Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to bottle feed your baby. Feeding your baby is about keeping your baby happy, healthy, and well fed in a manner that supports them and you as their caregiver.
Whether you plan to use formula, breastmilk, or both, bottle feeding your baby requires certain equipment, the right know-how, and a little bit of advice about feeding on the go.
Milk Drunk consulted with Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann (“Doctor Jacq”), board-certified pediatrician (and mom), to find out exactly what is essential for bottle feeding, what to consider when shopping for formula, how best to clean your feeding supplies, and what to do about feedings on the go.
The Basics for Bottle Feeding
The decision to bottle feed means learning about bottle basics. Entering a big box baby store can feel overwhelming-who knew there were so many different types of bottles? Which one is the best?
Don’t worry. Most items will be subject to preference (i.e. do you prefer bottles that work well when breastfeeding, do you need bottles that help eliminate gas?).
We asked Dr. Jacq for her most important tip when shopping for bottle supplies:
“One thing to keep in mind when you shop: Everything should be BPA-free!”
Most bottles will be BPA-free because the FDA no longer allows them to be manufactured with this chemical. If you plan to use hand-me-down bottles, or even bottles you have from a previous baby, check with the manufacturer to ensure they were manufactured after the date of restriction, which was July 12, 2012.
How much should you buy in terms of bottle supplies?
Use this rule of thumb: five to ten bottles and accompanying supplies (nipples, etc.) should work perfectly for a baby who will be exclusively bottle fed. If you plan to combo feed (breastfeed and bottle feed) you can consider buying two to three less, but you may find that having extra bottles on hand is very convenient.
Now that you know what to avoid (BPA) and how much you need, let’s start shopping!
Bottles and Nipples
Again, use the five to ten rule for exclusively bottle-fed babies when creating a bottle stock pile.
Here are some tips from Dr. Jacq on bottle selection that can help you wade through the sea of available options.
“Baby bottles and nipples should all be BPA free. Look for bottles that help prevent colic and air bubbles, are easy to clean, and reasonably priced.”
It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of money on your bottles as long as they are safe and effective.
All formula will technically feed your baby, but not all formula is identical. Look for formula with clean ingredients, and if you have questions about the contents, ask your baby’s pediatrician.
When asked about formula selection, Dr. Jacq asks, “What’s important to you, as this baby’s parent or caregiver, in a formula?”
Dr. Jacq says there are things to consider when selecting a formula:
- Does my child have a special need? If your baby was born prematurely, has specific food allergies, or immune deficiencies, you may be limited to certain types of formula (i.e. non-dairy,etc.).
- Is the formula easy to find at a local store or online? You’ve read about (and love) European formula, but getting access to it can be difficult at best, and nearly impossible during a pandemic. Ultimately, you need continual, consistent access to your formula supply.
Baby Bonus: If you want the same great quality and ingredients that are provided by European formula, you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to buy it on the “formula black market.” Bobbie organic baby formula was created to meet European formula standards and is available for purchase in the U.S.
- Does it meet my need for convenience? Convenience matters. If you’re a caregiver on the go, choosing formula that comes in pre-portioned packages could be a huge help. Formula is available as powder, ready to feed, and as a liquid concentrate.
- Are clean, organic ingredients important to me and my family? We get it. You’re on a budget and you may not even eat organically yourself. The most important thing is to feed your baby the proper balance of dietary macros.
Ingredients do matter, and the sources of the macros (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) will differ between formula brands.
Baby Bonus: Bobbie baby formula is modeled after a European style recipe that is closest in composition to breastmilk. What goes into Bobbie is just as important as what doesn’t. With Bobbie, you can be confident the macros of your baby’s formula are carefully thought out and crafted from organic, high-quality ingredients.
Also, you’ll never find fillers, GMO’s,or hexane-extracted DHA in Bobbie.
- Is the formula regulated and vetted by the U.S. FDA? We asked Dr. Jacq her thoughts on FDA compliant formulas. She says,
“While all infant formulas marketed, sold, and manufactured in the U.S. must be FDA compliant, and nutritional guidelines are set for all formulas, the sourcing of ingredients, compositions and specifics on ingredients can vary greatly.
“This is an area I feel parents should spend some time researching before their baby comes, even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding. If and when the time comes to use formula, you want to be prepared with knowledge and have an option or two you have researched and know how to get.”
If you’re still struggling to find a formula that meets the needs of your family, sites like Baby Formula Expert are great for getting the latest formula information.
A formula dispenser is a great option for getting an accurate formula to water ratio each and every time. It’s also a huge time saver, and incredibly convenient in terms of bottle prepping.
Formula dispensers are available in travel size and as stand alone small appliances. What you use will be determined by your specific needs.
If you plan to combination feed (give your baby both breast milk and formula) you’ll need a breast pump. Even if you plan to nurse rather than give your breastmilk to your baby in a bottle, having a breast pump on standby can help if you find you overproduce or if there’s an unexpected reason you’ll be away from your child.
Nursing pillows aren’t just for nursing! They’re great for giving your arms and back a rest while you bottle feed your baby. Most nursing pillows position around your midsection and provide a secure place for your baby to lay while keeping you in an upright (instead of hunched over) position.
Dr. Jacq says you can’t go wrong stocking up on burp cloths.
“Both breastfed and formula fed babies will spit up-a lot! Spit up is caused by an immature valve between the esophagus (feeding tube) and the stomach. It starts in the first few weeks of life, peaks at 4-5 months, and usually goes away by 12 months.”
Bottle feeding requires cleaning, and you can opt to handwash your bottles and nipples or opt for dishwasher safe brands. Either way, your baby’s bottles need to be sterilized. It’s especially important to sterilize bottles before the first use, if your baby is premature, very young (three months of age or younger) or has a compromised immune system.
Dr. Jacq advises that making sure your bottles and bottle parts are thoroughly dry after washing and sterilizing is key to avoiding bacteria growth.
“Bacteria love moist environments, so leaving a clean bottle wet might defeat the purpose of cleaning and sterilizing in the first place.”
When cleaning your baby’s bottles, follow the CDC guidelines for cleaning and sterilizing so you know you’re doing it correctly and always offering your child a clean, sterile bottle.
If you’re starting a registry or simply want to add a bit more convenience to your bottle-feeding routine, you can grab a combo bottle sterilizer and dryer. These small appliances make it easy to ensure your baby’s bottles are fully clean, completely sterile, and ready for use.
Provided your bottles and nipples are designed for dishwasher use, using your dishwasher is a great way to clean and sterilize. Bonus points if your dishwasher has a specific sterilize cycle, but it isn’t 100% needed.
Soap or Bottle Cleanser/Sterilizer
You can use a mild dish soap for cleaning and sterilizing your baby’s bottles, or you can use a specialty bottle soap available from many baby stores or websites. Either way, it’s most important to ensure you remove all the soap from your baby’s bottles if washing by hand.
Bottle Cleaning Brush
A bottle cleaning brush is necessary to get inside the bottle and reach to the bottom. If you’re washing by hand, it’s impossible to properly clean a baby’s bottle with a rag. Be sure to rinse the brush thoroughly or toss it in the dishwasher every couple of days to ensure it is also sanitized and not harboring bacteria that could make your baby sick.
Bottle or Dish Drying Rack (If Washing By Hand)
As previously mentioned, a damp bottle can become a bacteria breeding ground. A bottle drying rack is designed to allow a cleaned bottle to rest upright and excess water to drain from it, allowing the bottle to dry completely before it is stored or used again.
Feeding on the Go
Dr. Jacq says the key to successful feeding on the go is to always have extra; extra formula, bottles, nipples, burp clothes, etc.
When feeding on the go, plan for the unexpected. A formula dispenser can also be a huge help, especially if you find yourself mixing formula bottles while in transit (i.e. in the car, on the plane, etc.).
It never fails — you’re away from home and preparing a bottle for your baby when you discover the nipple brought is either damaged or has spent the past three weeks floating around in the bottom of the diaper bag (oops).
Carrying a few extra nipples in a sterile container can ensure you’re never without.
Insulated Bottle Carrier/Travel Cooler
When feeding on the go, it’s crucial to ensure the formula and/or breastmilk you offer your baby is still fresh. Dr. Jacq says:
“According to the CDC, breast milk can stay out at room temperature for four hours, formula for two hours, and one hour if baby drank from it.”
She says there are other things to consider when shopping for insulated bottle carriers and travel coolers:
- Do you even need one? These items are really convenient for traveling, outings, storing breastmilk at work, taking a few bottles to daycare or grandma’s.
- Bag size. How many bottles are you planning on storing? Bags come in various sizes, from lunch bags to large backpacks.
- Degree of coldness. Look for a well insulated bag. Does it have a removable ice pack? Is it standard size?
- Cleaning. Don’t cry over spilled milk! Make sure the bag is easy to clean (or even machine washable).
- Is the bag easy to carry?
- Extra storage. Do you need/want to store additional items in the same bag? Keys, wallet, phone?
- Style. Let’s face it, it should look good, and there are numerous options available nowadays so you don’t have to settle.
And with that, Dr. Jacq wrapped things up with us with these final thoughts:
“With so many baby products out there, it can be overwhelming to know what you will want or need, especially as a first time parent.
“Seek the advice of friends, family, your pediatrician or health care provider, or even the internet! In the end, you will discover as you go along, what really matters to you and what makes your life easier.”