Feeding Your Baby

Formula Feeding From Birth: 5 Helpful Tips

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Thinking about exclusively formula feeding from birth? There are a lot of new parents that make the choice to go this route, while there are lots of other parents who choose breastfeeding or chestfeeding. There are a variety of reasons a family may decide to formula feed from birth: preference, adoption, trauma, medication or medical needs of the birth parent (to name a few!). If you’re wondering, does formula feeding make me a bad mom? The answer is absolutely not! There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby. The most important thing is that your baby is cared for, loved and fed. 

We’ve put together this resource to help alleviate some of that stress by providing guidance for how to successfully start formula feeding at your hospital or birthing center if that’s what you’d like to do. Know that you are supported in your feeding journey— whatever it may look like! To start, here are 5 helpful tips if you’re planning to formula feed exclusively from birth.

5 Tips for Exclusive Formula Feeding

1. Bring your own bottles, formula, and dish soap to the hospital

You might not need it, but you’ll be glad to have it if you do. It is a great idea to call the hospital ahead of time to find out which formulas they have available and if they have criteria that must be met before they will provide them. If you have already selected a formula you’d like to use, check with the hospital to see if they have policies and restrictions around bringing your own formula. Keep in mind you likely need to bring bottled water with you or purchase it at the hospital. See below for questions to ask your hospital or birth center!

If you have decided on the brand of baby bottle you plan to use with your baby, plan on bringing your own bottles and dish soap to the hospital. The hospital will have plenty of tubs or wash basins; don’t be shy requesting one to use for washing your bottles. To keep your bottles as clean as possible, it is best to wash them in a wash basin/container reserved exclusively for bottles. 

Pro-tip: Sanitize your bottles before you head to the hospital.

2. Be prepared with your “elevator speech” about why you’re not breastfeeding 

Most hospitals send a lactation consultant to visit every postpartum patient in the first 24 hours after birth as the standard of care. If you are not interested in seeing a lactation consultant, that is fine! Just be prepared to advocate for yourself. You may choose to have this preference written into your birth plan, noted in your chart upon admission, or posted on your door with a sign. Speak with your birth team ahead of time (your partner included!) and make sure they also feel clear and comfortable about how to honor your wishes. 

Here is an example script to get you started: “After considering a lot of factors and doing our research, we’ve decided that formula feeding is the best option for our family and we’re comfortable with this decision. We do not want to see lactation consultant at this time. We appreciate your support!”

3. Bring supplies to manage your milk from coming in

Delivering the placenta triggers your body to release hormones that stimulate milk supply. Even without stimulation from nursing or pumping, your milk will likely start to come in after birth. If you 100% do not want to breastfeed from the start, do your best to get ahead of the swelling and discomfort that comes with milk suppression. Products like CaboCreme (a cream that helps with the suppression of breast milk), a tight-fitting sports bra, ice packs that fit inside your bra and ibuprofen are recommended. These will help stop the milk production. It is best to avoid heat (hot compresses or very hot showers) while drying up your milk supply. If you are having persistent discomfort or trouble drying up your milk supply, speak with your healthcare provider about other options to help.  

4. Choose a formula that has broken down proteins and added whey

Colostrum (early breast milk) has more whey protein than mature breast milk; we want your newborn’s formula to reflect this! Whey protein is easier for little tummies to digest than casein protein. Look for a formula that is at least 50% whey protein (if not more) and/or a formula with partially-hydrolyzed (broken-down) proteins for easiest digestion. If you’re unsure, call the manufacturer and ask for the whey to casein ratio.

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5. Know that babies don’t eat a lot

With newborns, you’ll be feeding in small quantities frequently. A formula-fed baby may cluster feed just like a breastfed baby! Most newborns only eat one to three ounces every 3-hours; however, in the first few days of life, expect your baby to eat even less (15mL-30mL is typical during the first day or two after birth).

Minimize waste, if using ready-to-feed formula, by using 2 ounce nursette bottles and pouring half an ounce to an ounce at a time into another bottle for feeding so that baby’s germs don’t transfer onto the nursette nipple. If using powder formula, prepare a larger quantity in one bottle, and pour an ounce at a time into a second bottle for feeding. The formula that has not been offered to baby can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours after it’s been prepared. You can prepare batches of formula in a formula pitcher as well.

The A.A.P has general guidelines for feeding a newborn; however, there is no standard feeding schedule recommendation. We recommend following your newborn’s cues and feed on demand.

Planning for Formula Feeding from Birth 

Considerations & Conversations for Formula Feeding Parents 

One of the major anxieties as a formula feeding parent (or potential formula feeding parent!) is navigating conversations surrounding your choice. Having a plan for what you’d like your feeding journey to look like will benefit you in deciding on your birth plan and navigating conversations surrounding your decision. Once you decide you’d like to formula feed from birth, here are some conversation points and preparations to consider leading up to your baby’s birth. 

Discuss policies with your hospital/birthing center

Call your hospital/birthing center to discuss policies and find out what formula they provide. Most hospitals have limited options available– typically standard, gentle, hypoallergenic and preemie formulas. If you do not wish to use one of the options they offer, you may be able to bring your own formula with you for your delivery. When thinking about this option, here are some questions to consider asking:

  • What formula options do you offer?
  • Can I bring my own formula?
  • Do you require a ready-to-feed formula if I decide to bring my own?
  • If I bring my own powder/concentrate formula, do I need to bring bottled water?
  • Do you automatically send an IBCLC to each family following delivery?
  • Do you have parameters around who is “allowed” to use hospital-provided formula after delivery?
  • Do you require parents to sign a waiver or acknowledgement before being allowed to give baby formula?
  • Decide what your feeding journey will look like! 

There is more than one way to formula feed! The most important thing is educating yourself about your options and choosing what feels right to you and your family. Even once you make your decision, you have the freedom and flexibility to change your mind as you go. There is no right way to formula feed- it can look however you’d like! Below are a few examples of ways to formula feed. 

  • Exclusive formula feeding
  • Combo feeding from the start (feeding both breast milk and formula)
  • Pumping to offer breast milk from a bottle while in the hospital and transitioning to exclusive formula at a later date
  • Choose a formula you’d like to use from the start.

Some hospitals will require you to use a ready-to-feed formula while in the hospital. Once you arrive home, discuss with your pediatrician whether you can switch to powdered formula if desired. When deciding on a ready-to-feed formula for the hospital, look for something close in composition to the powder formula you plan to use long term at home. 

Considerations when selecting a formula

  • Don’t buy too much formula before you know what your baby’s needs will be!
  • Consider a subscription baby formula that will conveniently deliver to your front door.
  • Choose a formula that closely matches the composition of colostrum (or first milk) with added whey protein (at least 50%) and/or broken down proteins for easy digestion. 
  • Designate your partner or loved one to enforce your feeding plan at your birth.

The last thing you’ll want to be bombarded with while you’re in labor or recovering from birth are questions surrounding your feeding plan. Having a discussion with your partner or loved one ahead of time and empowering them to feel confident communicating your feeding plan with your care team at the hospital is crucial!

  • Discuss how you can best be supported in your decision while at the hospital.
  • Make a list of reasons for your decision and affirmations to have as reminders for yourself when/if you feel pressured to breastfeed.
  • Speak with your birth team about your plans & wishes.

Whether you have an OB or midwife, it’s important to share your feeding plan (ideally before birth) with your medical team. A great time to start having these conversations is in your prenatal appointments! Even if you are at a “Baby-Friendly” hospital, your birth team still works for you and needs to respect your wishes. Discussing your feeding plan prior to birth can help to ensure that your birth team is clear on your wishes and expectations for feeding your baby. 

If you are comfortable, discuss the reasons behind your decision and how you and your partner have come to make this choice. Discuss how you’d like to be supported in this decision at your birth. Here are a few things to consider when having this conversation: 

Have exclusively formula feeding /colostrum only/combo feeding added to your birth plan and shared with your care team.

You do not have to justify your decision! But if you are comfortable, have a conversation with your provider about what brought you to your decision and how you would like to be supported in the hospital. 

Create signs to post on your hospital room door / inside your room:

“No breastfeeding zone” 

“Formula Feeding Only”

“This is a formula-friendly room!”

“No lactation consultant needed- thank you!” 

When you arrive at the hospital/birth center, have your partner, loved one, or support person cover (or if possible, remove) breastfeeding paraphernalia/literature from your room.

If it’s your preference- request that an IBCLC not be sent to your room. Even if this is in your birth plan, reiterate it to the nurses and doctors working that day and at the beginning of each shift.

Place signs on your door/inside your room (no breastfeeding zone, formula feeding only etc.) 

If you will be using hospital-provided formula, request that formula be brought to your room prior to the birth so you aren’t waiting on it to be brought to you when baby is hungry. 

Request a wash tub/basin be brought to your room for washing bottles and set up a ‘feeding station’ in your room. 

Formula Feeding from Birth FAQs

Can newborns have formula instead of breast milk?

Absolutely! FDA regulated baby formula is safe, healthy and nutrient-dense. It provides all the nutrition your newborn baby needs to thrive. Baby formula is formulated to closely mirror the nutrient composition of breastmilk. 

Do your breasts still sag if you don’t breastfeed?

Some women experience more pronounced breast changes during pregnancy, while others experience little to no noticeable difference in their breasts. Speak with your provider about what to expect. 

Why do people use formula and not breastfeed?

Families choose to use formula for a number of reasons, from medical necessity (for mom or baby), to low milk supply, adoption or simple preference. Every family’s reason for choosing to formula feed is valid and should be respected and supported. 

Are there benefits to formula feeding?

Benefits to formula feeding vary from family to family; some commonly reported benefits include:

  • Shared responsibility of feeding between partners
  • Increased opportunities for close bonding with baby for the non-birth parent
  • Flexibility
  • Convenience 
  • Fewer restrictions to the breastfeeding parent’s diet (if baby has special dietary needs)
  • Improved maternal sleep (shared feeding load / middle of the night feedings)
  • Added nutritional benefits of baby formula 

Overview of Formula Feeding from Day 1

Your formula feeding journey can look any number of ways, from exclusive formula feeding to long term combo feeding— there is no ‘one size fits all’ plan for feeding. Our hope with this guide is that you feel prepared and supported in having conversations, making plans, and doing what feels best for you and your family.

Shop Bobbie Organic

Shop Bobbie Organic Infant Formula

Bobbie Organic Infant Formula is a USDA Organic, EU-style infant formula that meets all FDA requirements. It is a complete nutrition milk-based powder modeled after breast milk and is easy on tummies. It is non-GMO and doesn't have corn syrup, palm oil, or maltodextrin. Learn more about Bobbie.

Shop Bobbie
The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.