Before I had my first child I didn't know anything about formula. In fact, I only knew I didn't want to use it. Then I wasn't able to produce enough breast milk and found myself lost in the formula aisle, trying desperately to pick the "right" one. I received so much conflicting advice about formula from friends, doctors, and strangers on the internet, so I didn't know who to trust. In the end, though, there are pieces of formula-feeding advice I'm so glad I ignored, if only because now I know they were outdated, incorrect, or just wouldn't work for my family.
Because we seem to live in a "breast is best" culture, it can be hard for new moms to get good advice about formula and how to feed it to their child and/or children. If you visit the formula aisle at any local and/or chain store, even every formula can says "breast is best," and then that very same can instructs you to ask your doctor if you should use formula, which one to pick, and how to prepare it safely. When I asked my doctor, however, she didn't really have any formula-feeding advice beyond encouraging me to keep breastfeeding (which, if you ask me, was really messed up).
So I unleashed my questions on the internet hoping for answers, where I found thousands of sites about how to breastfeed and not very many about formula (that weren't trying to sell me something, that is). Mommy groups were no better, either. The first time I posted a question online about which formula to use, the first commenter literally suggested that I try harder to breastfeed, and the next mom suggested that I make my own formula from goat's milk.
Now, after formula feeding three babies and navigating everything from bottle refusal to food intolerances, I am able to give other moms some real advice (and encouragement) about formula. I also know, from experience, which pieces of advice are worth believing and which ones I was better off ignoring, like the following:
You Can't Formula Feed Part Time
I was always told that if I gave my baby a bottle of formula I wouldn't be able to breastfeed. I had never heard of combo-feeding (feeding your baby both formula and breast milk) until after my second child was born. Then my doctor told me that most people who breastfeed also use formula, to at least some degree. I had no idea. My son went on to combo-feed happily for eight months. For us, it truly was the best of both worlds.
You Have TO Buy Organic
When my daughter was born I was a dyed-in-the-wool (with organic, non-GMO dye of course) crunchy mom. I honestly thought that organic formula had to be better than any other formula made available to me. 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 a marketing tactic, because everything is literally made of chemical (yes, even breast milk).
You Have To 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, and not worry about buying yet another thing for our baby.
You Have To 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 and how much she wanted to eat, everyone was happier.
You Have To Make Homemade Formula
Don't make your own formula. Full stop. Not only did I not follow this advice, but I pretty much made it my personal mission to tell other moms how dangerous it is whenever it comes up. I don't care if a celebrity did it or you found a recipe on the internet. It's a horrible idea. Besides, 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. End rant.
You Have To Sterilize Your Bottles
Ain't nobody got time for that, and it's totally not necessary. Soap and water, or your handy dandy dishwasher, will get the job done.
You Have To Buy Fancy Bottles
I learned, albeit the hard way, that your baby might not like fancy, expensive bottles. It turned out that my son preferred (read: would only use) the free nipples they gave us at the hospital, which thankfully fit any bottle.
You Have To 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.
You Have To Take Your Baby's Bottle Away When They Turn 1
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.
You Have To Buy Name Brand 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. 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.