Are you considering switching to exclusively formula feeding your baby? Do you feel overwhelmed because you have no idea where to begin when it comes to bottle feeding a baby? However you’ve come to find this post, I hope to provide you a ton of answers to all of your formula feeding questions.
I fed both of my boys formula from the time they were a few days old (My second was fed a bottle of ready to feed formula the first night in the hospital), and exclusively formula fed them from the time they were a few weeks old.
Whether you come to formula feeding your newborn after breastfeeding for a while, if you're considering combo feeding, you’re 6 months into breast feeding and are over it, or if this has always been the choice you’ve wanted to make: welcome to the ultimate beginners guide to formula feeding.
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How I Became Fearless About Formula Feeding
When I was pregnant with my first born about five years ago the idea of formula feeding didn’t feel like it was a choice. There was an abundance of shame, embarrassment, and a fear of being shamed or embarrassed for making a choice to feed my baby formula.
There was an intense amount of pressure to breastfeed. So much so that I had made big plans to breastfeed for “at least a year.”
My body had other plans, including physically debilitating hormonally induced carpal tunnel, low supply, and breast milk that gave my baby a mild case of GERD (which is a form of acid reflux).
Thankfully, the pendulum of acceptance of formula feeding has swung a long way in a short time, although depending on where you live you may still juggle that pressure to breastfeed.
You can’t win if you breastfeed in public. You can’t win if you formula feed period. How ‘bout no matter how you feed your baby, we all just give each other a break as moms. We’re doing the best we can.
How to Offer a Bottle To Your Baby
Depending on when you choose to offer a baby a bottle you can do this in a number of ways.
Newborn baby - to a Few Weeks Old:
If your baby is still within the “4th trimester” odds are pretty good your baby will take a bottle of formula without any hesitation. Bottle nipples typically have a much faster flow than a breast at this point and because of this most babies are excited to receive the bounty of food without having to work too hard for it.
It’s important that you practice paced bottle feeding (which I cover below) so that your baby doesn’t eat too much and promptly spit all of it up.
If your baby is a bit resistant try experimenting with different bottles and nipples.
3 Months and Older
Hopefully you’ve been able to offer a bottle of pumped breast milk at this point. If your baby has refused breast milk there are some indications that they may welcome formula. (Below are some links to a few articles about possible reasons a baby may refuse to take a bottle and why.)
If your baby hasn’t had any formula, it may be a good idea to introduce it slowly.
So, for example, if your baby is taking three ounces of pumped breast milk at a serving, try doing two ounces of pumped breast milk mixed with one ounce of formula. Try this for a few days and slowly increase the amount of formula v the amount of breastmilk in the bottle until it’s all formula.
When you introduce this slowly you can help your baby acclimate to both the taste and the change to his digestive tract.
Pay attention to diapers too for any possible reactions. I discuss what to do if your baby is constipated or has gas below.
Why your baby may not be taking a bottle:
How I Finally Got My Baby to Take a Bottle from Todays Parent
My Baby Won’t Take a Bottle from Tommee Tippee
I do really like the tip of offering a sippy cup or a straw cup as an alternative to a bottle if your baby doesn’t want to take a bottle. You can read more suggestions from the Happy Hooligans blog here.
If you’ve been formula feeding and suddenly baby has stopped taking a bottle check out this post here from Baby Center UK about what may be at the root of that.
Formula Feeding Schedule for Baby
So, how much formula do you need to feed your newborn?
Healthy Children has this handy guide to formula feeding and what you can expect an average baby to consume from formula. Keep in mind fluctuations for growth spurts, illness, or stress (such as from moving or mom going back to work, etc.)
I love this formula feeding chart from Fennelseeds.com, which utilized research she found from Web MD, Johns Hopkins, and Kids Health Org.
Powdered Formula Vs. Ready Made Formula
Hands down powdered formula are going to be less expensive because it has a longer shelf life and is easy to store. But you get what you pay for because it also requires the most work. Youll need to measure and mix formula before each feed.
A few important things to note about powdered formula:
One pre-mixed batch can be refrigerated for 24 hours.
A bottle of formula that has been drunk out of has an expiration time of about 1 hour. I didn’t push this more than a few minutes with both my boys..usually they drank everything they needed within a few minutes but on rare occasions where they wanted another ounce or so (cluster feeding/growth spurt) I’d offer the same bottle if there was any left. If it had been over an hour, I’d make a fresh batch.
Liquid Concentrate Formula
Liquid concentrate formula is similar to powdered formula but it needs to be mixed with water as well. It’s like buying the concentrated version of OJ and adding water to thin out the sugar.
Because it’s already in a liquid form you don’t tend to have as much of a mess, but it is slightly more expensive than powder (and less readily available particularly if you need a specific form of formula such as Soy or Nutramigen). Often you’ll need to buy directly from the formula company as Amazon /local stores don’t tend to stock this in a large supply.
Ready Serve Formula
Ready to Serve is hands down the easiest way to serve your baby formula. But it’s also the most expensive.
With ready-to-serve you won’t need to mix anything. Just shake and open the bottle and voila! Baby gets to eat. (it’s pretty dang close to breastfeeding in that way for the haters).
However, you must refrigerate any opened formula immediately, and it must be used within 24 hours.
If your child is unpredictable with how much formula they drink in a day, this may end up wasting quite a lot of formula. If, however, your baby is consistently drinking 48 ounces in a 24 hour period, this is going to be your favorite thing ever.
When my babies were newborns I LOVED the ready-to-feed 2-ounce bottles because they were so simple to use especially for all the night feedings. And I didn’t have to worry about the leftover going bad or being wasted because they wouldn’t typically eat more than 2/4 ounces in a sitting. So one or two bottles usually did the trick.
If you are combo feeding ready to serve might not be the most cost-efficient method of formula feeding. If you're only using a few ounces in the course of 24 hours, it could mean you’re throwing away tons of high priced formula.
What Is Paced Bottle Feeding and Why Do You Need to Do It With Your Newborn Baby?
When your baby is only a few hours old it’s important that you slowly introduce formula to her.
There are no nipples small enough to slow down the pace of baby formula, unfortunately, and it’s likely your little baby is so hungry from all that hard work of being born they will just take it all.
To pace bottle feed you’ll tip the nipple so they can take it all in, and allow them to suck a few times...maybe ⅔ times. Then tilt it back (still in their mouth).
This mimics what it may be like for babies who are helping their mother’s human milk come in. The suck suck stop experience. Give them a bit of time, and then tilt again to allow for a few more sucks on the nipple. This slower pace will allow them to get exactly what they need and reduce the risk of too much of it coming back up from being over fed.
Once your baby is a few weeks old and taking more milk in (usually around ¾ weeks) you can give the bottle with the slowest level nipple to control the amount of formula they get.
Below is a super simple video that demonstrates paced bottle feeding (Trigger warning, the video is meant to be for a breastfed bottle feeding baby so if you are exclusively feeding formula just please be advised of this. The same principles apply to a formula fed baby.) Also, do not read the comments. (LOL).
What to Know about Formula Feeding Poop
Poop is important. Formula fed baby poop tends to be a bit different than breast fed baby poop.
As a new parent, you can learn a lot about the health of your baby based on the color and consistency (and frequency) of your baby’s poops.
A formula fed baby’s poop is different from a breastfed baby’s poop because, shocker, the formula fed baby is consuming cows milk or soy milk rather than human milk.
Some people claim a breastfed babies poop smells “sweeter” Idk. Poop smells like poop to me so, if you wanna go sniffing diapers that’s all you boo, but there are some things to consider when it comes to a formula fed babies poop.
A breastfed baby’s poop tends to have more “seed” like consistency that is yellow, green, and mustard brown and is often a bit runnier (but be careful not to confuse this for diarrhea)
Healthy formula fed babies tend to pass poop that is yellow or brown in color and has the scent or pasty consistency of an adult poop.
Formula fed babies also tend to poop less frequently (which is a super added bonus for us formula feeding mommas - less diaper changes, yes!)
What to Watch for When it Comes to Poop
Constipation is a big deal for babies, and adding a probiotic to their bottle can help with this. I used an organic formula that I would drop once in his bottle in the morning to help with digestion.
On the other end of the spectrum is diarrhea and if your baby is having a lot of diarrhea it can mean several different things, including a stomach virus and the possibility of sensitivity to the formula. It’s best to consult with a pediatrician (be sure to bring a sample of the bowel movement in question, wrapped in an airtight container (ziplock bag if possible).
I know. It’s gross. But it’s the only way they can be sure.
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Dealing with Baby Formula Related Gas
All babies experience gas pains.
Luckily as formula feeding parents, we have a variety of options to help ease the discomfort of gas pains from formula feeding.
Common Causes of Gas In Your Baby
Here are some of the culprits to be aware of if you’re navigating the discomfort of gas in your formula fed baby:
Swallowing too much air (such as from an incorrect latch or a nipple size that is too big allowing for large gulps of formula).
Excessive crying (this can actually make your baby take in more air and become a feedback loop).
A digestive tract that cannot process food or produce gas and stool effectively.
Common Symptoms of Gas In a Formula Fed Baby
Tons of burping after a feeding. And don’t mistake a few burps, but like. Lots.
Excessive spit up. While this can also be a sign of several other baby feeding issues (such as acid reflux) it can also indicate that your baby is getting too much air.
The telltale farting noises from your sweet sleeping baby. Especially if they wake up after dozing off from passing excessive gas. While some of this is certainly normal and will improve over time as your baby’s digestive tract develops, it can be very uncomfortable for your baby (and hard for you to watch them suffer this discomfort).
A bloated or swollen abdomen. This is something that is best assessed by a professional. You can take pictures to back up your questions about bloat and share them with your pediatrician at your next appointment.
Difficulty sleeping can be a result of a combination of all of the above. Which makes for more crying, which makes for more gas, and so on.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: HOW TO EFFECTIVELY TREAT ACID REFLUX IN YOUR BABY
How to Treat Gas Discomfort in a Baby
1. A Gentle Formula
Formula companies make a variety of formulas meant to help ease any digestive issues including gas. I have tried Enfamil Gentleease and found it to be a bit helpful at first (but we had much bigger issues including acid reflux). Similac Sensitive is another highly rated version and they’re both similar so it may just be a matter of price point.
2. Gas Drops
These gas drops are a lifesaver when you’ve got a baby who’s having gas pains during feedings. We had bottles everywhere in the house so we could quickly drop a few drops into the bottle. I loved that you could SEE the bubbles dissipating in the bottle which meant it was working.
Benefits of Formula Feeding
I wrote this additional post on some of the most important benefits of formula feeding (so definitely check it out) but here’s a quick recap.
Formula feeding is convenient and anyone can do it.
There is some evidence to suggest that formula feeding can lead to your baby sleeping longer periods of time (although this could be anecdotal)
Babies with dairy allergies can have several different alternatives that don’t require you to change your entire diet.
You can drink. You can have coffee. You don’t have to worry about if the spicy chicken wings you ate for dinner are going to cause your baby screaming pain every time they poop for the next three days. You get your body back 100000%.
Formula fed babies are just as healthy as breastfed babies. In fact, cognitively speaking they are almost exactly the same. While breast milk does have some immunity powers that just cannot be replicated in formula, that’s about the only difference.
If you’re breastfeeding and formula feeding your baby (or otherwise known as combo feeding) you’re likely to be able to experience many of the above benefits as well.
Whatever your path to becoming a fearless formula feeding parent, formula feeding your baby can be an incredible bonding experience and also provide you peace of mind that your baby is happy and healthy.