Building your baby registry can be an overwhelming experience. You’re already not sure what you’ll need, and the amount of baby products available can make it seem like your entire home space will be filled with nothing but baby items. Spoiler: it will. A baby formula preparation machine may become the newest item on your counter.
Take a deep breath. There are a lot of baby products available. And we’re not just talking the basics like diapers and wipes. Best advice we received? Don’t cut off tags or wash anything until you know you’ll be using it. Best piece of advice we can share? Register with the help of a friend who has been here before. A pragmatic friend who can tell you which things you actually need as a new parent. Those things can save you tons of time and extra work over the course of your baby’s first years. Which leads us to a baby formula preparation machine.
We know, it sounds totally new-age. Can’t you just scoop the formula from the container yourself?
Sure, but considering you’ll likely prepare just over 1,000 bottles for your baby during their first year of life, a little help along the way doesn’t sound like a bad idea.1
We talked with Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann (“Doctor Jacq”), board-certified pediatrician and mom of two with two decades of experience helping new parents care for their babies. She gave us her thoughts about using a formula dispenser and whether or not it’s a good option for you.
What is a baby formula dispenser?
A formula dispenser is a device that helps with bottle making. A formula dispenser can be simple, like a small on-the-go style plastic container, or a little more high-tech. Machine formula dispensers automatically mix formula and water to produce a warm bottle, earning their nickname as a “baby Keurig.”
Different types of baby formula dispensers— there are 3 options:
- Machines. Some formula dispensers are small appliances that mix formula and water together automatically to produce a warm bottle instantly. These work similarly to coffee machines. There is a reservoir for water and a compartment that holds infant formula. When the machine is turned on, the water and formula are mixed to produce a warm bottle. In terms of price, these formula dispensers are most expensive, but they’re also the most advanced. Some are even available with WiFi, so you can make your baby’s bottle through your smartphone from another room or while you’re out. Every second matters as a new parent!
- Mixing formula pitchers. These types of formula dispensers are non-electric mixing containers that can hold an entire day’s worth of formula. This is a less expensive option than a formula dispensing appliance, and is ideal for daycare, a day at Grandma’s house, or simply having a larger amount of ready-made formula on hand.
- Travel containers. These small containers hold a preset amount of formula powder and usually have a pour spout that makes it easy for you to pour the powder from the container into a bottle without making a mess. These are the least expensive, but hold the least amount of formula. These are great options for on-the-go formula making.
Benefits of a baby formula dispenser machine
If you’re still on the fence about adding a formula dispenser to your registry, or making the investment yourself, consider some of the reasons parents use formula dispensers.
Dr. Jacq says formula dispensers exist to make a parent’s life easier. When used correctly, they can help in a few ways:
With a formula dispenser, your formula will be consistently perfectly warm
Using an electric formula dispenser can keep bottle temperature consistent. Your baby may not prefer cold bottles, and bottles that are too hot can be dangerous. Using an automated formula dispenser can ensure that bottles are the perfect temperature every single time they are made.
With a formula dispenser, you’ll get less air bubbles = less gas
Dr. Jacq notes that most machines and pitchers claim to reduce the amount of air bubbles by gently mixing versus shaking the bottle. Less air bubbles in the bottle means less air taken in while feeding, which equates to less potential gas and discomfort.
With a formula dispenser, you get ease of use and less mess
Making a single bottle is a multiple step process that includes having to clean bottles and parts, measure formula and add water to the correct ratio— plus mixing, heating and cleaning up.
By using a formula dispensing machine, you can save time by not having to scoop and measure powder and water each time, and by using a pitcher you can save time by making multiple bottles at once.
Do I really need a baby formula dispenser?
Is a formula dispenser necessary to keep your baby healthy? No. Neither are disposable diapers, but they sure are convenient.
If the benefits above are appealing and you can afford the investment, it’s a time-saving tool to help you with your feeding journey.
When asked if she thought a formula dispenser is necessary, Dr. Jacq said:
“Most pediatricians would probably say parents don’t need so many extra gadgets for their baby. As a pediatrician and a MOM, I disagree! Anything that can save you time and make life easier, especially during those first few months of your baby’s life, when you and/or your partner are exhausted, sleep-deprived, and at your wit’s end, I say go for it!
“The bottom line is, do you NEED one? No. Is it nice to have, especially if gifted at a baby shower? Sure!”
So which type of formula dispenser should you choose?
This answer really depends on how much you want to spend and what you need it for.
Benefits of a travel container type formula dispenser
If you are just looking for something inexpensive to take formula with you on the go, a simple travel container that holds a pre-measured amount of formula may be all you need. Just mix with water when needed and you’re ready to go.
Benefits of a formula pitcher type formula dispenser
If you want to save time during the day at home by making multiple bottles at once, a formula pitcher may be what you need. These are also relatively inexpensive and easy to use. It’s important to know that once you make a formula bottle, it can stay fresh in the fridge for 24 hours and after that it needs to be thrown out. And if your baby ever drinks from the bottle, any extra can’t be saved again when they are done- it needs to be thrown out because it now has bacteria from their mouth in it.2
It’s important to know that lots of parents make bottles in advance for lots of reasons- convenience, so another caregiver doesn’t have to measure, etc. But some experts recommend the safest thing to do is make a bottle right before you give it to your baby.3
Using a baby formula preparation machine
A formula dispenser machine is definitely the most expensive option, but also offers the promise of saving time for every bottle you make at home. One important thing to know about formula dispenser machines is that there have been a few reports of malfunctions where an incorrect amount of formula or water was dispensed. Whether you’re thinking a pitcher or a machine is the best option for you and your baby, it’s always a good idea to talk to your baby’s healthcare provider to discuss your options and get their expert input.4
Best practices for making bottles by hand, one at a time:
If a higher-end formula dispenser is a bit beyond your budget, or if you’re just not convinced you’ll use it, there’s always the tried and true mix-by-hand method of bottle making.
Here’s how to bottle prep like a professional and ensure your baby gets safe, properly measured bottles each and every time they’re made.
Before you get started, it’s important to remember to keep your hands and your bottle mixing workspace clean.5
How to use a baby formula dispenser:
Dr. Jacq advises that the formula to water ratio is the most important thing in preparing your baby’s bottle. Over concentrated and/or diluted formula can cause major health problems for your baby.
When mixing your baby’s bottles by hand, make sure to follow the label instructions closely. When using a machine, you MUST follow the set up, settings, and cleaning instructions to ensure correct mixing. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
When starting a bottle, always put the water in the bottle first. Formula powder takes up room in the bottle, so you won’t put enough water in the bottle if you add the powder first.
What temperature water should you use for a baby bottle?
While you may think your baby will get an upset tummy if you give them a cold bottle, it’s really just a matter of your baby’s preference. Dr. Jacq says:
“In general, babies do not need formula at a specific temperature, and room temperature is just fine, but they might have a preference. For example, if a baby is also breastfeeding, they might prefer a warmer bottle of formula, since breast milk will be at body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).”
In addition, consider bringing formula up to room temperature for very young and small babies that might get cold from drinking cold formula, and in cases when you prepare an entire pitcher of formula for the day that will be refrigerated for some time.
Final tips on making baby bottles
If you still can’t decide whether or not a formula dispenser is right for you, Dr. Jacq suggests asking yourself a few questions:
- How important is time-saving to you?
- Is it worth the expense of a formula dispenser machine?
- Do you need to make a lot of bottles while you’re away from home?
- Do you trust that a machine will produce consistent bottles at the right temperature?
- Do you have multiple caregivers making bottles throughout the day?
Purchasing a formula dispenser is not a necessity, but it can be a helpful convenience, and these are some of the questions you might consider before making a purchase. In the end, formula dispensers are about convenience and time saving, and for many, that’s a good enough reason to get one. You deserve it!