We talk about breastfeeding a lot here on Making of Mom, but what about moms who can’t or choose to feed their baby with pumped milk or formula? In this series on formula feeding, Emmy is going to talk us through a lot of things you need to know when choosing formula for your baby.
I had both my children in New Zealand where, like many parts of the world, breastfeeding is encouraged as the best choice for babies.
So before I go any further I want to say that breastfeeding is a really great thing to do. It is the first thing I think most people should try.
I wanted to breastfeed. I fully expected to.
But… I couldn’t.
For the record, my issue was not with producing enough milk, which is an issue some women have. I had ridiculous amounts of pain. It happens. Apparently rare, but it does happen.
It was mortifying. I felt a complete failure and an awful mother. I didn’t need to feel any of those things.
But, I still needed to feed my baby. And although I managed to express for a few weeks, formula was going to be on the cards sooner or later.
It was quite a steep learning curve when added onto ALL the other things we had to learn about our baby.
Let’s start with what equipment you need to get you underway.
Formula Feeding Must Haves – the Basics
There is a huge range of baby equipment out there, as you surely already know. You will find things that work well for you as time goes on, but I want you to know what the basics are that will get you started without needing to worry too much.
Note: this blog post probably contains affiliate links, which means we may receive small commissions from purchases made through links in this post (at NO extra cost to you). You can read our full disclosure for more information.
Choosing a formula can be so difficult… there are so many different brands and types! In fact, in a later post we’ll discuss choosing a formula in more detail.
Here’s a quick overview of the three different forms of formula you can buy:
- Powdered formula – cheaper than other forms of formula, this type of formula is the most common and you mix this with water to make up your baby’s bottle.
- Concentrated liquid formula – another type of formula to be mixed with water, this comes in a concentrated liquid form.
- Ready-to-use formula – the most expensive (and convenient) option, ready-to-use formula doesn’t need to be mixed with water. It’s ready as is.
There are also different types of formula you can get depending on the major ingredients:
- Cow’s Milk Formulas – most formulas are based on cow’s milk and are well tolerated by most babies. Some babies have an allergy to cow’s milk, and may need a different type of formula.
- Soy Based Formula – if your baby is allergic to cow’s milk, you will most likely try a soy based formula next.
- Protein Hydrolysate Formula – for babies with allergies to soy and cow’s milk, protein hydrolysate formulas contain broken down proteins that are able to be tolerated.
What should you choose? Well, my recommendation is to start with a basic powdered cow’s milk formula and go from there. Unless you have a strong family history of dairy or soy allergies, in which case you might be best talking to your doctor about moving straight on to an allergy friendly formula.
It can also be good to have a few servings of ready-to-use formula on hand for emergencies until you get used to your formula feeding routine.
2) Baby Bottles
Choosing bottles seems simple until you realise the number of different types there are out there!
My husband had to go out and choose one without me, poor man. And he chose one that was considered to have a “natural” shape. I guess that means it was supposed to look like a breast. I’m not sure I agree, but it certainly worked well for both of my quite different children. We never tried another brand or type since it worked so well. This is it if you want to try it.
If I was buying some more now I would definitely try this bottle first. My son had some reflux issues and it would have been great to feed him in a semi-upright position.
This is the kind a friend had and she felt they were really good.
But the final decision will be made by your baby! Seriously don’t underestimate how much they can tell the difference between things that feel right and comfortable to them.
And that is why we stuck with the bottles we did. Coz the kids were ok with them! No point changing if we didn’t need to!
One big point to note is that you need to check the flow of the nipples/teats. Usually they are marked according to age – like “newborn” or “2 months”. But they may say how many holes they have in them. I found it best to start with slow flow (1 hole) and don’t change to a faster flow (2 or 4 holes) too quickly. It helps baby drink without taking in too much air or going too fast and taking too much milk which they just spit up anyway.
3) Clean Water
We have a good water supply here in New Zealand. Even so we boiled water every day to keep our supply of clean water ready for making up formula. We bought a jug especially for this so we knew not to use it for anything else. Nothing fancy – just a jug with a lid.
You may prefer a water filter jug. I haven’t tried these but it may be worth it depending on your water supply:
4) Cleaning equipment
When you use formula, you need to clean your bottles after every use and potentially sterilise them as well. We were told to sterilise our bottles until your baby is around 4 months. After that, you can just clean them very well.
I should also say here that I have seen quite a few sites say that you don’t need to sterilize bottles after each use unless your baby has been sick. According to WebMD, “once on the bottle, the nipple begins to pick up all the germs in the environment, so a “sterile” nipple and bottle is just a pipe dream anyway.”
I think I would still choose to sterilise the bottles for the first month at least. But, research for yourself and see what you think. I found that it made me less worried about whether I was washing the bottle thoroughly enough – but that was probably also my anxiety getting out of control!
It’s quite simple to sterilise your bottles:
- Get a large container which you use only for this process.
- Measure the right amount of cold water and add sterilising tablets.
- Wash the bottles in the sink as normal, then put them into the solution to soak for a minimum of 15 minutes, up to 24 hours.
- Drain them to use and don’t rinse. That is it!
The sterilising solution needs to be changed every 24 hours, so setting a regular time in your routine to do that will make life easier.
You need a bottle brush. You may already have one, but we followed the hospital procedure we had seen and threw our one into the solution with the bottles as well so that it was always clean for doing the cleaning 😉
This is the sterilizing tablet solution we used. Amazing stuff. So they have their own containers which I imagine have markings for filling the water up. But we used a bucket. And had a lid we used to push everything down under the solution. It was makeshift, but effective – and cheap!
- Milton Sterilising Tablets
- Milton Cold Water Sterilizer
- Milton Combi Microwave and Cold Water Sterilizer
- All Natural Cleaning Tablets
We never used the microwave to sterilize bottles. But this may appeal to you. If so these would be very useful.
Beyond the Basics
I added these because I think sometimes new parents need all the help they can get!
I used this formula dispenser so much for both kids for making formula on the go. And it was a snack container after we stopped using formula. In fact I think it is still in the kitchen cupboard now!
Baby Brezza Formula Pro
This is way too high tech for me. But I can see the appeal for many people. You may want to try it! It mixes and heats formula to the perfect temperature in 30 seconds or less. Brilliant!
I would have loved having one of these for drying the bottles. So I include it so you can have one instead and I can feel the world is a better place with people using gorgeous drying racks for their baby bottles. While you can just use your usual drying rack, this style helps your bottle bits and pieces dry properly.
As you continue on your formula feeding journey, you’ll definitely find other things that make your life easier with bottle feeding. But these were my must have tools.
Read More on Formula Feeding