As a follow up to part one of my feeding post, today I bring you part two–the nitty gritty, if you will–everything I’ve learned about bottle feeding (*so far*–still learning!) my tips, and what you actually need! I’ve received so many questions on this topic–apparently many of us are in this stage of life right now! So glad we can go through it together!
As you know, we’ve been formula feeding from day one (again, more on that in part one of this post, if you’re curious), and one month in, I feel like we’ve got a solid bottle feeding routine down! It’s going great, and I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
If you’re also a new parent, there’s a pretty high likelihood you’ll need to bottle feed at SOME point, no matter how you choose to feed your baby! Whether you are exclusively formula feeding by choice (yours truly), you need or want to supplement, you are pumping, whatever–all of these feeding methods require bottles! Figuring out what you need to bottle feed, of course, like anything, comes with a learning curve, and I hope this post can be a helpful starting point!
Let’s jump in. (Hope you have your coffee because, in true Jess fashion, it’s long and quite detailed.)
Bottle Feeding 101: Our Essentials, Tips, and Things I’ve Learned after 8 Weeks with June!
First, You Need Bottles!
Perhaps the most obvious on the list of “bottle feeding essentials”–bottles! Duh.
But what kind of bottles? The amount of choices that are out there can be really overwhelming. When we registered at buybuyBABY they recommended we purchase a few different kinds so we could see what we liked best (June included, of course) and I recommend doing the same! (Also they will give you a goodie bag with a couple other types of popular bottles in it too, which was great to have lots of options to try out!)
Dr. Brown’s is the name that I was most familiar with, because it’s the brand most of my friends use, and the kind my sister uses too! (And she’s had 5 babies so I consider her to be a professional.)
They are the #1 Pediatrician recommended bottle brand, clinically proven to reduce colic and gas, spit-up and burping. Having a baby with tummy troubles was one of my biggest concerns from the get-go even before June was born, because a gassy baby is a fussy baby and when baby isn’t happy–NOBODY is happy! (And nobody gets any sleep!)
We purchased a starter set of Dr. Brown’s Options+ Anti-Colic bottles (they were also kind enough to gift us a few more bottles and supplies to try out.) We also bought a couple bottles from other popular brands just to have options (you never know!)
When we first brought her home and tried them all, we discovered that we preferred the Dr. Brown’s bottles, for a couple of reasons:
- June does really well with them as the special insert seems to reduce the amount of tummy bubbles she gets thanks to the insertable vent (which means less time fussing and burping), and the nipple shape seems to be the easiest for her when it comes to drinking her bottles, resulting in the best latch and less formula spillage.
- WE love the shape and size of the newborn sized bottles because they’re tall and skinny (a lot of others are short and squatty), meaning, it’s easy to perfect the “one hand free chin hold” (Which is an essential skill for new parents, as it frees up your dominant hand so you can drink your coffee or fast forward through the intro of Virgin River.) These also are thin enough to fit in my fanny pack diaper bag whereas all the others are too fat!
Of course, this is just our experience! Your baby will definitely tell you what his/her favorite bottle is, and if you are having any issues, consider switching up your brand/type of bottle! But based on our positive experience and their reputation, I definitely recommend starting with some Dr. Brown’s bottles in the rotation!
Disclaimer: After we discovered Dr. Brown’s was our favorite, we were excited the opportunity came up to partner together! They are sponsoring today’s post, but important to note, this was not until we determined that we loved their bottles and products! Even if they hadn’t sponsored this post, everything written in here would remain exactly the same–but we’re really grateful this partnership worked out so well and was the perfect fit!*
Choosing a Formula (If you choose to go that route!)
If you decide to supplement or are exclusively formula feeding, of course, you will need to choose a formula! (Yet another daunting task with LOTS of overwhelming options!) Because we formula fed from day one, I can’t really speak to any tips for supplementing with formula in addition to breastfeeding, BUT this post on Bumble Baby is SUPER helpful and gives you some examples of what a feeding plan could look like when supplementing!
So, this brings up another common question I’ve been receiving, “Jess, what kind of formula do you use for June?” To be honest, it doesn’t matter what kind of formula JUNE likes, because all babies are so different! What works for one family may not work for another!
Like, you know, EVERYTHING in life (especially parenting) I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game when it comes to formula. Is an expensive kind better than a cheap kind? Are you a bad parent if you switch to the private label kind? The answers are NO and NO.
The right formula choice for you is whatever works best for your baby–period, no matter how much it costs or what the brand is. For what it’s worth, our pediatrician also told us what formula you use doesn’t matter as long as baby is tolerating it well and gaining weight!
(This side eye kills me!)
How does it work with formula in the hospital?
A very common question I’ve received a lot lately!
Most hospitals will supply formula in little ready-to-feed bottles (see photo above), and if you want to switch to a different formula at home, you totally can, and in fact, it’s VERY common to do so! If you have questions about transitioning your baby to a different formula, definitely consult your pediatrician! The pediatricians in the hospital told us if we wanted to switch, to just do it cold turkey since she was so tiny at the time and getting such a small amount per feeding, that a gradual transition wasn’t really necessary. (This may change as baby gets older though!) Other pediatricians will tell you to do it gradually–I think just discuss with your doctor and do what’s best for you!
It’s also important to note that your milk doesn’t come in for several days after baby is born, so many parents decide to breastfeed AND give the baby formula in the hospital and continue to do so until your milk comes in, and then switch to exclusively breastfeeding. (Obviously I did not do that, but it’s an option!)
Tip: load up on the little bottles they give you at the hospital and bring a bunch home. They are the perfect serving size for baby in the first couple of weeks (and you can keep them stashed by your bedside to make night feedings really quick and easy, in your diaper bag, stroller, etc!)
How to choose the best formula for you?
Two resources I found super helpful: Bumble Baby’s posts, “Everything you need to know about formula” and “How to strictly formula feed from birth” and everything The Formula Mom creates. (She has a formula finder tool/guide and tons of helpful content!) Also, keep in mind that it can definitely take some experimentation–every baby is different! I have friends that stuck with the first one they tried, and friends who went through several before they found the perfect one!
Making lots of formula bottles? Get yourself a Baby Brezza!
In my opinion, the Brezza HAD to have its own section of this post. Is it easy to get caught up in all the fancy baby gadgets? Absolutely. Do you need most of them? No. But if you plan to formula feed, I cannot stress enough–this is one fancy gadget you will absolutely want if you are making more than a few bottles per day. It’s basically a baby Keurig. You just push a button, and it makes the bottle for you. I know so many people who didn’t think they needed it and then caved and bought one the week they got home from the hospital. It definitely tops my list of fancy baby gadget essentials for those deciding to formula feed!
June has always slept in her room, which is right next to the kitchen, so we keep the Brezza on the kitchen counter, but you could also keep it in baby’s room or in your room (if baby is sleeping there), depending on where baby sleeps and proximity to your kitchen!
Tip: The only annoying thing about it is that it will beep at you to “clean the filter” every 4 uses. You don’t ACTUALLY have to fully wash and dry the filter. I usually just pop it out and bang it on the sink a couple times to get all the dry powder out of it, and then pop it back in, and actually give it a deep clean wash when I actually have time. (More like, when Neal actually has time.) You also want to do a full deep clean of the machine once per month, otherwise the build-up can mess up the formula to water ratio or it could get moldy!
Night feedings with bottles:
I received several questions from those asking how to make night feedings with bottles streamlined/easy (especially if the Brezza isn’t conveniently located for night feedings) so here is what worked for us. Of course, this depends on where baby is sleeping, and everyone is different and no method is better than another! Remember, go with what YOU feel comfortable with!
Our night feeding setup: Baby sleeps in nursery, parents take turns with baby shifts
June has always slept in her nursery for a couple of reasons.
1. I absolutely cannot sleep one second with her in the room.
My mom senses listen for every single noise and sound and it makes me way more anxious than having her out of sight with a monitor. (We actually don’t use the sound on the monitor because her room is close enough to our bedroom that we hear her loud and clear when she cries, but not when she makes her plethora of other sleeping grunts and squeaks. We also always put her Owlet sock on which gives us TONS of peace of mind as it alerts us if her heart rate or oxygen levels should ever drop).
2. We follow the Moms on Call method and that method calls for baby sleeping in their own room.
The thought behind this is that baby can sense mama near and will wake up/cry more often when you’re in the room and will not learn to self soothe as quickly. (Of course, I know plenty of babies who have slept in their parents rooms and it’s gone totally fine, so don’t please do not worry about this if your preference is to have baby in your room! Everyone is different! You do you!)
Important to note we discussed this with our pediatrician and she said that was completely fine (and normal, and necessary if baby is keeping you awake, because parents NEED SLEEP!) She said as long as we had a camera monitor and her sleep environment was sleep safe, we were good to go. (A sleep safe environment is SO IMPORTANT! Nothing nothing in her bassinet/crib with her and sleeping only in a sleep approved bassinet or crib-no dock a tot, etc) We actually moved her bassinet into her room and that’s what she slept in for the first several weeks (we just fully transitioned her to her crib last week).
This has worked SO WELL for us, especially in the first couple weeks.
Note, we have a night nurse that comes 3 nights per week, but on the other nights for the first couple of weeks Neal would sleep on the couch (our living room/kitchen is right next to her room) and be the one “on call” to get up and feed her in the middle of the night. (Don’t worry, it didn’t go THAT smoothly for the first couple weeks–there were a couple of times I found him sleeping on her floor) Then, I would then take over when she woke up early morning and we would switch and he would go to bed.
This worked really well because it allowed me to get a full night’s rest during my recovery without being woken up by the baby in the room.
After a couple of weeks she started waking up only once at night consistently and then we transitioned to both sleeping in our room all night with June in her room down the hall. Since I’m the one that hears her first (again, mom senses) I usually take the middle of the night feeding if she wakes up, and Neal takes the early morning, but sometimes we switch, it just depends!
What about middle of the night bottle prep?
Got some reader questions on this topic! Like I mentioned, we live in a city condo, and June shares a wall with our kitchen, so making a bottle in the Brezza at night is still really convenient for us, but if our house were laid out differently or it were bigger, I would pre measure out the powdered formula in the bottles like I mention below (our “on the go” method) and have them within arm’s reach in addition to a bottle of water. All you have to do is pour, shake, and pop into baby’s mouth!
Of course, I can only speak to formula feeding at night, but if you’re breastfeeding, you could pump and have bottles ready to go in the fridge (if that’s convenient), OR you could keep them in a cooler bag with an ice pack wherever you/your partner/baby are sleeping if the fridge is not convenient for you in the middle of the night.
Washing and sterilizing bottles:
Alright, this is another hotly debated topic. How often do you sterilize bottles? For how long do you need to be sterilizing? Comparing answers with all my friends always makes me laugh because the answer varies SO WIDELY. Again, I think the answer is discuss with your pediatrician and “you do you.”
What I do know is that we wanted the easiest, most streamlined system that took up as little room as possible, because counter space is a precious commodity in our house (and any city kitchen, really). Let’s be honest, we weren’t going to kick Agatha out, you know? (But if you have more space, you can get a sterilizer machine like this one!)
The perfect solution for us: Microwave Steam Sterilizing bags. All we have to do is throw the bottles and parts in the bag with some water and then pop them in the microwave and they’re good to go!
Our bottle washing/sterilizing system/routine:
We found that the easiest system for us (and to avoid a pile of gross bottles piling up) is to give each bottle a quick hand wash as we go with hot water, soap, and a bottle brush (you also need little ones for nipples). Once a day we’ll pop them in the sterilizing bag, microwave them, and then we’re good to go! This drying rack is also great to dry bottles and all their parts!
We then assemble the clean bottles and line them up next to the Brezza so whoever has the next feeding just grabs the clean, sterilized bottle and pops it under the spout, and good to go! (When she was still doing a middle of the night feeding, we would also pre-load an empty bottle under the spout and put the top and insert on top so it’s less steps to do if one of us is holding a screaming June with one hand. See photo above for reference!)
You can obviously also wash your bottles in the dishwasher with a dishwasher basket like this one but we hardly ever run our dishwasher and it just seemed like way more of a hassle than doing a quick hand wash as we go, but everyone is different! If you’re a dishwasher lover, for sure go the dishwasher route!
It may take some experimentation to figure out the method that works best for you, but really, once you get it down–it’s not a huge hassle!
How many bottles do you need?
This is definitely an individual preference and depends how many bottles you plan to use in a day. If you’re exclusively bottle feeding, would say at least 8 bottles (In the first few weeks, she would do 6 feeds in 24 hours, plus a couple extras! Now she does 5 feeds.) It’s up to you how many extras you want though! I would also recommend having a couple different sizes and nipple levels as well, as we just recently bumped June up!
Bottles on the go:
Formula bottles to go:
One downside to bottle feeding is that it obviously takes a LITTLE more prep to feed your baby on the go. But that doesn’t mean it has to be stressful! We actually invented a system that I think is pretty easy and great if I do say so myself. This is how we make a bottle or two here and there if we’ll be out and about!
Pre-fill your bottles with pre-measured powder formula:
I know you can buy little on-the-go containers to hold formula, but, we’ve found it’s just easiest to dump the pre-measured formula right into the bottle (make sure it’s clean and fully dry first!) and pop the cap on. (Just don’t add the water yet, because once formula is mixed, it’s only good for an hour at room temp!) This makes it really easy to add water and pop into baby’s mouth when it’s time to eat–one less step when you have a screaming baby in a restaurant and everyone is staring at you. (I speak from experience!)
Because measuring and pouring powdered formula that gets everywhere while your baby is screaming isn’t super fun. It’s much easier to add the WATER later and have the formula already in the bottle. Plus, then you don’t have to worry about bottles spilling or leaking in your bag you don’t get the cap on right, etc!
Carry a bottle of water with you:
We have never warmed June’s bottles, so this might not work for you if your baby only likes warmed bottles, but it’s what works best for us! We just have a bottle of water in the diaper bag and one in the stroller at all times, and then we mix in the water into her bottle that has the pre-measured formula in it whenever she needs to eat on the go–shake it up, and you’re good!
Have an extra of each on you:
Because June is a VERY, VERY loud crier and is absolutely inconsolable when hungry, my biggest fear is getting caught out and about without a bottle for her. We call her “the teapot” because she starts with a little high pitched whistle whine that goes from 0-60 in seconds and her level 10 cry could shatter eardrums.
That being said, I always have a bottle of water and a pre-filled bottle of powdered formula at the bottom of our stroller as a “just in case” insurance policy in case we are gone longer than we though we would be, and need enough for 2 feedings instead of one. (Or, like right now, she’s going through a growth spurt and we unexpectedly need more formula than we thought!)
This is another good use-case for the little bottles of ready-to-feed hospital formula–they’re liquid and don’t need to be refrigerated–even though June can eat two of those bottles worth now in one feeding, having one stashed in my bag will at least hold her off in time to get home if we are running late!
Batching formula on overnight/long trips:
May I introduce you to… THE FORMULA PITCHER?
The formula pitcher is great because you can make a full day’s worth of formula in bulk and keep it in the fridge! (If you’re flying, you could always Amazon Prime it to wherever you’re staying!) Just keep in mind, this method does require refrigeration.
If you’re staying in a hotel, camping, or somewhere with limited or no fridge or cooler space, you could also try purchasing liquid formula to use on your trip as that doesn’t require refrigeration. (It’s more expensive, but WAY more convenient and totally worth the $ for the short time you’ll need it!) If you have specific questions, consult your pediatrician!
Breastmilk on the go:
Although I can’t speak to this personally, if you are pumping and would like to bring bottles of breastmilk with you on the go (or you just need to pump and store and can’t get to a fridge right away) you can get a cooler bag like this one (with an ice pack) to bring pumped bottles with you! (I know this is how a lot of friends have handled!)
More Bottle feeding tips:
Feed on baby’s side: (above)
After reading this article on “How to Correctly Bottlefeed your Baby” on Bumble Baby, we started feeding June on her side as opposed to the standard “crook of the arm” position (when possible–it’s not always possible if you’re out and about!) It made a big difference especially in the earlier weeks. This position allows her to control the flow of the bottle, take breaks, and eat at her own speed vs. gravity allowing the bottle to drip into her mouth when she isn’t ready for it.
If your baby isn’t seeming comfortable or happy in your usual feeding position, give it a try! (Also great to know: Bumble Baby also offers personalized bottle/breast/combo feeding consultations if you need some extra help coming up with the best feeding plan for you or if you need some troubleshooting!)
WHEW! That was a LOT, I know. I hope this was super helpful!
Huge thanks to Dr. Brown’s for sponsoring this post! Like I mentioned above, we are thrilled to be working with them and only agreed to do so after purchasing their bottles on our own and giving them the thorough test drive to ensure they are, in fact, our favorite bottles that we confidently recommend! Every baby is different and whatever bottle choice your family makes is the best one for you!