Formula-Feeding Fears You Should Totally Ignore

Every time I write about formula-feeding, it feels like I'm wading into an electrically charged puddle. Any topic surrounded by so many opinions and so much passion is sure to be a potentially contentious one. While both formula-feeding and breastfeeding come with their pros and cons and reasons to worry, there are things all formula-feeding moms panic about, but really shouldn't. For starters? Actually talking about formula-feeding their babies.

Over the course of my daughter's first year of life, I spent hundreds of hours feeding her bottles of formula, and for the first few months I worried constantly about everything and anything to do with formula-feeding. I worried that she wasn't eating enough, that she'd never eat enough, that she was on the verge of getting diagnosed with failure to thrive at any given moment. In other words, you name it and I worried about it. She was my most prized possession and I took very seriously my role in keeping her thriving.

Looking back now, though, I realize I sure did waste a whole lot of time worrying, when I could have been soaking her in and resting my brain. The silver lining is that I compiled quite a collection of information on formula-feeding from my panic-induced Googling sessions. So, take advantage of my panic and rest your worrying head. Here are just a few things you really don't need to worry about, as a formula-feeding mom:

How Much Formula You Have

I have a recurring nightmare about being stuck in an airport for a never-ending period of time, during which we run out of formula and are trapped and can't get any more.

In reality, running out is much less likely to happen. Try to remember to pack more than you need for outings, but also remember that your child will be OK if they have to skip one feeding or wait an extra hour or two for a bottle. We once went off to a national park for an evening and forgot all the formula and there wasn't a grocery store for miles around. We fed our daughter water for that bottle and, while I felt like a terrible mom, she barely noticed.

How Safe The Water Is

I was constantly worried about the water we used to make our daughter's bottles in the first few months. We were told by the NICU to just buy "baby water" from the grocery store, so I started to panic that anything "less than" that water would be carrying harmful germs or bacteria or something.

In reality, I should have chilled the heck out (and much, much earlier). We'd still use baby water or filtered water or an equivalent, but when out and about, whatever water we found was just fine.

How Sterilized The Bottles Are

Turns out, that's an antiquated problem that you don't have to worry about on a daily basis. Thank goodness, too.

Nowadays, the dishwasher does the job just fine. I chose to sterilize our bottles every few weeks, simply because they had a lot of parts that I wanted to make sure stayed clean. (Even that was over-kill, though.)

How Long The Bottle Has Been Left Out

In those sleep-deprived early months, when every bottle was a struggle with our daughter, I had such a hard time remembering when I'd made the bottle and how long until the remains should be tossed down the drain.

Is it a great idea to leave a bottle sitting on a counter in the sun for five hours before giving it to your kid? Nope, not really. However, is an extra five or 10 minutes of a bottle sitting out going to make or break you? Not likely.

How Warm A Bottle Is

I've run into formula-feeding moms recently, who said they would still panic if they couldn't heat up a bottle for their baby.

It does depend what your child will tolerate, and a freezing cold bottle can be a little tough for a smaller baby, but a room temperature bottle will do just fine. In fact, we never warmed bottles for our daughter once the nurses in the NICU said we didn't have to. Honestly, we have never looked back.

How Little Your Baby Is Eating...

This was our panic from day one. Our daughter easily got overwhelmed by feeding and, as a result, had a hard time sucking at the start. We used to have to put a finger under her chin to keep her suctioned onto the nipple. For the first few months, getting her to finish a bottle was like completing a marathon. There was one phase where we could only get her to eat if we were walking her around and she was distracted by the photos on the fridge. (FYI this made for a killer workout, even though she was barely 9 pounds.)

There are certainly cases where you should worry about your child getting enough food, but it shouldn't rise to panic level on a daily basis. Honestly, the best thing you can do is calmly try to get your child to eat as much as you can. In our case, our daughter was and is a bird eater, who snacks often but rarely eats much in the way of volume. I really shouldn't have worried quite so constantly at the beginning, knowing now that she never would have been a chubby baby no matter how hard I tried.

...Or How Much

This is a much more common formula worry: is your baby eating too much formula and will they become totally obese by the time they're a few months old? Not likely.

One thing to watch out for, which we saw with a few of our foster babies, is whether they're taking the bottle to soothe themselves when they're not hungry. We're fairly certain that one of our foster babies had a bottle stuck in her mouth every time she peeped, and it was hard to break her of the habit of using a bottle to soothe all night long.

How Long Your Baby Is Using A Bottle

We absolutely panicked in the weeks leading up to weaning our daughter from her bottles. We were convinced she would never drink enough again, and thought she'd fuss and fuss missing her morning and nighttime bottles.

However, the first day we packed away her bottles (she was around 13 months old), she didn't even notice. Doctors usually recommend moving a child to a sippy cup from a bottle around the age of 1, but don't panic if it's a few months later. We waited a little longer for our daughter to get over a cold, and for a younger foster baby to head to his long term home, because going cold turkey when she could see bottles all day long seemed a little mean.

How You'll Be Judged For Formula-Feeding

This is probably the biggest panic in the back of most formula-feeding moms' heads: they'll be judged for formula-feeding. As hard as it is to internalize, you've gotta put that one to rest.

Even months into formula feeding, I wondered what other moms thought when they saw me dumping my little canister into the bottle to mix it up. My favorite thing to think about when I felt that worry creep into the corners of my mind, was that my grandmother formula fed all five of her children. They all went to college and nearly all of them have masters' degrees. My kid is going to be just as smart for her formula start, I'm sure of it.