How to Bottle Feed: Formula Feeding 101 Tips and Tricks

Let’s face it. Breastfeeding is hard. Some of us can do it, some of us can’t (or just plain don’t want to for various reasons). If formula is on your horizon, welcome! Fed is best, after all!

When we switched from breastmilk to formula, it was kind of a pain. There was a slew of spilled powder, annoying uncertainty as to whether we boil the water or not, and how long it all lasted. There was lots and lots of googling happening! So much time and effort wasted.

In effort to ease the transition for other parents out there – here is a little Formula Feeding 101 from our experience.

Find the formula you/your baby likes best

Our doctor recommended Holle right off the bat. It was actually a bit hard tracking down the best route to obtain Holle (an organic German brand) but I ended up with ‘Little World Organics‘ which is a mom-run online business with a transparent supply-chain process. Their website is not awesome, but I like everything else about them. We also use Earth’s Best, which we get on subscription from Target. There are plenty of formula brands out there and you should choose whatever one works best for you and your little one.

Pick Your Bottles

We use Dr. Brown Bottles. We always have. We used them for pumped breastmilk and now for formula. If this is your first time introducing a bottle, you may have to explore a few kinds to find the one that works best for your baby.

Mix It

I am obsessed with the Dr. Brown’s Formula Mixer. This pitched saved me from a mixing migraine. It is easy, efficient and mass-producing. We make anywhere from 26-32 ounces of formula for a 24-hour period and this easy-pour pitcher is perfect for that kind of quantity. It also fits easily in the Dr. Brown’s sterilizer which is a nice plus. If you are not making more than 12 ounces for a 24-hour period of time, the Dr. Brown’s pitcher is probably overkill and you can just use regular bottles.

Water, Water Everywhere

We use nursery water to mix our formula. There is a debate about the need for nursery water or if you can simply use your tap water (if you live in a place with high-quality city/groundwater). I suggest you do your own research and talk to your Pediatrician. We happily spend a $1.00 a jug at the grocery store. I do buy about 8 gallons at a time so I don’t have to run out for it very often.

We do not boil our water. It is also a decision you will have to make for yourself – and most every recommendation online will say you have to boil your water. I do not know other moms in my circle who boil their formula water, I just followed their lead. If you do decide to boil the water, especially for the littlest ones (we didn’t start formula until 7 months), you should speak to your pediatrician about the best way to go about this. Some say to use a tea-kettle or a pot you will never cook food in to boil. *You should always talk to your child’s doctor about health and feeding decisions.*

Rules of Engagement

Most powder formula lasts 24-hours once it is made. Many of the powdered formulas containers you can buy last 2 or 4 weeks once they are opened. Make note of your dates/times (we use a Sharpie on the container or a label!), if necessary. However, our family flies through formula so fast, the expirations don’t arise before it’s gone.

Details Matter

The scooper matters when it comes to quantity and spills. Pay attention to how much formula to water ratio (it is usually one scoop to one ounce of water, but some scoopers are double the dose – like Earth’s Best). The nice part about the Earth’s Best product is that it has a great scooper. Also, the Holle container is terrible for ‘operation purposes’. I open the bag and pour it into a sterile snapware tupperware container for easy access and sealed storage. (Every product will say to only use the scoop provided – you just have to ensure the right volume of formula is used for the product in relation to the water needed).

Once you are ready to make your formula:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. Pour the water (if boiled, you must wait until it cools but not longer than 30-minutes) into your Dr. Brown’s pitcher or your bottle directly.
  3. Add in your formula with the scoop, brush off extra powder with a sterile utensil (like the back side of a knife). It is important to not pack the powder.
  4. Cap your bottle or insert your Dr. Brown’s mixer and lid and mix it up well (no one likes clump milk).
  5. Put in the fridge for later or just let it settle before serving.

Service it up

We serve our mixed formula cold. Our baby started taking cold milk around 6 months so this part wasn’t new for him. If your baby is use to warm milk, this is a good time to start weaning him or her from that luxury – it is way easier to serve cold formula. However, if you still need to serve for formula room temperature, you can stick the bottle in a cup of hot water for a few minutes before serving. Since formula only lasts a set period of time once it leaves the fridge, it is not wise to leave it on the countertop to allow it to rise to room temperature like you can do with breastmilk.

Know the Cool Rules

Formula on the go is another story since it lasts only an hour once it leaves the fridge. You can get around that by using cooler bags and ice packs when you are leaving the house, or you can purchase to go packets of formula from Enfamil or Similac (just fill your bottle with the right amount of water before you leave the house, add the formula and mix later when your babe is ready to eat.) Another trick is using these special bottles which are perfect for go-time – put your formula in the bottom and your water in the top. Pop and mix when you’re ready! Lastly, you can find liquid on-the-go formula and keep sealed and at room temperature until you are ready to use.

For more on the rules of keep milk safe, visit my post here!

Disclaimer: Very young babies and babies with compromised or poorer immune systems, such as premature babies, are most vulnerable to bacteria. Making up each feed when needed is most important for these babies in order to reduce the chance of bacteria growth in formula. Boiled water and other precautions may be necessary. Speak to your pediatrician about your child’s needs before following any suggestions given here. I am not a medical professional or specialized in child safety.

Some posts may include affiliate links. To learn more, read my privacy policy here.