think a large part of the reason for that is I was very laissez faire about the whole thing. I especially failed at pumping after I gave A bottles. In my defense, I really hated pumping and felt like I didn’t get much out when I did. As a result, my supply tanked, my period came back and A became increasingly unsatisfied with her boob feedings and wanted the bottle more and more. This led up to her ultimately dropping the boob altogether around 3 months. I was a little sad but it was what it was. If I could do it all over again, I would make a point to be more on top of it all making sure to do everything in my power to keep that supply up. I was clearly too easy going and it caused my supply to drop quickly.
On the cost of things: It is no secret that formula is expensive. Even with the coupons the name brand was killing our wallets. To be honest, even now with the generic it still gouges us, but it’s definitely better. My only advice would be to try and start on a generic if your baby will tolerate it. I have family members that have had success with the Costco generic and we’ve had a great experience with Wegmans generic.
On the logistics: There are a few logistical things that we’ve figured out along the way to make our lives easier. We always try to have an extra container of formula in the cupboard. Not only because we always seem to run out of formula at the most inopportune times, but we also receive the heads up from the daycare that A needs more formula at the end of the most stressful work days when the last thing we want to do is stop at the store (I strive to only have to hit the grocery store once a week if I can).
I learned really early that we don’t like those formula containers they sell, that portion out the formula. they were kind of a pain in the butt and I could never seem to get all of the powder out. I purchased a package of Sistema Klip It containers that are small and have handles that snap into the top to make them air-tight. We then take old scoops from empty formula containers and wash those so that we have a few in rotation. We always have at least 1 or more bottles and at least a small container for formula in the diaper bag.
For outings that will have us away from home for longer periods (like a holiday or a day trip out of town, we generally bring the whole container of formula and several bottles, just in case.
This is all I’ve got so far. As I think of more and learn more, I’ll likely update this. I hope to find someone who has been breastfeeding for a bit to put together a similar post with helpful information for all of you amazing breastfeeding mommies.
You can find more helpful parenting tips on this list over at The NY Melrose Family