Is it ok to formula feed an infant? We all know that people are always preaching “Breast is Best” and the many benefits of breastfeeding, but there are some advantages to formula feeding too. For many people breastfeeding may not be an option, so don’t feel guilty if you find yourself wanting or needing to feed your baby formula. This infant formula feeding guide will walk you through the benefits of formula feeding and the best ways to do it.
When I had my son, I initially planned on breastfeeding. It didn’t take long though before I realized that just wasn’t the right option for us. When I talked to other moms about what we were going through I found that a lot of them had very similar experiences. The important thing to remember is as long as your baby is fed; there is no reason to feel guilt or shame about how you feed them.
Why Breastfeeding Isn’t For Everyone
There are a lot of reasons why breastfeeding may not be the right choice. Sometimes there are physical barriers preventing breastfeeding success and other times the reasons for bottle-feeding may be more for convenience.
With my son, he was given a pacifier in the hospital and after that had difficulty latching. The only way I could get him to latch was to use nipple shields. Using a nipple shield turned out to be extremely frustrating for both of us. It also took my milk some time to come in and I felt like my son just wasn’t getting enough.
I switched to pumping so I could bottle-feed him breast milk, but that didn’t work out for us either. I wasn’t able to pump often enough to keep my milk supply up so I had to use more and more formula. It wasn’t long before I decided that it was better for both of us to just switch completely to formula.
Here is a list of common reasons women choose to formula-feed instead or breastfeed:
- Inverted or flat nipples – if a woman has inverted or flat nipples it can make breastfeeding extremely difficult because the baby usually can’t latch on their own.
- Low milk supply – when a woman’s milk supply isn’t enough to feed her child completely, it may require the introduction of formula at some level
- Pain – breastfeeding can be very painful for some women. Nipples can get dry and cracked, causing pain not just during feedings but in between them as well.
- Time – breastfeeding can be much more time consuming than formula feeding. Breastfed babies typically eat more often and, if a woman cannot be available for every feeding, pumping is also time consuming.
What To Look For In A Formula
If you make the decision to use formula, the next step is figuring out what formula is right for you. There are a lot of options and every baby is different so take advantage of any free samples you can get from your doctors office or formula companies.
As a general rule it is best to start with a cow’s milk-based formula. There are a lot of options for cow’s milk-based formulas so try a few, but make sure that you go with ones that are age appropriate for your child. My son used Enfamil Gentlease for the most part but we also had luck with the store brand equivalent.
If your baby isn’t doing well with cow’s milk-based formula, you can try switching to a soy-based formula. You should check with your pediatrician before making this switch to determine if soy will resolve the issue or if something else is needed.
Some babies suffer from acid reflux and as a result may have difficulty with some formulas. Again you would want to talk to your pediatrician, but there are options like Enfamil AR that can help.
The biggest key to finding a formula that works is just a little trial and error. Click here for a list of some of the top option.
How To Choose A Bottle
Finding the right formula for your baby is only half of the equation. You also need to find the right bottle. There are a lot of options and, like with the formula, it may take a little trial and error to find the one that works for you and your baby.
When you’re shopping for bottles, make sure you pay attention to the nipples. A lot of brands will have a variety of nipple levels depending on your baby’s age. As your baby gets older they will get better at drinking and will be able to handle a nipple with a bigger hole, but it is generally best to start with level 1 nipples.
In addition to a variety of nipple options, some bottles have additional inserts to help control milk flow. Keep an eye out for features like this and see which ones your child prefers. I have reviewed a few of the top bottle options here.
Advantages of Formula
When it comes to formula-feeding your child, you don’t have to feel like you are giving them second best. Sure there are a lot of great benefits to breastfeeding, but formula feeding has its own benefits.
- Others can help – For me, and I’m sure many other moms, this was the biggest benefit. Being able to let your husband or another family member take over for a couple hours (or the whole night if you’re lucky) is often a very needed break in the early weeks of your child’s life. It definitely helped me maintain my sanity at times.
- Know how much your baby eating – When you are breastfeeding, it can often be difficult to tell how much milk your baby is getting. When you feed your baby formula, you don’t have to worry about this. You can easily tell exactly how much milk your baby is getting at every feeding.
- Babies sleep better and go longer between feedings – Breastfed babies typically want to eat every 1 to 2 hours in the beginning, whereas formula fed babies can typically go 3 to 4 hours between feedings and starts sleeping through the night sooner. The first bottle of formula I gave my son was a few nights after we brought him home from the hospital. He was feeding for 30-45 min at a time because he was struggling to get any milk and an hour later he was ready to eat again. After giving him a bottle I was able to get a couple hours of sleep for the first time in about a week.
- No vitamin supplements for baby or special diets for mom – When breastfeeding, finding the right milk solution often requires the mother to adjust her diet and sometimes even requires vitamin supplements. For formula fed babies the adjustment is as simple as trying a new formula.
- Can be easier to feed in public – Some women are completely comfortable breastfeeding in public, others feel the need to cover up or find a private place, which can sometimes be difficult. When your new baby is crying and you are trying to make it better as quick as possible, it is nice to be able to just pull out a bottle and feed them wherever you are.
- Develop a schedule earlier – All of these factors make it easier to develop a schedule for your child at an earlier age. Whether breast or formula fed, you will be on your child’s schedule at the beginning, but breastfed babies typically feed ‘on demand’ much longer than formula fed babies.
A Day In The Life Of A Formula Fed Baby
As time goes on after bringing your little one home, you will find it easier and easier to settle into a routine. Here is an idea of the schedule that I used for my son starting around a month old. Keep in mind that as your child gets older the schedule will change. They will start spending more time awake during the day for socializing and activities and they will start sleeping longer stretches at night. They will also start eating more at each feeding and feeding fewer times per day.
My son also had acid reflux and went through phases where he ate less per feeding and fed more often. Don’t get discouraged if you go through stretches where your child has a difficult time sticking to the schedule for one reason or another. If your child appears hungry between feedings you can try offering a pacifier to held them off for a bit, but don’t deny your baby food if they need it.
Typical feeding schedule for us (1-2 months old, about 10lbs):
** A good rule of thumb is 2-3oz of formula per lb that your baby weighs up to 32oz per day.
8am – wake up, feed about 3oz
11am – feed about 3oz
2pm – feed about 3oz
5pm – feed about 3oz
8pm – bedtime routine, feed about 4oz
12am – feed about 3oz
4am – feed about 3oz
If your baby is sleeping, you may want to wake your baby for midday feedings to keep them on schedule, but at night let them sleep and just feed them when they wake up. For us, my son typically wanted to eat every 3-4 hours at night in the first couple months. Occasionally we got lucky he would go 5-6 hours but you may not see consistent long stretches until your baby gets a little older.
Don’t Let Them Shame You
If you have made the decision to formula feed your baby, don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed for it. There is a lot more information and support out there for breastfeeding, but you are not alone in your decision. The important thing in the matter is that your baby is eating and gaining weight at a healthy rate. Trust yourself that you are doing what is in the best interest of your child and take full advantage of all of the benefits formula feeding has to offer.