Bottle Feeding - what do I really need?
June 5, 2006 12:02 PM   Subscribe

[BottleFeedingFilter] I'm expecting our first child in July. Although my preference is to breast feed exclusively, for medical reasons that simply may not be possible. Therefore, I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for exclusively bottle feeding, and then anything else that happens will be a welcome bonus. What equipment do I really need in order to bottle feed, what is just "nice to have", and what is a waste of money? Rabid La Leche League Types please read the [more inside] before responding....

Yes, I'm aware that "Breast is Best". If I had my choice, I would breast feed exclusively. However, I had breast reduction surgery 20+ years ago, and the type of surgery plus the nature of my scar tissue make it highly probably that I do not have any working ducts in at least one breast. Yes, I am aware that we wont' know until we try it, and that it is very possible that I will be able to partially breast feed and then have to supplement with formula, but its important to me to be mentally and physically prepared for exclusive bottle feeding, to avoid a big emotional let-down when and if breast feeding doesn't work. I am working with an excellent and highly regarded lactation consultant, but she is very "Breast is Best" focused and I'd like some other "real world" advice to go along with the advice I'm getting from her regarding both supplemental feeding and exclusive bottle feeding. However, I don't know one single mother who has bottle fed in the past 15+ years, and I'm fairly sure technology has marched on in that time. My biggest concern at this point is that I do whatever I need to do to make sure my baby isn't hungry.

What "stuff" do I need to buy in order to be ready? What items were most useful to you, and what was a waste of money? What specific brands of equipment do you recommend? Brands of formula? Mix vs liquid? Whey protein vs Casein? Thoughts about nipples? Sterilizers? Other equipment?

Thanks for being supportive. I wish this were my choice, but its really not.
posted by anastasiav to Health & Fitness (59 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
my wife wound up having to avoid breast feeding for medical reasons.

honestly, ultimately not a big deal. the most important thing (more than breast milk) is minimizing the causes of stress in your life during what will inevitably and unavoidably be a stressful time.

if you have to bottle feed, bottle feed. the dr. brown's bottles seemed to minimize gas.

have fun!
posted by elsar at 12:15 PM on June 5, 2006

oh, and this way it's easier for you to get your husband to get up in the middle of the night instead of you.
posted by elsar at 12:16 PM on June 5, 2006

I used Avent bottles from newborn until both my son and daughter were over a year old. (I breastfed both of my children until they self-weaned at about four and six months respectively).

Avent comes in two sizes, four ounces and nine ounces and their nipples are wider then Gerber bottles, etc.

For formula, I ended up using Similac Low Iron, as the normal kind made both of my children horribly constipated.

I would recommend purchasing a microwave sterilizer that Avent makes for their bottles and a good teapot for boiling water to mix the formula with.

Oh and lots of burping cloths for the inevitable spit ups.

Good luck, and don't beat yourself up too badly if you it turns out you can't breastfeed.
posted by obeetaybee at 12:17 PM on June 5, 2006

Oh and Dr. Brown's bottles work well too.
posted by obeetaybee at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2006

This sounds like a minor thing, but get the best bottle brush you can find, and use a dishwasher to sterilize if you have one. Don't microwave it. I wish someone made a bottle with a built-in thermometer. We just used powder, and tried to get the stuff with amino acids. There's a lot of filler in baby formula--compare the ingredients in the most expensive and least expensive (by oz.) when you're at the store. Also, I got the distinct impression that european formulas were much better, but have no idea how to find them. My wife couldn't breast feed one of our kids. It's a tough thing that I as a male don't understand. Everything turned out ok.
posted by craniac at 12:20 PM on June 5, 2006

Remember to switch the arms used to feed, like you would have to if you were breast feeding. Promotes muscle growth, prevents that shaped-head problem, etc.

Don't freak out. Everything will be fine.
posted by unixrat at 12:33 PM on June 5, 2006

Another vote for Dr. Brown's bottles. The best we've tried.
posted by space2k at 12:36 PM on June 5, 2006

Bottle feeding is fine, really don't stress too much about the whole "breast is best" thing.

My wife tried very hard to breast feed, but just didn't produce sufficient milk, especially as both our children were premature and did not take to the breast, so we have bottle fed both of them.

Bottle feeding is absolutely fine and both our sons are very healthy.

To be honest the biggest issue was Nazi midwives and hospitals who do almost anything possible to make it impossible to bottle feed. I have no idea if it is like that outside the UK (or indeed outside of King's College Hospital).

It was frankly a relief when my second son was taken into the special babycare unit, where there were nurses instead of midwives. The nurses only cared about medical need rather than ideology and were uninterested in bullying women into breast feeding.

Anyhow, microwave steriliser is great and you definitely want one of them. Any bottles seem fine, we tried the Dr Brown ones but didn't notice any real difference, although they look like they might work better. Get some different sized teats, as different kids like different amounts of flow. Do try different formulas too, as kids can be quite picky sometimes, and if they are windy or colicky it might be the formula.

Avoid the casein based formulas, every medical person i have spoken to about this who I trusted said you should use whey based formulas instead.

Warming bottles is a complete pain, and we just do it in the microwave, even though you are told never to do that. It works fine, just give the bottles a good shake and be careful. Those water-filled bottle warmer things take forever and are very easy to overheat the milk in. Waiting 7 minutes for a bottle to warm while a baby is screaming at full volume is not fun. Warming a bottle in the microwave takes 30 seconds. YMMV obviously.

You will love the moment when your child gets to be one year old and you can stop sterilising the equipment :)

Good luck and enjoy - the first few months are insanely hard, but it really is worth it!
posted by winjer at 12:38 PM on June 5, 2006


I'm assuming that you won't be able to pump, either. My wife was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed, but had supply issues, so we wound up supplementing with formula, sometimes heavily.

First off, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either you or your situation. Anyone who tries to make you feel that there is is a giant, gaping orifice, and you should dismiss them from your mind.

Second, you will almost certainly need less than you think to take care of all of this, but the bad news is that you'll have to do some experimentation. Be prepared to have stuff in your house that you used once and put aside, or used once and hurled aside with great force. It happens.

We found the following worked for us. Our situation was a non-fussy male kid who was primarily breastfed, and took formula as a supplement.
  • Dr. Brown's bottles worked better for us than Avent. Your mileage will most certainly vary: there are people who swear by and people who swear at both flavors of bottle. That said, the Dr. Brown's bottles are kind of a pain in the ass to clean: if you get DB's, I would invest in a CamelBak cleaning kit, because they come with a long snakey brush that perfectly fits the internal tube bits of the DB bottles, and the brush in the CamelBak cleaning kit works perfectly to clean out the nipples.
  • Similac Advance Infant Formula With Iron formula. This was a recommendation from our pediatrician, and our kid certainly seemed to like it. You can get this stuff almost anywhere (Safeway up to boutique markets). I recommend getting the powder. If you get the powder, be warned that it mixes...poorly in cold water. If you're making bottles for immediate use, it mixes great in warm water, but if you're making bottles to go with your kid to daycare, you'll be dealing with chunks that just...don't...WANT...TO...DISSOLVE. Jumping up and down and screaming a lot helps. Therapeutic, too.
  • We didn't use a sterilizer: we just used our dishwasher. That said, don't leave empty bottles sitting around, because if anything smells worse than sour milk, it's sour formula. As soon as you're done with a formula bottle, rinse that puppy and whack it into the dishwasher. You'll be happier in the morning. Get some of these for bottles in the dishwasher. I got ours from GE directly: most manufacturers make them, so you don't have to go third-party. We also found the (scroll down) Medela Quick-Clean Micro-Steam bags to be very effective for cleaning.
Honestly, that's about all I can think of in terms of bottlefeeding: you're just changing the mode of delivery, not anything about the experience. Treat your kid the same way you would when breastfeeding, and just use the bottle instead, and here's hoping things go well.

Best of luck!
posted by scrump at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2006

i can't believe no one has mentioned disposable bottle liners. made our lives a lot easier.
posted by lester at 12:49 PM on June 5, 2006

I have no advice but I wanted to say I feel sad that you had to explain your question so thouroughly as to avoid the rabid "breast is best" crowd. I don't know why people get really nasty with parents and mothers but it happens with such regularity that I am continually shocked by it.

Congrats on the new arrival and here's hoping you find easy solutions - you are a great mom for trying to make sure the bottom line is satisfied - keeping baby full!
posted by agregoli at 1:01 PM on June 5, 2006

I lived with my sister for several months when her first child was born, and she had to supplement breast milk with formula. She was also pumping the milk with this alarming machine that she had to sort of bend over in a chair to use because if you sat up normally gravity would pull the milk out of the "suction" cups. Terrible machine, which gave her muscle cramps all along her abdominal wall. If you end up pumping, be sure to get extensive info on whatever you bring home so you can avoid the medieval horrors they are still foisting off on unsuspecting parents.

Anyway, what we did was make a bunch of formula at once (I think it was casein but honestly I am not sure) in a big machine-washable water bottle, not a baby bottle but the kind you would take with you camping, and then dole out what we needed as we needed it, which cut down on prep time (mixing two litres takes the same amount of time as mixing 6 oz). I am pretty sure we kept it in the fridge between-times.

Everything was washed in the dishwasher after use. The household went through enough dishes in a day (and the baby was on a reliable enough schedule) that we could generally time it so the bottles were fresh from the dishwasher so there was no extra step for warming them up again.

This might be a no-brainer but I kept forgetting to put the spitting-up-cloth (don't know if this has a proper name) on my shoulder, and then I got baby milk drool on my clothes. You'll need these regardless.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:06 PM on June 5, 2006

My advice: don't make a big bottle investment until you know if your child likes that bottle/nipple. We invested about $100 in Playtex's Ventaire system (mostly because they were easy to clean, no bottle brush needed) and my daughter hated them. Switched to Nursers w/ disposable bags and she was happy.

As far as other equipment: we used a small pot for sterilizing, an open mesh basket for the dishwasher to hold nipples and caps, and I made a drying rack out of a bunch stainless wire epoxied into a cutting board. If you don't have a dishwasher seriously consider getting one.

You'll need a bag to put all this stuff in, we used a small back that was large enough to double as a day pack for hiking. Plus small and large ziploc freezer bags for keeping stuff together and holding icky waste and soiled items.

As far as formula goes we picked whatever powder was cheapest at the time (my daughter was about 95% breast fed, about 30% of that was expressed) on the theory that would even out the deficiencies of any one product. We mixed it with RO water from a dedicated jug. We did use a couple cases of the premixed cans with pull ring tops. The latter were very handy for travelling. Measuring was by stainless measuring cups from Lee Valley.
posted by Mitheral at 1:06 PM on June 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

We used disposable bottle liners and rubber nipples. (The advantage to the bottle liners is twofold-- it's easier to clean, and the kid doesn't swallow as much air.) You may need to try a few varieties of formula. Some kids do fine with basic casein formula, others need soy, with or without iron; some kids can tolerate added iron, others can't. Any of the major brands of formula will probably work just fine, but you may need to try different brands to see which will work best for you and the baby. Liquid concentrate is easier to mix, but the powder is (somewhat) less expensive per use. We mostly used formula for supplemental feeding, so we used the powder form, as a container wouldn't go bad before we used it.
posted by jlkr at 1:08 PM on June 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

another that didn't breast feed. my kids are healthier than most kids i know even though they are about the only exclusively bottle fed kids I know. They are also the best looking, smartest, and most gifted, but that may just be my opinion - ;-).

Bright spots - you will always know how much food your baby has taken in. Dad can help (and bond) and you can sleep.

Tip - Mix up enough formula once a day for the whole day and refrigerate. Powder is much cheaper than the premixed, but a few small premixed are handy to have on hand.

The travel individual servings of powder are a waste - just measure into a bottle and seal it. take another bottle with water and mix when you are ready.

we religously sterilized at first until we realized the dishwasher was fine.

The experiment advice is great - one of my kids liked hers COLD, the other luke warm. one liked one kind of nipple = the other a different kind.

Good luck!!
posted by domino at 1:09 PM on June 5, 2006

the most important thing (more than breast milk) is minimizing the causes of stress in your life during what will inevitably and unavoidably be a stressful time.

This is absolutely right on.

Both my children (now 7 and 3.5) were bottle-fed, for different reasons. Both are healthy (neither had even so much as an ear infection when they were infants) and intelligent and securely attached and well loved.

We used Avent bottles and Enfamil Lacto-free formula (powder) -- both my kids turned out to be lactose intolerant, and I was also told by the hospital lactation consultant that the Lacto-free formula was probably the gentlest one for digestion, and the powdered version of it was the closest in consistency to breastmilk.

You are doing a great thing by preparing ahead of time for what can be one of the most emotionally loaded experiences of the first few weeks of motherhood. Really preparing and investigating and readying yourself before you get there is one of the keys to minimizing the effects of culture shock in early motherhood.

I planned to breastfeed my first child and "failed," due to a host of reasons; it was very difficult to get off to such a rough start, and in my totally emotionally compromised state, I very much bought into the line of thinking that I was doomed to be a bad mother etc. etc. because I couldn't provide my child with the most basic thing a mother should be able to provide: sustenance. It took a long time to get past the guilt.

For my second child, however, I chose to bottle feed because my game plan was all about minimizing as much stress as possible, in an attempt to at least mitigate and possibly avoid post-partum depression. My second child had none of the food issues that my first had, and I am almost 100% certain that breastfeeding would have worked physically. But I stuck to my plan, and the baby was bottle-fed, and my husband did all the night shifts so that I could recover & attend to our then three-year-old in the night, and so that he could get some of the serious baby bonding time that any kind of feeding provides.

Going into it the second time around knowing that bottle-feeding was going to be okay, and that it was actually a decision I was making this time, not a "failure" or a second-rate fallback, made all the difference. I got to totally opt out of that one aspect of the emotional/hormonal roller-coaster of post-partum life.

So I bottle-fed both kids. The first time it wasn't by choice; the second time it was. I probably got more flak for the second decision. But guess which one I don't regret.
posted by mothershock at 1:24 PM on June 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've heard more than once lately that sterilizing bottles is not necessary. Our Dr. specifically recommended not sterilizing them, on the basis that the few bacteria on a freshly washed bottle would actually help the immune system develop.

IANAD of course, this is just what we were told.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 1:24 PM on June 5, 2006

A few people are recommending mixing up large quantities in advance, but I'd be wary about that. One of the ironic things about the whole sterilisation thing is that although you sterilise the bottles and every other bloody thing the formula itself is not sterile. It's just powered milk that's had some stuff taken out and a bunch of weird additives put in.

While dry it's safe, but as soon as you mix it with water the bacteria start breeding again. Since they do the power-of-two breeding thing I'd be wary about keeping mixed formula in the fridge for more than maybe 12 hours, and certainly not at room temperature for more than an hour. I'm sure you can find more-or-less randomly scaremongering advice on the internet if you so choose, some of which might even be correct.

You can get sealed ready-mixed UHT cartons that are a godsend when you go out, although they are expensive. You can just pop one of these open in the pub or whatever and not worry about the whole mixing business when it's inconvenient.

All pubs and restaurants are happy to provide a bowl of boiling water for heating bottles, and it's worth warming the milk even for older babies because it helps them bring up wind. Cold milk can really give them problems.
posted by winjer at 1:25 PM on June 5, 2006

Oh, and I found the individual packets of formula to be very convenient. I also second the experiment before totally investing idea -- I have one picky eater and one omnivore, and the picky one right from the start could only deal with lukewarm formula and one specific brand of nipple; the other one could drink anything, anywhere, any time, from any thing. Avent also makes a good cleaning brush and drying rack -- that helped too. And ordering the formula online.
posted by mothershock at 1:27 PM on June 5, 2006

I had to try a bottle with my baby because I was going in for surgery. I found that I had to try a variety of nipples until I found the one for us. So just buy a couple of nipples, as opposed to stocking up on one brand. I also used the disposable liners because it made it easier to freeze milk and I didn't have to clean as many bottles.

I imagine you're thinking bottle because the supply from one breast would not be enough. There are some tips on breastfeeding after reduction surgery at Kellymom, which also has really good info on other aspects of breastfeeding and parenting. My advice, though, is that, if you're using a bottle, you should be consistent. So one feeding from the breast, one from the bottle, one from the breast, one from the bottle. This is just like switching sides. That way, your body has the "order placed" and you shouldn't end up with supply problems.

Also, you might look into donated breastmilk, if there's a milk bank in your community. The milk is sterilized and offers many benefits over formula. I know some people who used this even for the first six weeks. Obviously, you use it with a bottle. It might be easier than having to prepare formula, plus you have all the special fats and other things that aren't in formula. But I'm sure your baby will be fine if you use formula, too.
posted by acoutu at 1:28 PM on June 5, 2006

second trying different formulas and bottle types. Our kid didn't care what bottle she used (we ended up using mostly Avent), but my niece was quite fussy on that point. We boiled stuff on the stove to sterilize things, or used a dishwasher when we had access to one. A good bottle brush is definitely essential.

Try some feedings at room temperature or right from the fridge - we did and our baby liked it so we never had to go through the hassle of heating things up, getting it to the right temp, etc.

We used the powder mix - definitely the cheapest, if a bit more inconvenient compared to the ready-made liquid. If you belong to one of bulk stores (for example BJs on Warren Ave) you can often find formula there.

Stock up on samples. If you are not already, you will soon be on tons of mailing lists geared to babies. While there is a lot of crap, scan for coupons for bottles, nipples and formula. You'll also get free samples from the hospital, doctor's office, etc. Also scan baby mags in waiting rooms for good coupons. Shaw's has a special "Ducklings" program with baby stuff coupons mailed out to you.

The tons of samples we ended up with let us try the different brands until we found the one that worked best, and they came in handy for travelling, etc.
posted by mikepop at 1:40 PM on June 5, 2006

anastasiav, thank you for asking this question. I'm in a similar position and have been reluctant to pose the question here for fear of the flaming I would get. I'm interested to see what the responses will be.
posted by echolalia67 at 1:43 PM on June 5, 2006

Another vote for not to investing in one particular kind of bottle. My daughter would only drink from a wide clear nipple. My niece would only drink from the brown kind.

As for formula, we found that my daughter was happiest on Nutramigen (so much so that we referred to it as Brat Chow). It's expensive, but she was much less cranky, so it was worth every penny.

I found bottle warmers to be a pain in the butt. I'd just keep bottles filled with water at room temperature and premeasure the powder. Pour, shake, done.

My bottle-fed baby is now four years old, smart as a whip and has never had an ear infection.
posted by jrossi4r at 1:46 PM on June 5, 2006

A microwave steriliser is a must. What everyone else said about not investing hugely in one system.

Our baby was happy to go from bottle to breast and back again, and to drink milk at room temperature, so that was easy. At the start we made a bunch of bottles and kept them in the fridge but that was pointless really, it takes about thirty seconds to make a bottle, even with one hand, once you've got the technique down.

But about the "breast is best" people -- if you think they're bad now, wait until the baby is born.

Our friend calls them Breastfeeding Nazis, and dealt with them (by the third baby) by just telling them to fuck off in a loud voice and at one point threatening to murder the next person who tried to tell her how to feed her baby. She actually was breastfeeding, but doing it wrong, you see.

We eventually adopted a less confrontational "tell them what they want to hear" policy.

It was really incredible, in the literal sense of "hard to believe", how much stress, and actual physical pain, they introduced into my wife's life, at an already very stressful time.

Can you look around you and tell who was breast-fed and who wasn't? QED.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:23 PM on June 5, 2006

anastasiav, my sister was in the same situation with my three nephews for precisely the same reason. She was able to produce a little milk, but primarily supplemented with the bottle. There are lots of great suggestions and anecdotes here that I can second, based on observing my sister's experience (definitely experiment with different bottle types, disposable liners, etc.; practice your withering responses to breastfeeding nazis ahead of time).

I would alert you to the possibility of one other type of meddler on the opposite end of the spectrum, however, which in my sister's case came in the form of a particular family member who kept up a steady drumbeat of "OMG YOU'RE STARVING THE BABY!!!!!!!!!" every time my sis tried to nurse at all. Hopefully you won't be beseiged by a similar situation, but I just wanted to bring it up so it won't be a total surprise if it does happen.

If you think it will happen, consider practicing your response now for this, too. In my sis's case, appeals to the bonding experience of nursing did no good, nor did repeated reassuraces that each baby was each getting enough nutrition through formula. In the end, the only thing that worked was repeating, mantra-like: "the doctor ordered it for the the antibodies. The doctor ordered it for the antibodies."
posted by scody at 2:59 PM on June 5, 2006

Resign yourself to the fact that you'll be running the dishwasher every day. At least we do now that we're on exclusive bottles. We haven't come up with a good drying system yet - I hate the ones on the market and can't bring myself to use "heated dry" on the DW. We just set all the clean stuff on a towel on the counter.

Seconding the mesh basket for rings and nipples. We use Avent. I love them, but they leak sometimes. The only solution for me has been to take off that ring and nipple and replace with a different one.

Room temp formula has been fine for our little one, but we make a nice, big, warm bottle for bedtime. That works wonderfully!

Ditto Scody - for every harpy who has something to say about bottle feeding, there's another one who will shit-talk about breastfeeding. I've experienced both reactions, but they have been rare. If they are strangers, I recommend a smile and a middle finger. Family is tougher. Sarcasm sometimes helps. (Actual conversation in the Peep family: "How long are you going to breastfeed that [2 month-old] baby, anyway??" "Oh, I won't been weaning until he's at least ten."
posted by peep at 3:22 PM on June 5, 2006

If you can avoid soy formula, do, because the diapers produced are about the most noxious smelling known to mankind.

(I breastfed mine but the middle one weaned herself at three months-I was pregnant again and apparently the flavor of the milk changed.)
posted by konolia at 3:33 PM on June 5, 2006

Now is the time to embrace junk mail. Sign up for every expectant mother everything. Why? Because the formula companies will send you samples, lots and lots of samples, of stuff that you will soon be spending lots of money on.

Also, exclusively breastfeeding moms who aren't into formula will give you all the tons of samples that are heaped on them if you ask.

All my other advice has been covered off on. Good luck!
posted by Gucky at 4:22 PM on June 5, 2006

FWIW, I was bottle-fed and I came out juuuust fine. My mom said it was one of the best decisions she made because my dad could do the early morning feedings. He still talks about how we used to watch the Smurfs at 5am together.
posted by radioamy at 5:46 PM on June 5, 2006

The plastic nipples worked somewhat, the pump just did not and created more tears than milk.

Avent bottles were great, and we used microwave sterialiser.

Don't know about formula brands, can't read the labels here in Tokyo, so we bought the most expensive assuming it'd be the best... what? :)

During night time, we found that we had boiled water in a thermos, and pre-boiled cold water in a bottle. Then at night, we took half hot and half cold with formula for instant, just-right tempurature bottle. (Acutally, about 30/70 mix.. but we had plenty of chances to work out the perfect mix to get the right temperature).

Near the end I could mix a bottle under 30secs while still being a sleep. Waiting for something to heat is no good, with a crying child, at 3am :)

"I was brought up with tv, and I turned out tv".
posted by lundman at 7:04 PM on June 5, 2006

I just wanted to assure you that it's totally alright if you end up bottle-feeding your kid. The generation that are becoming parents now were mostly bottle fed (ask your parents and aunts and uncles etc) and that generation turned out fine. I was able to breastfeed my daughter, but if it had ever stopped working for me I would have switched. Yes, there are stupid people that will poke their nose into your business about every aspect of how you raise your kids. And that sucks. So I wanted you to hear the voice of another Mom encouraging you to find the solution that works for you and ignore the jerks you might encounter.
posted by raedyn at 7:16 PM on June 5, 2006

My best friend wanted to breast feed her first, but her milk didn't come in. I'll add her child to the list of healthy, bright children apparently unhampered by formula. Further, my friend pretty much didn't bother with extra sterilization (she washed the bottles in the dishwasher and used filtered water), and she didn't heat the formula up, which really cut down on the extra time that formula can take. The baby didn't notice or care.

My friend was heartened by the following information, so I will share it with you as well: not being able to breast feed is, in fact, very natural and "normal" in the wild. Non-human primates often lose their first born baby due to problems with breast feeding. Formula is a much better alternative.
posted by carmen at 8:24 PM on June 5, 2006

I breast fed both of my kids but ended up with a lot of bottle experience with the second one, as he had to take several bottles of expressed milk at day care every day.

The first boy only had to take the bottle a few times, and the playtex nursers with the disposable liners were fine. I just stored the expressed milk in one of the liners, then the Hubby (or whoever else was watching junior while I was off getting liquored up) could just put the bottle together and warm it up in a bowl of warm water when needed.

For the second, we needed something a little sturdier, so we used avent bottles. Seemed like everyone at the daycare was using them, too. We didn't try any others, so I can't compare them. But I can wholeheartedly recommend the avent bottle brush--even if you aren't using avent bottles. The pointy end was excellent for cleaning out the bottle nipples.

Finally, this probably goes without saying, but I can't help it: at least for the first few months, always hold the baby while he or she is eating. Fewer sights are more depressing than seeing a baby eat from a propped-up bottle. Enjoy this time!
posted by whatnot at 11:32 PM on June 5, 2006

Jumping into this very late, but what the hey.

Our daughter was losing weight in her first weeks because of problems with breastfeeding. The problems got to be so significant that after a couple of appointments with a nursing specialist we decided to try a split between pumping and formula. After a month or so, we just abandoned breastmilk altogether. We have a healthy two year old who was built primarily with formula, and she's not a blithering idiot.

So... we used Avent, and they worked great. Avoid the multi-stage setting nipples, though, because they were a pain in the ass. If you're OK with running the dishwasher every day, start with a 8-12 small bottles. You'll upgrade to bigger bottle a few months later.

The dishwasher really is good enough. Don't worry about sterilizing.

We used tap water to mix the formula, but I trust the city water and we don't have lead pipes. I used a thermometer at first to get the right temp (85-90F worked best), but I eventually got to a point where I could feel it without a thermometer.

DON'T mix more than a day's worth up in advance. Formula is an excellent growth medium. It's like unpasteurized milk. If you need convenience, either get a padded lunchbox and some blue ice cold packs to carry bottles in, or get the cans of premixed formula. Premixed, though, is expensive compared with powder. We mainly kept them for situations when we couldn't take the cooler bag.

DO go with big cans of powder, bigger the better. But figure out what baby likes. Our daughter was an Enfamil baby.

If you live in the US, DO get a Sam's/Costco card and buy formula there. A can of formula at Costco was $17; at Safeway, $30.

DO keep in mind that formula is formula is formula in the US. There are some added "special" ingredients, but they're tertiary. The FDA tightly regulates baby formula. While breast is best, formula is a perfectly safe and reasonable alternative.

Good luck. Babies are expensive, but they're worth it, at least until they discover crayons can be used to color on anything.
posted by dw at 11:39 PM on June 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't have much to add here - there's been great advice all around. I breast-fed my first, bottle-fed my second. They're both healthy, happy, strong, and smart. Just ignore the idiots that try to make you feel guilty for something that is your decision alone.

I got my first set of bottles from a Mom that no longer needed hers. That was a huge savings. I second experimenting around with different nipples - you don't know what your baby will like until you try. I also did not mix any formula in advance. When we were out and about, I pre-filled the bottle with water and then took zip-loc bags of pre-measured formula with me. Combine, shake and you're good to go!

What I really liked about bottle feeding was that it allowed others to share in the closeness of feeding. (I was never a pumper with my first) My daughter LOVED to feed her younger sister, and I honestly feel that it set the stage for a life-long closeness between the two girls.
posted by Flakypastry at 6:01 AM on June 6, 2006

Everyone else has great advice on equipment, so I'd like to throw in my two cents on the actual food. This in no way comments on the efficacy of different kinds of formula, but I found the premixed formula to taste the best, the concentrate the next best-tasting, and the powder the least-flavorful (my experience is with all the same brand, Enfamil in the yellow can.)

But conversely, the premixed formula was the hardest to heat and most expensive, and the concentrate (2nd most expensive) and powder (least expensive) the easiest - use the right temperature water to start with, and you're good to go.

Later, when you're ruining your kid's chance to get into Harvard by feeding him jar food (where's that sarcasm punctuation when you need it?) Gerber's 1st, 2nd, 3rd line is not bad, their Simple Recipe dinners are pretty good, but I (and the baby) preferred their Tender Harvest line. They actually tasted like food, rather than a prepared food substance. Gerber's Graduates line for toddlers was excellent- good sized, shaped, and varied finger foods that heated up easily and tasted good.

Beech Nut flavors of all kinds are universally nasty, textured like snot, and smell like death. The main Heinz lines were hearty, but somewhat flavorless- not bad if you were a grown-up adding salt, probably not good if you were a baby who couldn't. Also, you are never too old to enjoy a biter biscuit.

In the end, it's just food. Try not to feel guilty, and when someone is insensitive enough to question how you feed your child, ask them if they count carrot sticks, pineapple slices, serve exactly one half cup of steamed vegetables, weigh 2 oz. portions of meat, serve exactly three full meals a day with two healthful snacks morning and noon to their Wonderchildren?

Just remember, Breastfeeding Nazis let their kids eat hot dogs and Happy Meals too.
posted by headspace at 6:33 AM on June 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Minor derail
Winjer: We're dealing with Kings College Hospital on a different childbirth-related issue and our GP has described them as Nazis ...
/Minor derail
posted by dickdotcom at 7:28 AM on June 6, 2006

We used plain bottles, plain nipples, and powdered Similac. Never had one problem. Our kid seemed to prefer the clear silicone style, but we used both the brown rubber style and the silicone style.

We washed everything in the in the dishwasher (including the nipples), or with a bottle brush. To get set up for the overnight feeding, I would premix a bottle and put it in the fridge. Kid always drank it cold. I never sterilized (are you kidding me?). If we were going somewhere, I put the dry formula in a bottle and then added water as needed. I used plain tap water (although if your water system is iffy, you probably will want to use bottled water or nursery water; however, it's not necessary, either).

The fancy systems like Ventaire or the liner types were more trouble than they were worth, and way too expensive--quite frankly, they're a waste of money. With formuly being approximately $11 a can, you will want to minimize your expenses. :)

I never intended to breastfeed because it seemed like I would be tied to the kid constantly, and I didn't want that. I was having a difficult enough time dealing with everything as it was. Bottle feeding is a wonderful invention. Dads can get more involved as well.
posted by cass at 9:34 AM on June 6, 2006

(that would be silicon style of nipple)
posted by cass at 9:40 AM on June 6, 2006

Great thread, and I'll throw down.

I had twins and desperately wanted to breastfeed them. However, due to a serious case of heavy huge breasts, I couldn't pump, couldn't get my supply up, and went the bottle route.

I would have felt a lot worse had it not been for a wonderful lactation consultant here in SoCal who was the absolute opposite of the LactoNazis. She supported me throughout my attempts, got me on a great schedule with bottle/breast and when I finally realized I was going to have to go all bottle, she helped me figure out which bottles were best for my kids.

If you can find a lactation consultant who will help you in that way, you'll feel better about every decision you make - seriously, there was something about hearing HER tell me, "The formula they make now is really terrific, and you're lucky to have it!" that made everything okay.

Also, another vote for Dr. Brown's - my daughter is a happy spitter (at 10 months it's just starting to go away), and the reduction of air with these bottles made a difference.

And my son and daughter are both on Lactose Free Similac and have done really well with it.

Mostly - just ENJOY your baby :)! You're gonna get a lot of Mommy Drive-Bys along the way - those little judgements by other parents who think that, just by virtue of the fact that they also have kids they can tell you what's best for you - but the truth is that, whether you breastfeed or bottlefeed, sling or use a stroller, co-sleep or crib, cry it out or no-cry, by kindergarten they're all peeing in a toilet and sleeping through the night :)!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 10:32 AM on June 6, 2006

2nded on the disposable liners. probably not that eco-friendly (though i assume they are recyclable in most markets).

for our first kid, it was very useful to have one of those salad dressing mixers, which is something like a french press, but no filter/screen. it did a great job of mixing the formula and getting rid of all the lumps.

for our second kid, it seemed that the formulas got better in that we didnt need to use the mixer. maybe they figured out how to make it less lumpy.

don't sweat the formula. i understand where the la leche leauge lunatics are coming from, as there are probably immune system benefits to breast milk. but in this modern world, we do what we gotta do. formula has a whole lot more energy per ounce and you'll find that you end up having to wake up a lot less frequently when you are using formula vs. breast milk.
posted by joeblough at 11:36 AM on June 6, 2006

I was a nanny for several years working with infants and the babies always seemed to prefer Avent bottles and clear nipples. At first the mothers all wanted to use electric steam sterilizers until the pediatrician told them the same thing I did: dishwasher works just as good if not better. We also used Similac formula with extra iron as some others have suggested.

I will tell you a little trick though. When you use formula and mix it up, you'll normally end up with tons of foam and bubbles at the top of the bottle that the infant will ingest causing some very painful gas. If you'll get a bottle of Mylicon drops and just put half a drop in each bottle you mix up, the foam and bubbles will dissolve instantly and you'll never have to worry about gas keeping the baby awake and crying all night. I, of course, asked the pediatrician if this was alright first and you should do the same. He said it was perfectly fine and that even when babies acidentally get ahold of the entire bottle and drink it all it is still not harmful to their health and that poison control will say the same thing.

Congrats and good luck!
posted by Ugh at 3:30 PM on June 6, 2006 [2 favorites]

Try breastfeeding. If it doesn't work, DO NOT STRESS OUT. Your baby will not starve to death.

The formula we have today would have literally been a miracle 100 years ago, and even today has the capability to save hundreds of thousands of children across the globe if we can just get it to them with some clean water.

Anyone who tells you formula is "poison" is just irrational. Avoid those people. Completely. I mean it.

The "breast is best" people are right, except... and there is a long, long litany of things that can come after that "except". Breast certainly is best under perfect conditions. Few people have that luxury.

My wife tried, and tried hard, to breastfeed. We completely monopolized a lactation consultant's time for a week. No luck.

She pumped for 6 weeks, then her sanity demanded we stop.

Dr. Brown's. Dr. Brown's. Dr. Brown's.

They brought us back from the brink. Yes, they are a pain to clean, but you will do it so often, it will become automatic, like a marine cleaning his rifle. If baby has a happy belly, you have at least a little sleep.

Buy more bottles than you think you need. Buy 2 nipples for every bottle. Maybe 3.

The little bottle warmer thing.... eh... we used it but I'm not entirely sure how efficient it was. As he started drinking more volume, we would sometimes have to do it 2 cycles of heat. It "seemed" easier at 3am but again I'm not convinced it really was.

Dishwasher is fine. Save your money, you'll need it. Infants are frightfully expensive, even with a good wage earner in the house. The amount of formula they go through is amazing, and there are also copious amounts of waste. Diapers and formula, alone, will set you back a car payment a month.

After suffering through intestinal distress, we went to Lactose Free formula with Iron. Smooth sailing after that.

I can't stress enough the Dr. Brown's + Lactose Free combo. Every baby is different, but some things, like reducing the air in their bellies and limiting lactose, which can be hard on even adults' systems, are pretty obvious in hindsight.

Congratulations and good luck!!!!
posted by Ynoxas at 7:32 AM on June 7, 2006

Obviously very late to the party here, but with (I think) an overlooked recommendation.

We were given a wraparound lap pillow, looks like a C, that worked great to support our son while feeding. Worked great for breast and bottle.

Now get some sleep.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:55 AM on June 7, 2006

GhostintheMachine refers to this I believe.

and it's true, it rocks for both!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 1:04 PM on June 7, 2006

We never used bottle warmers either. Found it much easier to just heat the filtered tap water to the right temperature, fill the bottle with it, and then mix the formula. We never mixed large amounts at once because newborns are exceptionally picky about wanting 12 bottles one day, and 2 the next. I guess I was also a little paranoid about the bacteria that could grow hour after hour. One bottle at a time and that never got too overbearing, but you'll find what works best with you and your baby.
posted by Ugh at 3:02 PM on June 7, 2006

In the UK, Mothercare make great bottles that you sterilise in the microwave - quick and easy. We'd also recommend these formula pots, which are very handy for travelling. We never bothered heating the bottle right from the start, even though we were mixing bottle and breast (on the advice of Kings, ref: winjer and dickdotcom above).
posted by jonathanbell at 5:02 AM on June 8, 2006

... although I should add that we used sterile (e.g. boiled) water in the bottles, then allowed that to cool before putting in the formula and mixing it up.
posted by jonathanbell at 5:03 AM on June 8, 2006

Our doctor told us, and experience beared out, that sterilizing is an unnecessary headache. Once every few months we poured boiling water over all the bottles and nipples and stuff, and otherwise just hand-washed them (we don't have a dishwasher). You'll have plenty to do without worrying about sterilizing bottles. Not to mention that nothing else in the feeding chain is sterile (the water you use, the baby's mouth, and so forth) so what's the point?

I heard a lot of "mix up a batch for the day" type advice, but I can't figure out how that could fail to make life harder. We measured out however much powder it said to use into the bottle, ran in warm tap water to the amount we wanted to make, cap and shake. Takes about 15 seconds to make a bottle, and off you go. Compared to mixing, cooling, warming, etc etc etc... well, you do the math.

Around 9 or 10 months, we got pretty lazy about even using particularly warm water. Room temperature was generally equally acceptable, and I think it helped keep her from getting the sort of fussy attachment to having everything just so that some kids get. But they're all different, so who knows.

For gear, we liked the Ventaire bottles. The bottoms come off, so they're much easier to wash than others. I also liked the Aventi bottle brush. And for traveling, there are these little round containers that are split into segments. You measure the powder for one bottle into each segment before you leave, then all you need is to find a source of water when it's time to eat. Very handy.

I think that's all we ever used for equipment. My best advice, I think, is to not make it more complicated than it has to be. Take powder, add water, get into baby somehow. That's really all there is to it.
posted by rusty at 8:02 AM on June 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just want to take a minute to thank everyone who answered and also everyone who replied to me via private email. Your words of advice have been very helpful... Thanks also to Matt for the delightful surprise of finding this question on the sidebar (!)

I'm not going to mark anything as best answer (yet) since all the answers are awesome. We bought some Dr Brown's Bottles and a couple of different bottle brushes today.

I [[heart]] you all!!
posted by anastasiav at 8:49 PM on June 8, 2006

Re: sterilization, it is more for making sure the formula or expressed milk doesn't go off rather than than keeping things that go into baby's mouth sterile.

We had a dishwasher, but the one we had at the time was a bit dodgy so we hand washed and then used a bottle steamer for sterilization. They're cheap enough and quite fast - you can do a load of bottles, nipples, caps etc in about 15 minutes.

Do not let any health care staff make you feel bad about any of your choices. Ultimately you have to do what works best for you and your baby, and that will be a process of trial and error as you get to know each other, and you learn to recognize your baby's particular way of expressing his or herself. Learn to trust your instincts.

We must have gone through 10 different bottle nipple types and half a dozen soother types before we found what our son liked. (I nursed and supplemented).

Tummy gas will be your worst enemy no matter what way you feed the baby. We found that keeping baby upright for 20 mins after a feeding helped a lot, as did finding some way to (safely) put baby's bassinet at a 15 degree angle. This also reduced the amount of spit up. It's hard to stay up that extra 20 minutes during wee hour feedings, but it's worth it if baby drops off to sleep peacefully and isn't complaining of painful tummy. The human digestive system is effectively designed to be gravity fed - unfortunately we're not built to be able to stay upright on our own for at least six months! Also don't be afraid to give your baby what they call gripe water, it also helps with gas. We found Woodward's brand best - think of it as ginger ale for babies.

The first 8 weeks are tough not because of sleep deprivation so much as sleep interruption and delivery recovery. If you haven't already, tuck away some meals - either store bought or stuff you make now and freeze - that you can just bang into the oven or microwave in a pinch. Or if people are bugging you that they want to help post-delivery, have them look after the cooking!
posted by Zinger at 3:05 PM on June 10, 2006

Can really only second what everyone said:

-we never sterilized, and hand washed everything. Used powdered which we sometimes made up beforehand and zapped in the microwave (but tested with a clean finger) and sometimes just made with warm tap water. Nor did we boil the water beforehand, because especially in those first sleepless weeks, it was a ridiculous waste of time. We're seven months in and so far it hasn't done any harm.

--they will be picky once they get used to a certain brand, so do your experimenting early on. Costco has a store brand that's slightly cheaper than its prices on Similac or Infamil. And who's getting formula at 11/can? Round here, it's about 20-25 bucks.

--the whole gas thing appears to vary from baby to baby--ours never had a particular gas problem, saved all his crankiness for teething. He pretty much burps himself by now. We used some kind of generic brand bottles and various types of silicone nipples...whatever was on sale. Made no difference whatsoever, so long as you get the right size hole. That's actually the most important thing about nipples--tiny holes for newborns, slightly bigger ones for older babies, and very large ones for those who add cereal to their babies' bottles. The size will be marked on the package.
posted by emjaybee at 7:29 PM on June 10, 2006

so long as you get the right size hole

Oh my gosh emjaybee thanks for bringing that up. I can't believe I forgot that.

The good nipples have a "flow" rating. Feeding too fast is very, very common. You start with the low flow nipples, and work up to higher flow as the baby matures.

Infants should take a significant amount of time to drain even 2 ounces. If your baby seems like they can off a bottle in seconds, go DOWN a flow rating. Slow them down, their intestines will thank you. And you will thank them. Or something. You know what I mean.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:52 PM on June 10, 2006

Don't let the nipple nazi's get you down. Those people are insane. I am convinced I wouldn't have gone into such a deep post partum depression if I didn't feel like I was constantly being tortured by those damn people.

When we supplemented, we finally settled on the ventaire system from playtex. It was what finally cured his colic. (Thank the gods.)

Read the ingredients, some brands are better than others.

Also, sign up for samples from every single formula producer. Yes, you'll get on mailing lists that don't stop for 2 years, but you get hundreds of dollars worth of formula, coupons, free samples of other products. And, it means you can try out a bunch of different brands.

Nipple flow ratings are usually by age. Start small. Too big gives them gas. Gassy babies are not, repeat not, happy babies.

Above all, breathe. Relax. Enjoy this time with your baby and your husband. Do not allow other people to drive your experience. Do what feels best for you. Formula babies grow up just as healthy and happy and mentally advanced as breast fed babies. You're not doing anything wrong, and you shouldn't feel like you are.

You're about to be a mommy! You have way more important things to think about than living up to some fanatic's code of conduct.
posted by dejah420 at 10:04 PM on June 15, 2006

Wow, lots of hate for the so-called breastfeeding "Nazis". I have never met one of these people, yet I hear about them everywhere.

Have you heard about a thing called a supplemental nursing system? It looks kind of odd (a bottle attached to a string around your neck, with a tube that goes down and along your breast and nipple), but it can help do two things at once: get the baby the nutrition it needs, and get enough stimulation to your nipples to help your body make as much milk as it can. A lactation consultant can probably give you a lot of info on these, and it might be something you would find useful.

The thing about buying lots of nipple / bottle combos is a great idea. I was all set on using the Avent stuff, but found that my daughter just couldn't get the milk out fast enough. I ended up going with the Ventaire bottles, which used y-shaped slots in the end of the nipples. These worked for us and weren't too fast, and my daughter didn't get too gassy. Also, I could never get the vents to work on the dang things - the nipples would collapse, but this was the 1999 version of them, so things might have improved. I actually put disposable bottle liners in these things to solve that problem, but I'm a freak and like doing things my own way (and I was dealing with a lot of frozen breastmilk that I had stored in the liners).

If you get a breast pump, get a *good* one - the lactation consultant will be a good source for specific recommendations. It is (or at least was) well-known that certain companies would put out hideously unworkable and breast-punishing pumps that would tend to discourage women from pumping altogether. Interestingly, some of these companies also made formula. Hmm.
posted by beth at 2:04 AM on June 16, 2006

One week after the question was asked, NYTimes had an article on breast feeding: "Breast-Feed or Else"

posted by MzB at 7:53 PM on June 16, 2006

beth: The breast nazis most assuredly are around. I actually heard someone say (not directed at us, but near us) that giving your baby formula was like feeding them poison. I heard someone else say that not breastfeeding should be sufficient reason for Child Services to take a baby away from their mother. Another woman said, after hearing that we gave our child breastmilk but it was from a pump, that our child would have irreversible psychological damage from not physically nursing from the breast.

A representative from the local La Leche told an entire classroom of people in our parenting class that if you don't breastfeed you might as well start working on another child because odds are yours won't live past its 2nd birthday.

I fully support women who breastfeed, and I am touched, not offended, seeing a woman breastfeeding in public, etc. But some of these devotees are whack jobs and need to be ignored and marginalized.

We started using the Y slotted nipples when we went to formula and cereal mixture in the bottle. And oh! what happy times those were. Once you hit cereal in the bottle, sleep times double. It is such an incredible respite from the every 2 hour deal. It is like you are given a gift from heaven. If I had met the CEO of Gerber that first week I may have kissed him/her right on the mouth.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:54 PM on June 23, 2006

Response by poster: Evan is 10 days old now, so I guess I should update...

Turns out that I do produce some milk on both sides - I can pump about 1 oz from each side (give or take) in 15 minutes - and we're supplementing that with formula, but we ended up with the one problem we had not anticipated - he won't latch.

We spent the days 3 & 4 with him spoon feeding him colostrum and formula, then played with a bunch of different bottles until we would find one he'd take. I spent several days not attempting to latch him at all (my lactation consultant wanted to measure his input/output so we gave him everything - formula, pumped breastmilk - from a bottle), and now he'll latch on the right side about 50% of the time, but on the left he still won't latch at all (but we're working on it). He ended up only wanting the Avent bottles at first, but now we give him breastmilk in the Avent and the formula in the Dr. Brown's.

Thanks to everyone who responded. I can't tell you how many times in the past weeks I've looked at the answers here, not only to review all the great advice, but to remind myself that I'm not the only one who ever had these problems.
posted by anastasiav at 3:05 PM on July 20, 2006

Congratulations to you and your new family, and thank you for the update!
posted by headspace at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2006

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