Okay, ladies… time to take a break from the controversy and talk shop. Formula feeding support isn’t just about analyzing studies or fighting off our detractors, after all. And like so many other aspects of parenting, no one really talks about the idiosyncrasies of bottle feeding. One peak inside a Babies-R-Us tells the tale: row upon row of bottles, nipples, warmers, and other accoutrements… and if you’re like me and found yourself unexpectedly formula feeding after nursing didn’t work out, getting set up for your new feeding situation can be more than a bit stressful.
I had half-heartedly zapped a Born Free “starter kit” onto my registry when I was about seven months pregnant, thinking that this addition was merely insurance. At some point I was going to try and pump so that my husband could take a feeding or two, right? The starter pack would certainly suffice… bottles were bottles after all, and they were BPA free, said so right on the label… it was a safe choice. I liked the packaging. Done and done.
Flash to several months later, when my kid couldn’t latch, and suddenly I had to cash in that insurance policy, big time. I ripped open the Born Free package… and felt my eyes cross. What were these little plastic disks about? And those things that looked like puzzle pieces? I have issues with spacial relations on a good day, let alone one when I was going on half an hour of sleep, with a screaming, hungry baby and a complex about having to feed him from a bottle in the first place.
I figured out the system eventually, but then it became apparent that we were going to need more than the four bottles that came in the pack. So, off to BRU we went; back to the Wall of Possibilities (see, if I make it sound like something Harry Potter-esque it seems cooler, right?) to get some more supplies. My husband went to grab some more Born Frees, staying all brand loyal and crap, but I restrained him.
“WAIT!” I cried, desperately trying to sooth our colicky baby (who was still suffering from a milk allergy, although we didn’t know it at the time). “Look at all our choices… maybe we’re using the wrong bottle! Maybe he’s just gassy! This one says it’s best for colic and gas…Ooooo, and this one is made from PVC…how freaking cool is that?”
And thus began our journey into bottle madness. I think we must have gone through about 20 brands of bottles (and later, sippy cups) before ending up exactly where we started. Born Free was my baby’s bottle of choice; he hated the Dr. Brown’s, was indifferent to Playtex, and wouldn’t even touch the Nuby. The little Medela ones that came with my breast pump kit were okay for a bit, but they were just so flimsy looking; I gravitated towards the high-tech looking delivery systems: the more parts the better. (I regretted this preference every time I went to wash the dishes, but what can you do? For the record though, to this day I don’t understand why those little disks need the hard plastic and soft plastic parts. Couldn’t they make it simpler on us? Plus, I was always losing the little buggers down the disposal and mutilating them, and the company does not sell the disks separately, forcing you to buy a whole new set of bottles… total racket, if you ask me.) I started collecting overpriced baby bottles like other women collect overpriced shoes. You know – the kind you never actually use, but look really great lined up in your closet?
I’ve since found that most moms get super committed to their brand of bottle. And babies do too. My kid can spot a Born Free from a mile away, and yet he has no interest in the baby with the Playtex drop-in right next to him. It’s tough to recommend a bottle to a new mom; it’s kind of like telling someone which breed of dog to get. I happen to love the smoosh-faced breeds (hence our proud ownership of beloved Japanese Chin), but my mom thinks it’s not a dog if it doesn’t have a snout. There’s no accounting for taste, or the preferences of infants, which apparently, at least in my son’s case, can be developed before they even know how to focus their eyes. My suggestion? If you can liquidate your savings account, buy one of each brand, and try them all until your junior gourmet chooses his favorite. In this economy, though, that might not be a rational way to go; instead, I’d recommend thinking about the following:
1. How much you can withstand dishpan hands: The bottles with a lot of parts (Born Free, Dr. Browns) are highly recommended, but with the caveat that they are a pain in the touchas to clean. Little bits of grime get stuck in the crevices of the disks and you’ll find yourself grumbling at your in-laws’ kind attempts to wash up for you, after the eighth time you discover gross chunks of leftover formula collected on the sides of the plastic. But if you are a bit OCD and enjoy washing dishes, then go for it – I honestly think my kid did have less gas with the Born Free bottles.
2. How environmentally friendly you are: Playtex Drop-Ins are by the far the easiest system (and a lifesaver in those first few weeks of parenthood when washing a dish seems as doable as climbing the Himalayas barefoot), but those liners are not too “green”. A year into a bottle-fed baby’s life, and you’ll have be the proud owner of a plastic liner landfill.
3. How intimidated you get by the Mammary Mafia: When I first switched to formula, I’d only use Medela bottles outside of the house, since they are the preferred choice of pumping moms. I figured people would assume there was breastmilk in my bottle and leave me alone. Sad, but true. Medela’s got the monopoly on pumps and pump parts, so if you’re in the formula closet (not that I am condoning this, by any means, but I also know how it feels to be a new mom in a primarily breastfeeding community, and we all need to get through the day), Medela is a good “beard”.
4. How “trendy” you are: It’s hard to accessorize a newborn. Those little headbands and caps only go so far. What better way to show your offspring’s good taste than a stylish glass Weego or high-tech, self-heating Yoomi? You gotta feed the kid; might as well make a statement while you’re doing it.
That’s my two cents on bottles. I’d love to hear from the peanut gallery…. which is your brand of choice? Do you think the bottle can really make a difference with gas and spit up? Talk to me, FFFs….