Advice for formula feeding parents, from other formula feeding parents

There’s an embarrassing lack of support in the early postpartum period for all women, including those who are formula feeding. While breastfeeding moms are understandably in dire need of lactation clinics and LLL meetings, there’s little to no practical support when you’re feeding with a bottle rather than a breast, and even less emotional support. And god knows we all need support… breastfeeding and bottle-feeding alike.

This morning, I posed the following question to the FFF social media audience, both on Twitter and Facebook:

“If you had to give one piece of advice to a new formula-feeding mom, what would it be?”

 The answers were fast, furious and fabulous. I thought it would be nice to post some of these comments on the blog, to provide a collection of informative and self-affirming tidbits to struggling new parents – kind of like our own “virtual” bottle-feeding peer support group.

So, here you go: a random, but beautiful, collection of sentiments and practical tips for those bleary-eyed new moms and dads, peering anxiously at the formula can, measuring out scoops of powder with shaky, sleep-deprived hands. You’re doing a great job. And we support you.

The FFF Community answers the question: “If you had to give one piece of advice to a new formula-feeding mom, what would it be?”


Emotional: Love YOURSELF and your BABY. There is nothing that matters more on a mommy’s long list of concerns. Don’t let the people who challenge/doubt that love even make the list! You have enough to worry about without wasting precious time on them. While loving your baby is just about the easiest thing ever, loving yourself may take a little work and practice. That’s ok! Take the time to bathe and breathe!  You really do need/deserve it. Practical: Even when you’ve done your research your child’s specific digestive system may not agree with your findings of the “best formula”. Don’t stress it! Move on to the second best on the list and keep going until you find the one that works for your baby. It’s better to find what works best for them than to have the best according to “whoever”. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of your pediatrician! Not only are they expecting it from the new mama but they often have information to help ease a decision you’re unsure of. They don’t expect you to know it all and won’t make you feel like an idiot for not. Promise! – Jessica


Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for feeding your baby formula. You are the Mom and therefore you know what’s best for your baby. As long as the baby is happy, fed, and loved then you are doing it right. – Alicia


If you tried to breastfeed, but were not able to for one reason or another, mourn that loss and then move on! Parenting (and life in general) is so much bigger than this issue (although when you’re going through it, it seems like it’s EVERYTHING). Be thankful for the beautiful child in your arms, and remember how many women would give anything to have a child. What a baby eats in his first year of life is comparatively small potatoes when you consider everything else. Soon enough, you’ll be agonizing over choosing schools, when to let your child go on sleepovers, how to explain the birds and the bees, and how to handle bullying. Do not let how you feed your baby in these first few months get in the way of enjoying your new baby. – Amy


Breast feeding doesn’t work for everyone, so don’t beat yourself up about it. Enjoy your baby. They’re only little for such a short time, so don’t waste it second guessing yourself and trying to please others and their ideals. – Emma


Treasure these moments. Babies grow so fast! It sounds like a cliche but you are making memories that will last you a lifetime. They will spring into your head when you watch your child’s first bike ride, their first day at school. You will think, “where did the time go?” and later, ” how is it my baby can look me in the eye standing?!?!” Enjoy every minute of awesome squishy babyhood. And ignore pointless criticism from people who know “f” all. -Jo


Throw away the sample packs that come in the mail and pick out the formula brand you would want for baby. It sounds simple, but I found my self switching to formula feeding from breast b/c my milk wasn’t coming in and grabbed one of my sample packs, which happens to be one of the most expensive brands. Luckily, Target makes a generic brand of several major formulas. – Elise

For the parents who make up one bottle at a time the ounce markers are for RTF formula. So if you use powdered formula the marks on the bottle are not correct. For example 6oz of water fills to the 5 1/2 mark on my bottles and is right at 6 when I mix the powder in.       -Elizabeth


It is MORE work than breast feeding as you need to watch for hunger/satiety cues and will be doing “the dishes” for a year plus, but it is just as rewarding as breast feeding. Do not listen when the lactation police say you will have a dumb baby or a fat one. Pacing feelings and watching cues will prevent over feeding. Hold, love and cuddle your LO and know you are a good mom. – Megan


There is no such thing as too many muslins and bibs and enjoy watching your friends & family create a bond with your baby too as they feed him/her – Roberta


Don’t sweat formula feeding in public. Every cafe, restaurant, cinema and airport that bubs and I have been to have been great about warming bottles for me. I have received no nasty looks or comments. Most people understand… And you can leave bubs with family and have some couple time! – Clare


Don’t feel guilty! A happy mom is a happy baby! A friend mentioned yesterday bottle-fed moms probably bond even more with their babies since they can look in your eyes while you’re feeding:) – Michelle


It’s not poison. This way you can get help from hubby with mid night feeds, as a new mum your not superwoman …. you need rest too. – Tanya


Momma knows best! All that matters is your baby is well fed, and well taken care of. Also, keep a back bottle in the diaper bag! Nothing like leaving the house, and forgetting the bottle. – Jessica B.

If you aren’t able to wash the bottles right away, I’ve found a good tip to keeping them from getting icky is to rinse, refill with fresh tap water, put a drop of dish soap in and let them soak that way. The soap will dissolve the milk and oils making scrubbing them clean later a snap. Plus no smelly bottles! – Melissa


When you’re feeding your little one a bottle, just be in the moment. Connect with your baby. Doing this and realizing how feeding my baby a bottle was so much more of a bonding experience than it ever was when I struggled to breastfeed really helped me get over the feelings of failure. – Erica


Be easy on yourself – Caitlin



There is nothing wrong with formula feeding. Your child will be just as happy and healthy as any other child. Oh and don’t read all the scare-mongering articles about breast/bottle online. Studies actually show that maybe breastfeeding is a little better. Funny how when portrayed to the public they only pick out the ones that show bf babies as healthier. Never mind the thousands that show absolutely no difference whatsoever. – Michelle


Buy a Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine its saved my household & no screaming baby & no testing formula made to right temperature everytime – Charley


You don’t always have to warm it up if you use room temp nursery water for blending. -Zachalis


Nuby Milk Powder Dispensers are the best formula dispensers! The formula slides out and actually into the bottle instead of the floor, counter, table, etc! Also – for the powder feeders, make a nighttime basket. We put water in our bottles, load up our formula dispensers and then all we need to do at 3 am is drop the powder in. – Amanda


For the powder feeders, make a nighttime basket. We put water in our bottles, load up our formula dispensers and then all we need to do at 3 am is drop the powder in. – Susie


Get a Sam’s club membership. You’ll save TONS on their store brand formula AND diapers. – Holly


Start baby out on room temp bottles. They don’t know the difference if they have never breastfed and it makes life A LOT easier down the road – Jennifer


Try a formula that is 100% whey (whey is protein that is already broken down, ‘casein’- their tummies have to work alot harder to digest) for newborns, unless they are very hungry babies then a formula with casein is good. Our poor bubs was struggling and in pain but once we found a formula that was 100% whey she is so much better.  – Megan


Go for the bottles with as few parts as possible, buy as many as you can. Wash and sanitize in the dishwasher if possible. Get a formula mixing pitcher and enjoy feeding in a rocking chair using your boppy pillow. I loved ff my son, it was special looking at him and rocking while he drifted off to sleep! – Kimberly


Read about formula. I can’t believe I didn’t know that traditional formula is just cows milk with some modifications to protein, etc. It’s not chemicals – just a slight variation on a food I eat all day. Helps me to remember that it is nutritious. – Maegan



I’d just say “You’re doing it right!” – Sarah


The advice my pediatrician gave me. “Feed your baby ….stop beating yourself up, breast feeding doesn’t work for everyone. Do you want to look back on this special time with your child with regret??Enjoy your son.” I love my son’s pediatrician. – Loreen

Keep in mind that the directions on the back of the tin are for a 50th percentile baby for that age…my boy has always been 97th percentile so I realised early on that the ‘recommendations’ were never going to work! I’m taking part in an Australian formula study with University of Queensland and for his weight my boy is meant to have 240mls but the tin says 180mls, since upping this I now have a boy who sleeps from 9.30pm to 5.30am!! Oh and just love your baby. – Skye


A thermos of hot water and prepackaged powdered formula sticks make traveling MUCH easier. No worry about spoiling formula or waste. You can use what you need as you go. – Kathryn


If you can get a kitchen scale, measure the powder out by weight, not by scoops. It will be more consistent and accurate. My son has reflux and adjusting the measurement helped a lot and we used less than before.   – Amy


I just switched to playtex bottles with throw away liners…I wish I would have started 8 months ago because it saves so much time in cleaning- more momny time : ) I also do bottles room temp. Less spit up. – Kristen


Ignore anyone who tries to make you feel bad, you’re feeding, loving, and bonding with your baby in your own way and in your baby’s eyes the sun and moon rise and set because of you, no matter what you feed them – Amanda


Babies need food and loving, caring, nurturing parents give it to them however they can. They key is to be present, look in those little eyes, warm up that tiny body with yours and the rest will fall away in love. – Stephanie


Delete anything and anyone who is a negative cloud out of your life. Those BF FB support pages and groups will only remind you of what you “didn’t try hard enough” or what you “didn’t try at all”, delete online friends or even real life friends who put you down in anyway! Learn early on to tell others to F*** off if needed! – Mindy


After a feeding, always open and rinse the bottle at your first chance. hot, old formula is NASTY!! – Beth



Mums still count when they have a baby. You don’t want to breastfeed, then don’t! – Victoria



You are a rock star!!!!! – Jennifer


Your baby loves you no matter how you feed them, and you love your baby enough to feed them. When they’re school age, you won’t even care about how it all happened! – Karly


Formula is not the new “f” word. Stand by your decision and move on! – Linda


Expect to be made to feel bad but realise that you are not! – Jamie


Pick one night a week, give your husband baby duty, and go sleep all night! Embrace your choice! – Abby


Most people (at least in my experience) really don’t care how you’re feeding your baby. They just want to see your adorable baby coo and smile at them! Guilt plays too big a role – embrace the fact that you love your baby and whatever you do, it is the vest option for your family. Enjoy your baby! – Emily


Take no notice of the mammary militia. Formula is not poison!! -Karyn


Always hold your baby while feeding the bottle. You still have that eye contact and connection/ closeness. – Kerissa


Welcome to motherhood, now, surround yourself with uplifting people. -Vera


Don’t waste your time or energy feeling badly for how you provide nourishment to your baby. Use it to love on and care for him/her. – Kristen


Prepare multiple bottles ahead of time so when baby is hungry you can just pull one out of the fridge rather than mix it. – Amber


Enjoy it- it is wonderful! Oh- and Dr. Brown’s formula pitcher is awesome! – Trish


Try everything until you find what makes YOUR BABY happy! Each and every baby is different you may never know what will work best until you try it all. Try different bottles, different formula, and different recommendations till you find what makes your baby and you happy! – Erin


Focus on your baby, not the background noise.. breast is the best way, but it’s not the only way, and you are not poisoning your child. If you are happy and sane, that’s the most healthy thing you can do for your baby. – Alison


Support yourself with people who support you and believe in yourself – Nic


You will become so efficient at making bottles, when someone mentions how quick they can feed their baby by breast, go right ahead and brag about whipping a bottle together in 30-45 seconds. I know I did/do!  – Megan W.


Don’t read anything online regarding breastfeeding. It will just drive you crazy! Don’t sit in the rocking chair hooked to a pump for hours and hours a day like I did. HOLD your baby, smell them, stare at their beautiful face. You are the Mom. NO ONE can do that job for your child any better than you. Remind yourself this every single day. Your baby loves YOU not the bottle or boob. – Dana


If you got here and it wasn’t part of your original plan of how motherhood/feeding was “supposed” to go…it is OKAY. How you feed your sweet baby does not and WILL NOT ever define you as a mommy. Just love on that baby and enjoy the perks of FF–family being able to help, being able to take time away when you need a break, and (a big one for those type-A folks like myself), knowing just how much your baby is getting. Perhaps more importantly, DO NOT allow others to brow beat you or shame you for how you are raising your child. – Rosemary


Get a formula dispenser, fill it up and ur bottles with water so at night its already to mix! So helpful it have 2 story house! Can use the bathroom sink to warm it up. Oh take a shower everyday you and baby will feel better! – Shelley


Cut yourself some slack and enjoy your baby. Soak up all the tiny humanness. – Peyton


Your baby will be healthy and smart! How awesome are our kids to be so perfect despite the fact they didn’t have breastmilk?! – Elizabeth


You didn’t fail and your baby will THRIVE with formula -Megan D.


I don’t use the term “Breast is Best” I use the term “Mom knows best” but mostly if you’ve had women coming up to you telling you off for buying formula like I did until your hormones are under control and you’ve come to terms with it make sure you buy the formula with someone in your support system or when going to get the formula off the shelf get on your cell phone to talk to someone in your support system it makes it harder for someone to be rude when there are people around or your on the phone so you can come to terms with it on your own time without people making it worse – Whitney


Enjoy the quiet moments. It’s the time when the house is quiet, everyone is asleep and it is just you and your little one. Listen to their breathing, savor their smell, and think of how much you love that little bundle in your arms. – Jessica


Formula feeding doesn’t make you a bad Mom. You’re feeding your child, and making sure he/she gets the nutrition they need. Don’t ever, ever let anyone make you feel “less than” because you couldn’t/chose not to breastfeed. – Brandi


Be proud knowing you are a great mom doing a great job! – Michele


You don’t owe anyone an explanation. How you feed your baby is between you, your partner, your pediatrician, and your child. Oh, and if your baby is on any of the hypoallergenic formulas like Neocate, check with your insurance to see if you can get reimbursed! – Ilissa


Do what you feel is best for you and YOUR baby regardless of the critics – Sheena


Read the instructions carefully and make sure anyone who will be feeding baby does as well. – Jennifer


Don’t listen to criticism. You’re doing the best you can do – Crystal


Just feed that baby. You’re doing a great job! – Jessica


Enjoy the fact that your spouse and family members will get to help feed baby and bond too – Amanda


Be gentle on yourself  when your child starts school you won’t be able to tell who was breastfed and who was formula fed. – Olivia

Trust your gut. If you think this formula isn’t working for your baby, switch. Not all formulas are created equal and different kids need different kinds. It can be trial and error but you will find the perfect fit for him/her. – Katie


Own it. There are tons of up-sides to FF. Don’t be scared to enjoy them! – Annie


Find a support system! A group of other new moms, family/friends who’ve been there, and a doctor who supports your decisions (no new mom needs to be stressing and fighting with her kid’s doctor instead of healing and bonding with her baby). – Amanda


Emotional advice: Once you make the decision to FF you have to let BF go otherwise you will continue to feel down on yourself. (If you originally tried to BF and it didn’t work out like me) Practical application advice: Keep a soapy bowl of water in the sink and just throw dirty bottle pieces in when they are dirty. Then only wash bottles once a day instead of washing each piece everytime you use it. Total time saver! – Brittany


Everything they say about Breastfeeding- the special bonding, the love, how it’s good for baby…that is all just as true with formula feeding. Enjoy and live that baby. Nothing has changed but the delivery system of milk. : ) -Alyson


When you look back don’t wish you’d held your baby more!!! – Barbara


Don’t get hung up on HOW your baby is being fed, focus on the fact they ARE being fed with love! – Emily


Connect with other formula feeding moms. – Amy


Bonding happens with a breast or a bottle if you make it that way. I always try to talk to the baby and make eye contact even with a bottle. – Charis


Be confident and happy in your decision. You will still bond with your child JUST as much, Your child will be JUST as healthy. Bo confident in your insticts as a mom. You, and only you (and your SO) know what is best for you and your family. Do not let anyone guilt trip you. You are a super mommy, don’t forget it! – Jenny


I know you were taught to always listen to the doctor, but you are mommy now and what you say goes! That includes feeding your child however you need to OR want to. – Alisa


Spoiler Alert: By the time you are at the bus stop, no one can tell which kids were EBF and which were FF. – Alexis


Treat the bottle like the breast. (Also, make sure you mix it correctly. Too many odd-numbered ounce bottles going around! ) – Lisa


When it all said and done FF vs BF issue is only discussed for the first year. Then they move on to some other judgement. – Angela


What works best for you is what works best for YOU. You are who you are, your circumstance is yours- that’s what you work with, not some image of how you are supposedly “supposed” to be. An act of strength + love for you + baby!!! Also: wash/sterilize + fill all next days bottles with water and formula dividers with servings; then you’re set for tomorrow!-Claire


If you can afford it, do the pre-made formula, especially for travel! Unbelievably simpler. – Perpetua


People probably aren’t judging you nearly as much as you think they are. Ok, except the mean trolls that live on the internet – Sarah


Never forget that you are in the best position to determine what is right for you, your child, and your family… – Janice


Stay off the Internet. People online will just make you feel bad. – Rebekah


What are your tips for new formula feeding parents? Leave them in the comments section and join the virtual hug-fest.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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4 thoughts on “Advice for formula feeding parents, from other formula feeding parents

  1. I didn’t breastfeed at all, I’m on medication and so I knew going in baby boy’s first feeding would be a bottle. So there I was the morning after he was born sitting in the nursing room – there was no rooming in at the hospital I delivered in and you couldn’t take the babies out of the nursery until 8am – surrounded by nursing/pumping moms holding the tiny little 2oz premixed bottle of Enfamil and baby boy. I couldn’t get him to suck on the nipple. I was so embarrassed and upset. Although I was the only one holding a bottle no one made me feel uncomfortable. We are living in Israel right now, my husband is military, and I delivered at the “religious” hospital and so these women had multiple children and many people supplement here – especially in public. But while no one made me feel uncomfortable no one offered me advice either. Granted they might not have spoken English and I’m not an Orthodox Jew. So while I didn’t feel uncomfortable that I was formula feeding I was humiliated I couldn’t get the bottle to work! I wish one of them had just taken the baby and stuck the bottle in him. Finally it was 8am and I was able to take my baby, my bottle, and my shame back to my room. By the time my husband I arrived I was crying and clutching poor little baby boy, not only wasn’t I breastfeeding (which I only felt bad about relative to public opinion, I never wanted to breastfeed) I couldn’t even bottle feed! Husband took him, shoved the bottle all the way in and off he went. I felt so awful. I couldn’t feed him through ANY method! I was such an inept incompetent mommy. The reason this HAPPENED is because NO WHERE in any book I had read did it EVER tell you that you have to stick the ENTIRE nipple in their mouth or they won’t latch. If there is one thing I am mad about in terms of lack of formula feeding support it’s the idea that shoving a bottle in their mouths is somehow obvious. I didn’t want to gag him so I had only stuck the end of the nipple in his mouth. People often underestimate the reality of formula feeding. We had such trouble with bottles and baby boy. In the end he needed bottles with very short nipples. Just like women have to learn how to help their baby latch, sometimes need nipple shields, sometimes struggle due to flat nipples, etc., bottle fed babies don’t automatically latch on to any old bottle and suck away.

  2. The first time I mixed a bottle was the second night since we came home, and I’ve been breastfeeding for 45 minute EVERY HOUR, ALL NIGHT. I was so afraid I got it wrong, because it was so…simple! My advices are:

    1. It’s 1 spoon of formula + 2 oz of water. I think they standardized it across brands.
    2. Buy a dishpan to soak dirty bottles in hot soapy water. It makes cleaning easier. So you clean it, put it aside in a big tray, dump the soapy water, rinse the bottles, put on rack. When I didn’t use the tray, it tool FOREVER to rinse the suds off.
    3. If you’re feeling depressed about formula feeding, try to think about this: When you are old and sick, how will you arrange for your care? You wouldn’t want to burden your child. And how sad would your child feel when he has to deal with your dying off? And how the heck can you pay for all that long-term care/ medical bill? Now that is something to agonize about. Formula vs breast doesn’t seem like such a big deal, does it?

  3. 1. Our baby strained to poop the first month or two. We thought it was constipation and tried all sorts of remedies. Nope: it’s just life. Formula fed babies poop more so they make more noises. If the poop is the consistency of smooth peanut butter, you’re doing fine.
    2. New babies cry when they’re hungry AND when they’re full. It might be the exact same cry. From the time a baby spits out the nipple to the time her stomach empties into the gut is about 45 minutes. Not knowing this, we got into a cycle of overfeeding and reflux. Contrary to our naive belief, no baby has ever starved to death going 45 minutes without food.
    3. At first, raising a new baby with very little saliva during a dry winter, we didn’t have to follow the time limits on the can too closely. But then, when the weather warmed up, solid food made its way into his mouth, and he started drooling, the bottles went bad so much faster.

  4. Positioning! It’s not just for breastfeeding. Whenever you can, sit in a comfy chair with lots of back and neck support and use pillows to prop up your arms so you’re not having to strain your muscles to hold up your baby in one arm and the bottle in the other, especially since in the beginning your joints are still trying to recover from all those pregnancy hormones. Then you can snuggle up with your sweet baby and focus on them rather than your aching back 🙂

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