Before I had babies I didn't know anything about formula. I wasn't planning to use it, so I didn't think I needed to learn, right? Then I wasn't able to breastfeed and found myself trying to figure out bottle-feeding on the fly. It seemed like everyone had a different opinion about everything — the best formula, the best bottle, the best temperature. Most of their advice turned out to be nothing more than an (usually bad) opinion, though. Now that I've been formula-feeding for a while, I've learned there's formula advice every bottle-feeding mom dreads hearing, and while most people really do have the best of intentions, intentions won't feed your kid.
When you are trying to figure out how to formula-feed, you might learn the hard way that your baby hates the expensive formula and bottles you bought, and you have to start over from the beginning. So, you consult internet mommy groups and, as a result, hear really messed up advice about how you should try harder to breastfeed (enough), buy expensive formula from Europe, or make your own formula from goat's milk (which is a really bad idea). In other words, because we live in a "breast is best" culture, it can be really hard for new moms to get good advice about formula.
Now, after formula feeding three babies and navigating everything from bottle refusal to food intolerances, I have learned to sort through formula-advice and distinguish good advice from bad. But, seriously you guys, I had to weed through so much bad formula advice first, including the following:
Buy The Most Expensive Formula
When I bought formula the first time I got the most expensive one on the shelf. I totally thought brand name formula was better for my baby and wanted to give her the best. Since then, I learned that all formulas are required to meet the same nutritional standards, set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Store brands provide all of the nutrients that babies need, just without the expensive price tag or marketing budget. The best formula for your baby is the one that works best for them, and for my daughter it also happened to be the cheapest. Score.
Buy Fancy Bottles
I learned, albeit the hard way, that your baby might not like fancy, expensive bottles. It turned out that my youngest son will only use the free nipples they gave us at the hospital. I really regret buying a dozen fancy ones before he was born.
Make Your Own Formula
Don't make your own formula. Again, for the people in the back: don't do it. I thankfully knew to not follow this advice, and I wish people would stop sharing it. It's a horrible idea. Commercial formula is safe, healthy, and expertly formulated to meet all of your baby's need. There's no reason to make your own, and it can seriously hurt your baby or make them really sick. Don't do it.
With my first baby, I boiled bottles to sterilize them. I thought I had to, but nope. Not only does it take extra time and energy I don't have, it's totally not necessary. Soap and water, or the dishwasher, is just fine.
Use Bottled Water
I received so much conflicting advice about what kind of water to use to make formula — bottled, boiled, or straight from the tap. After a bit of research, my partner and I decided to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to use boiled and cooled tap water when our baby was small, and then switch to filtered water from our fridge when he was older.
When my daughter was born I was such a crunchy mom. I honestly thought that organic formula had to be better than any other formula. It turned out that organic formula, in addition to being way more expensive, gave my daughter horrible constipation. I learned that organic formula isn't necessarily better, healthier, or anything other than marketing and a heftier price tag.
Feed Your Baby On A Schedule
When my daughter was a newborn my partner and I were told to feed her on a schedule. I got so stressed out when she refused to eat every three hours, or ate more or less than the chart said she should. Once I ditched the schedule and fed her when she was hungry, and as much as she wanted, she was so much happier. You really can't overfeed a baby. They will, you know, let you know by spitting up all over you.
Make Bottles As You Go
When my daughter was born my friend told me that you should mix bottles as you use them. I soon ditched that advice and started making a day's worth of formula each morning. Not only did this save time, but I no longer had to make bottles in the middle of the night and that was amazing.
Take Their Bottle Away On Their First Birthday
I wasn't planning to stop breastfeeding at age 1, why would I stop bottle feeding? When my son turned 1-year-old people immediately asked me when I was going to take away his bottle. I really didn't know what to do. I mean, he loved his bottle. It was totally his lovey. I am so glad I let him decide when he was ready (at about 18 months) to ditch the bottle, rather than forcing him to say bye to his "baba" based on some arbitrary advice.
Bottles Have To Be Warm
So, yeah, this one is totally up to your baby. I thought I had to warm bottles for my oldest, so I did. Then, when my second child was born and I ended up giving him a room temperature bottle in a pinch. Guys, he loved it. He ended up liking just about any temperature bottle — from ice-cold to toasty warm. It made things so much easier to not have to warm up bottles for him.
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