Before our son was born, I planned to (and really hoped I’d be able to) breastfeed him exclusively. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way we plan. We found ourselves feeding our tiny newborn formula in those first few days after he was born, then supplementing with formula throughout the following months.
Even though things didn’t turn out the way I planned (and I LOVE to plan), do I regret it? No, not really. Because I know we did what was best for our family. And most importantly, for our baby. So, whether you choose to formula feed, or have to because of any number of reasons, it’s okay! This is just one in a million decisions YOU will have to make for YOUR baby, and nobody knows better than you do what is best for both of you. Now that you’ve made the decision to feed your baby formula, let’s talk about a few things you can do to make it easier!
- Let your husband take a turn: One of the biggest advantages of formula feeding over breastfeeding is that the responsibility to feed the baby doesn’t rest solely on the mama’s shoulders. Almost every night, my husband would take “his turn” feeding our baby his last feeding so I could get some much needed me-time or even (gasp!) go to bed early. For example, if you feed your newborn at 8:00 p.m. then go to bed, and your husband feeds your baby at 11:00 p.m. then goes to bed, you can both get a solid six hours (assuming your baby sleeps until 2:00 a.m.). This also makes it easier for you to go places without your baby, because he’ll be used to having someone else feed him. Whether you’re a breastfeeding mama or a formula feeding mama, I highly recommend introducing a bottle at one of your baby’s feedings each day so you don’t always have to be with your baby at mealtime!
- Use a nursing pillow:Don’t underestimate the value of using a nursing pillow, like a Boppy, Luna Lullaby, or an Ergo Baby. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, feeding time is such a perfect time to cuddle and bond with your baby. Using a nursing pillow will help support your baby and prevent strain on your back (or if you had a C-section, on that tender incision) as he continues to grow. Even when I wasn’t holding him, I used my Boppy to prop my baby up as I fed him a bottle. This also helps avoid gas, ear infections, and is especially important if your baby has acid reflux.
- Warm the bottle: If you can, definitely invest in a bottle warmer! But if you don’t want to steal from the diaper fund to make this investment, you can always just heat a (microwave safe) bowl of water in the microwave then place your bottle in the hot water until it reaches the correct temperature. To test the temperature of your baby’s milk, drip a couple of drops onto your wrist. If it feels cold, it’s not quite warm enough. If it’s hot, it’s a little too warm. Remember, your newborn baby’s tummy is a little bit like Goldilocks right now! She needs the temperature of her bottle to be just right! Note: Never microwave your bottle, as this unevenly heats the milk and can cause scalding.
- Prep for nighttime feedings: It’s so hard to prepare a bottle in the middle of the night when your baby is crying and you can barely pry your eyes open. To make it a little easier, take a little time before you go to bed to set a burp cloth and bib out, scoop formula into your bottle, and put a bowl of water in the microwave (or plug in your bottle warmer). Even eliminating these few simple steps from your middle-of-the-night routine will make your nighttime feeding go so much smoother and save precious seconds of sleep for you and your baby!
- Find a special spot: You obviously won’t always feed your baby in the same spot (especially if you have older children you need to keep an eye on), but you might find that the majority of your feedings happen in a certain room, like your family room or your baby’s nursery. When you’ve discovered that spot, make feedings a little easier by making sure you have a basket or drawer nearby that’s stocked with all of the feeding essentials, such as burp rags, bibs, and (if you’re a multitasking mama) an extra phone charger.
On the Go
- Find a portable container: Save space in your diaper bag by buying a small container, like the Skip Hop Grab & Go, and only carry enough formula with you to fill as many bottles as you’ll need until you can get home and refill your smaller container. Or if you want to carry a formula container, buy a small one and refill it (make sure to clean it between fills) using the larger container. This will help you save a little money because the large formula containers are usually less expensive per ounce than the smaller containers.
- Keep the water warm: As we already know, your newborn’s tummy will be much happier if the water you use for your bottles is warm. But sometimes, this is hard when you’re gone all day. So before you set out, fill your bottles with SUPER hot water, place heat packs next to them, and put them in an insulated bag (like the Petunia Pickle Bottom Bottle Butler) before burying it in your diaper bag. Some diaper bags even have a special insulated pocket built in, like the Ju-Ju-Be diaper bag. If you do this, your bottles will stay warm for at least 3-5 hours and you won’t have to worry about finding hot water. And if you use these Mixie bottles, you won’t need to make space in your diaper bag for a formula container.
- Ask for warm water: If you’re out at a restaurant and don’t have warm water, ask your server for a glass of warm or hot water. Even if the water they bring you is too hot, you can mix cold water, or a couple ice cubes, into it until it’s the perfect temperature for your baby’s tender tummy!
- Use a nursing cover: Even though you don’t need a nursing cover to keep yourself from being exposed, it can be very helpful to use one when you’re out and about to keep your baby from being distracted. Especially when he gets older and more aware of his surroundings!
- Prepare for takeoff: By the time our son was six months old, I think he had already been on six flights! So I had plenty of practice in those first few months learning how to avoid baby turbulence and tears mid-flight. Similar to prepping for those middle-of-the-night feedings, I always found it easiest to do as much prep before we actually boarded the plane as possible. I made sure to have a bottle pre-mixed so he could drink it during takeoff (a great way to keep a baby’s ears comfortable during pressure changes), and I wouldn’t have to scramble to get ready with a baby on my lap and with very little elbow room.
A Couple More Things
- Keep it clean: It’s so important to keep your baby’s bottles clean. So make sure you wash your hands before preparing a bottle, and then rinse them out as soon as possible. Finding a dirty bottle a couple days later is the worst! To help you keep everything clean, make sure to purchase a bottle brush, dishwasher basket, and bottle drying rack. And for an even cleaner kitchen, you can use a sanitizer, or even boil your bottles when they need an extra clean (check manufacturer instructions) .
Boon Clutch Dishwasher Basket
- Don’t overfeed your baby: Make sure you don’t overfeed your baby by watching for satiety signals (such as turning her head or when she stops sucking), and don’t force your baby to eat if she’s full. Also, make sure you’re familiar with the age-appropriate formula feeding schedule for your baby, and note that it’s different from the suggested schedule for a breastfed baby.
These are all of the best tips I've learned from our experiences and from other helpful mamas! What formula feeding tips can you share with the Baby Cubby Community?
Thanks for sharing! I also planned to exclusively breastfeed my little one, but things don’t always work out the way you planned it. Now, I’m really okay with feeding formula, my husband and my mother can help me a lot, but I also enjoy breastfeeding. I’m glad that I can experience both. For me, the hardest decision was, what formula I should use. We spent a lot of time researching and decided for European formula.
All the best,
Such a beauty full post, I love this post thanks for sharing this wonderful post.