9 Formula-Feeding Habits That Make You A Better Mom
I love talking about formula, and I love that there's an option for moms who can't or don't want to breastfeed. As an adoptive mom, it's a darn good thing we had that option, and I've become a pretty big advocate for making sure moms aren't shamed for whatever feeding option they choose. One of the downsides of formula is certainly the amount of equipment involved, but I've found there are some awesome formula-feeding habits that make you a better mom.
My theory of motherhood is as follows: you're at your best when you can reduce stress and make more time for you. Whatever else we all choose to do in raising our kids is less important than whether we have enough peace of mind to give as much love to our kids as possible. So when it comes to formula-feeding, the same theory applies. Get organized, create a routine that works for your family, chill out on the sterilizing, and make yourself more time to love on your babes.
We had six hours notice that our daughter was joining our family. She was what adoption agencies sometimes call a "stork drop," rather than the kind of adoption where the birth mom makes her adoption plan months or weeks before the birth. We got a call at ten in the morning and met her that evening. Needless to say, we weren't prepared (physically, of course, because our hearts had been ready for years) and feeding her was all brand new. If we'd had months to prepare, we might have gone with a breastmilk bank or donations, but we had more than enough to contend with in those first weeks so formula was an easy decision. Honestly, I can't say enough good things about how it has fit into our family. Despite not having the best entry into the world, my daughter is growing and thriving and meeting and beating milestones all while sucking down formula for the first year of her life.
So, if formula is your jam, you can own it with the following awesome formula-feeding habits.
Find A Routine
The best habit you can create as a formula-feeding mom is to get into a good routine that works for you and your family. Formula has more moving parts and pieces than breastfeeding, but it shouldn't be daunting. Find a routine that works for your family and tweak it as you learn what works for you.
Make A Formula Station
When we brought our daughter home, we had bottles everywhere and no set place for all the equipment. After a few weeks of finding bottles in odd places growing mold, we made a bottle station. We took a coffee tray and found a convenient spot for it on the counter. On it, we put the drying rack, the current can of formula, and all of the bottles, nipples and other pieces. Then we could easily see if we were running low and needed to run the dishwasher so we never ran out.
Don't Worry About Over-Feeding Early
There's so much written about how formula babies can get fatter quicker than breastfed babies. Honestly, our daughter is itty bitty and every single breastfed baby I know is enormous.
I think the fear of over-feeding babies by formula is overblown, especially when they're very small. A quick Google search on bottle-feeding babies suggests feeding every 3-4 hours from birth, when you can realistically feed 2-3 hours when they're very small (you can always check with your pediatrician for direction here!). When your baby gets a little older, tweak the amount you're giving based on how they're feeding and growing, but don't get to worried at the very start that you're going to end up with an obese baby if you feed it when it's hungry.
Make Bottles Ahead For Nighttime Feeds...
I admit we never did this, but when I heard a friend recently say that they would make a bottle before they went to bed, and put it in the fridge for when their baby woke in the night. Not a bad idea, right?
You still might have to run it under water for a little bit, but this could be an easy bottle hack when you've only got one eye open in the middle of the night.
...Or Pre-Portion Formula
We always used one of those pre-portioning containers for measuring formula at night, then filled a few bottles with water before heading to sleep. We'd load up the little tupperware thing with enough formula for a few feeds, and then we could just dump the formula in. Way, way easier than trying to pour water and measure formula when the baby's crying to be fed and you aren't even sure what planet you're on.
Chill Out On Warming Bottles...
While it wasn't ideal that our daughter was in the NICU for the first week of her life (understatement much?), we learned so much from the NICU nurses who came to check on her every half hour while she was there. I was so relieved when they said we should feed her room temperature bottles, rather than warmed bottles. We left her bottle water on the counter and used that to make up each bottle, meaning we were never worrying about heating water or whether the formula was too hot for her.
...And On Sterilizing
Turns out sterilizing is a little unnecessary, too. The practice was recommended when the quality of water was more of an issue, but now that we have dishwashers it's OK to use those.
I used to sterilize everything once every few weeks just to make sure they stayed really clean in all the bits and pieces, but otherwise washed bottles on high heat every night.
Increase Nipple Size Incrementally
We had foster babies arrive in the middle of the night with icky bottles growing mold in the nipples. The bottles were often for much older babies than tiny, malnourished 6 week olds, too.
Alternatively, we had giant babies arrive who could hold their own bottles (and were clearly used to) by 5 months, and whose bottles were made for much older babies. Make sure the nipple size is right for the age and ability of your baby, so that your baby is getting the correct speed. Our daughter always spit up much more if she was drinking too fast, so make sure the nipple doesn't let out more than your baby can handle.
Don't Continue Using The Same Bottle For Longer Than An Hour
For the first several months, chuck those half-used bottles down the drain (I know, so painful to wash liquid gold down the drain) if they've been at room temperature for more than an hour. This makes sure you don't have any bacteria growing that could impact your baby. Alternatively, make sure to get the bottle into the fridge before an hour is up so you can use it later.