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I want to start this post by saying something I strongly believe in: FED IS BEST. Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, your baby needs milk! For us, breastfeeding didn’t work – maybe one day I’ll share our story, but that’s not for today. In my opinion, there is too much pressure for new mums to breastfeed and one of the consequences of this is that it can be difficult to have access to or find information on formula feeding. There’s so many different products and methods of formula feeding, but by trial and error and a LOT of research, we found what worked for us. In the hope that this will be of use to an expectant parent or someone making that first mad dash to a 24 hour supermarket, here are my top formula feeding essentials.
There are a ton of different brands of bottles out there which I’m sure are all fab, but since day one of bottle feeding we have used the MAM Easy Start Self Sterilising Anti-Colic Bottles. We chose these as not only are they anti colic, but they are self sterilising!
Sterilising bottles was one of things that panicked me the most about formula feeding. As I was planning on breastfeeding, I hadn’t even researched into sterilising bottles. When I discovered you needed some massive water steriliser and sachets of Milton powder or a big electronic machine, I started freaking out. But lo and behold we were recommended these MAM bottles and all I can really say to anyone who doesn’t have these: BUY THEM. You simply wash the bottles up (more on that later), assemble them as per the instructions, and pop them in the microwave for a few minutes. Ta-da! Sterilised bottles ready to go with NO extra equipment needed!
Most bottles, like the MAM bottles linked above, will come with teats, but one thing that I didn’t realise is that as your baby gets older, you may need to buy additional faster flow teats. Some signs that your baby might be ready to move up to a faster flow of teat is that your baby might be taking too long to drink their milk (think 20 minutes plus) or your baby becomes frustrated when drinking, as if they’re not getting enough milk and want more. If you’re unsure if your baby is ready to move up to the faster flow teat, then it is important to speak with your health visitor beforehand who will be able to give you the correct guidance and advice.
If you buy the MAM self sterilising bottles I’ve mentioned above, you can skip this part entirely, as you don’t need any extra equipment! If, however, you use different (or non self sterilising) bottles, then you will need to ensure they are sterilised prior to use. There are lots of different options available to you – from freestanding sterilising machines, microwave sterilising machines, cold water sterilising to the old fashioned method of boiling. I recommend reading about the different methods of sterilising bottles on the NHS website and decide what works best for you and your family.
Now, the traditional way of making bottles seems like a faff – boiling the kettle, waiting half hour for the boiled water to come down to a safe temperature, then making the bottle. This didn’t make sense to me – are you meant to guess half an hour before your baby is hungry? Or leave them crying for half an hour?
We purchased the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep machine straight away and like the MAM Self Sterilising Bottles, it is completely revolutionary and in my opinion is no doubt one of our formula feeding essentials. It makes bottles up in about 2 minutes to the perfect temperature. No mess, no faff, no leaving your baby to cry. Bish bash bosh!
One thing to note with the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine is that you do have to buy replacement filters. It’s important to buy the Tommee Tippee branded filters – you can get unbranded, cheaper versions online however there is a risk of voiding the warranty on your machine if you use these, and they have been known to cause mould in the machine, too. Be safe and ALWAYS buy the branded filter replacements that you can trust.
One thing that would never have even crossed my mind to purchase had someone not told us: a portion pot!
Now one of our formula feeding essentials, a portion pot/formula dispenser simply means you don’t have to scoop out the formula from the box every time you do a feed. Fill up a couple of portion pots in the morning, and you’ve got your day’s formula all measured out, ready to go. They are also super handy to chuck in the changing bag for a day out and about.
We use two dispensers – the MAM Milk Powder Box and the Philips Avent Milk Powder Dispenser. In my opinion, the MAM one pours better and is more compact for travel, but the Philips Avent one is sturdier.
For when we’re out and about, we use a flask of hot water to make up our bottles. When Arthur was really young, he wouldn’t drink ready made formula, so we needed to make sure we have hot water and formula powder on us at all times. We boil the kettle each night, pour it into our Thermos Thermocafé Stainless Steel Flask, and then we’re good to go the next day – the water should be perfect temperature for a bottle about 24 hours after being poured into the flask.
Before you sterilise your bottles, you need to make sure they’re nice and clean. Now, as far as I’m aware, any washing up liquid is okay to use – as long as it’s thoroughly rinsed off. However, to be on the safe side, we’ve always used the Milton Baby Bottle cleaner. I just personally prefer using a product made for baby bottles! If you choose to stick to your normal household washing up liquid, make sure you’ve got extra in stock as you’ll be doing a LOT more washing up when your baby is having bottles every couple of hours!
To avoid cross contamination, when you’re washing your bottles, you want to use a dedicated bottle brush – not any old sponge you normally use to wash up your usual day to day utensils! There are lots of bottle brushes on the market, but you’ll want to use one that has a small brush or silicone teat cleaner to make sure you can get into every little nook and cranny of the teat. To keep everything super hygienic, we replace ours every 2-3 weeks. You can also cold water sterilise your bottle brush to keep it extra clean, too.
We didn’t use a bottle drying rack until the last few month’s of Arthur’s formula feeding life and all I can say is I WISH we had used one from day 1. We were sent a PR Sample of the Space Saving Drying Rack by Oxo Tot and it is revolutionary – not only is it functional, but it is modern, sleek, and not at all an eyesore like I expected a bottle drying rack to be. In fact, we love it so much that we still use it daily for sippy cups, cutlery, dummies and the like. You can dry so much on it without taking up too much worktop space, and it has a drip tray too meaning that your worktops remain clean and drip free.
I could do a whole post on dribble bibs with the amount of different brands we’ve tried! Some babies dribble more than others, but it is fairly inevitable with a formula fed baby that you’re always going to get some kind of dribble/spillage/sick up, so this is definitely a formula feeding essential in my eyes!
Make sure you have LOTS of bibs – and I mean lots. You need enough so that every time the bib gets milky it can be chucked in the wash, as you don’t want dried milk rubbing on baba’s chin the next time you go to use the bib. I’ve always preferred popper buttoned fasteners to velcro bibs as I find the velcro doesn’t last as well and does begin to lose it’s stick after a couple of months worth of washing.
You’ll probably already have muslin cloths on your baby essential list, but just in case – make sure you get LOADS. They’re definitely a formula feeding essential, though – from mopping up a dribbly chin to wiping down the condensation from the outside of the sterilised bottle – you need all the muslins you can get. When you think you’ve got enough, buy 5 more.
I really hope you’ve not got this far down the list and forgotten about the actual formula powder itself! I recommend you read the information on the NHS website and talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you’re unsure on what formula to buy. It’s important to remember that all brands of formula are heavily regulated and all contain the core ingredients your baby needs. I would also highly recommend watching the Channel 4 Dispatches ‘Great Formula Milk Scandal’.
There you have it! To make it even easier for you, I’ve created a FREE formula feeding essentials checklist for you below! Print this out and tick the items off as you purchase them for stress free planning.
Guide to bottle feeding leaflet – NHS & UNICEF
Fed is best resources page – Fed is Best