Update on April 7, 2007: I found this on the Enfamil website: "However, powdered infant formulas cannot be made commercially sterile and should not be fed to premature infants or infants with immune problems."(source) When we first starting giving my older son (OS) formula we used the pre-made kind. I’ll be the first to admit that no one is going to call me Julia Child, or Betty Crocker for that matter, so prepared food is right up my alley. In addition, we just didn’t understand powdered formula or more specifically the water. We were told we would have to boil water to use the powdered formula. However, because of possible nitrates you’re not supposed to boil water for more than 1 minute because you can concentrate them as well as other contaminants.
Thus, there is a very fine window. You want the water to boil but not for more than a minute. Was it a rapid boil or a slow boil? This seemed like a lot of work, and we already had enough to do.
The jury was still out on bottled water. Some sources said we still had to boil it while others said it was fine to use as it was. After calculating the cost of using bottled water and powdered formula, we found it was comparable to just using pre-made formula in the first place, plus it was a lot less work and we didn’t have to worry about whether or not to boil the water. All we had to do was open the fridge, grab the formula and pour it into the bottle. No heating was required by OS.
We used the pre-made formula until OS was 6 months old, and then we switched him to powdered formula so we could use our fluoridated tap water. OS had no problems with the switch. If anything he seemed to prefer the powdered.
When my younger son (YS) came along, the pediatrician told us to use regular bottled water for the first week and thereafter just to use a Brita filter. Not wanting to take any chances, we first had YS consume the samples of pre-made formula from the hospital and then purchased several cans of pre-made formula. We used bottled water for the remainder of his first 4 weeks and then switched to regular tap water.
What are the advantages of pre-made? First of all it’s really easy. Like I said above you just open the fridge and pour. There’s no mess. Second, pre-made formula is thicker so if you have a child that spits up a lot, pre-made formula is more likely to stay down. I have several friends whose pediatricians recommended use of pre-made formula for exactly that reason. Also, you don’t have to shake pre-made formula, so if you have a child who is gassy to begin with (which is a lot more common that we parents might hope), you don’t have to worry about adding extra air from the formula. Cons? It’s first of all more expensive. However, as a good friend pointed out to me when I was struggling to grasp the fact that I couldn’t breastfeed, it’s relative; your child is only going to be on formula 12 months. There’s a beginning, a middle, and a definite END to formula. It’s not going to go on for 5 years. Another problem is that sometimes a baby will only take the pre-made formula because it is thicker and refuse to change over to powdered formula. I didn’t experience this with either of my kids, but with every child reacting differently, it is something to consider. It’s also more processed. The final problem, and this is not a huge deal, but I did notice it stained my kids clothes more easily because it is darker in color. I was able to get the stains out using Oxy Clean, but with the powdered formula it’s never even an issue.
I almost claimed that the scent of pre-made formula is another disadvantage. Seriously, I pitched the first few cans of pre-made formula I had for OS, because I thought they had gone bad. Then I realized that it just smells bad in general. Oddly enough, I did get over the smell relatively soon, and the first time I gave YS formula, the smell of it made me really nostalgic.
When I first used pre-made formula, I was concerned because once opened, each container only has a fridge life of 48 hours. However, OS and YS both typically went through a large container within a day-and-a-half, so I never once discarded a container of formula due to age. (I did pour out a bunch of individual bottles when each of my children faked me into feeding them when they weren’t really hungry. Alas that particular trends continues even after 3 months with YS).
Advantages of powder? The big perk for me is honestly that’s it’s cheaper. It’s also more convenient in terms of being easy to carry without refrigeration. Plus I don’t have to worry about giving YS fluoride supplements when he’s 6 months old because he’s already getting fluoride from the water. (I am a BIG supporter of fluoridated water; for those who feel differently, it might not be so much of an advantage). The cons? Not as convenient because it has to be mixed when needed (yes I know convenience is a pro or con depending on the circumstance). On a personal note, it looks like ground-up chalk so it definitely doesn’t look tasty. Fortunately, neither OS nor YS made that connection, so I didn’t have to argue with them about the appeal of formula.
What’s my advice to you? If you’re thinking about powdered formula and you’re worried about your water, talk with your pediatrician and call your town to find out if there’s a problem with nitrates and other containments in your water. Our town doesn’t have a problem with it, but a town very close to us does. Our pediatrician was familiar with the water in our town.
A. Elliot’s Lesson Learned: There are pros and cons to both powdered and pre-made formula
For those of us who didn't get an instruction manual with our babies and for whom parenting hasn't always gone as planned. On a more serious note this blog is about supporting a woman's ability to make her own choices about parenting including the choice, for whatever reason, to bottle feed her babies formula.