The Formula Formula

This is a dadblog, but it's not really about baby G's development, for once. You might say this is about my development as a parent. As baby G has been growing, so too has the amount of food he eats (well, drinks, at this point). He started out drinking a mere 2-3 oz. of breast milk per feeding. Eventually, we weaned him off of that and switched to formula entirely. We buy Gerber Soothe, which our doctor recommended because the Enfamil and Similac gave him the rankest gas you can imagine and he always felt kind of bloaty.

The formula we buy comes as a powder that you mix with water to prepare, and it has rules about safe lifetime and handling. Because it doesn't have the kind of antibodies and stuff that breast milk has, it starts to accumulate and multiply bacteria pretty fast, which is where most of the rules come in.

  • You mix up 2 oz. of water with 1 little scoop of formula (8.7g, they say), to get the right consistency.
  • Once mixed, the formula should either be fed within 1 hour or put in the fridge to prevent bacteria growth.
  • If the baby doesn't drink all the formula, the rest has to be thrown out. It can't be refrigerated because backwash contaminates it.
  • Even uncontaminated, refrigerated formula has to be thrown out after 48 hours.
  • An opened box of formula powder has to be thrown out after a month. We don't really worry about this rule because he goes through a box in less than a week.

From this set of rules emerge some procedures we develop to save on formula costs (did you click the link and see how dang much it costs!?). For efficiency, we mix up a lot of formula beforehand and store it in the fridge. We pour some amount into a bottle to feed him from, and keep another "supply bottle" with formula handy. The baby only drinks from the main bottle, and we refill it from the supply bottle, so the supply bottle remains uncontaminated. This gives us flexibility to feed him as much as we think he'll eat without wasting a lot if he turns out not to be very hungry.

At this point, he drinks up to 7 oz. of formula, 6 times a day. We pour 3.5 oz. into the main bottle, because he pretty much always drinks that much. If he finishes it, I'll make a guess whether he'll definitely eat another 3.5 oz., or maybe just 2 oz. or 1.5 oz. and pour accordingly from the supply bottle. It sounds like a pain, but that mid-meal break also gives him a nice pause. It makes feeding him go smoother, I feel.

Back when he ate only about 20 oz. of formula per day, I used tall, 10 oz. bottles, set out 4 of them in a row, all filled with water, and poured one scoop of formula in each. Then I capped them, shook them all, uncapped them, and repeated for as many scoops as I needed. I had to do just one scoop at a time to prevent big clumps of formula remaining even after vigorous shaking. It was tiring, took too long, and was overall a pain. Even worse, because of the rules, I could only do at most 48 hours' worth at a time, so I had to do it frequently.

Now, at a whopping 48 oz. of formula per day, I hit my breaking point. There had to be a better way. From some of my older posts you might have gleaned that efficiency in the real world is near and dear to my heart, harkening back to reading Cheaper by the Dozen as a young child. Getting better and more efficient at doing this common task would not only saving me time, it would save my sanity.

Tell me: what were the problems with the 10 oz. bottle methods? No, I'll tell you: the bottles didn't hold much water, so I had to use a lot of them, and, likewise, there wasn't enough room to put a lot of formula powder in. The solution? Get a huge container. I considered a used milk gallon, but the opening is a bit narrow, and I was worried about that vigorous shaking breaking the jug.

The answer, as with so many other things in life, was, of course, cranberry juice. Well, not the juice itself, but the fact that I drink it out of these big ol' jugs all the time. The cranberry juice jug solved all these problems. It's over 80 oz. (!), so has plenty of room, it has a bit wider mouth to get the formula into, and it's made of strong plastic with a good seal on the cap. It's perfect, just like the heavenly juice in it. So I guzzled the rest of a bottle, washed it thoroughly with dish soap, rinsed it out, and set out to make some formula.

Time for some quick math. At 48 oz. per day, that's 96 oz. per 48 hours. That's a bit too much to fit in the jug, so I make a little less. I chose 64 oz., which, after putting the formula powder in, comes out to more like 80-some oz. of prepared formula. Great! 8.7g of powder per 2 oz. of water comes out to 278.4g of powder for the 64 oz.. We'll just call it 278g, because here we don't deal in half measures.

We have this nice kitchen scale that measures in grams, so it's easy to put a big cooking mixing bowl on there, zero it, and just dump the amount of powder I'm going to use into there. This alone beats using that dinky scoop to get the powder out. Dad Tip: I started out using a glass mixing bowl, but the formula powder stuck to the sides a bit, no matter how dry it was. I found that it stuck much less to a metal bowl. No idea why. That's a Dad Tip. You can have that one for free.

I use a big funnel to help with getting the formula into the jug. You want both the wide and narrow parts of the funnel to be big so that the powder doesn't clump and stick. Somewhat amusingly, I cut in half a small Gatorade bottle I happened to have lying around and have been using that as a funnel. It works surprisingly well.

Now you can use a big spoon or something to put the formula into the filled jug. I pour the powder in thirds, capping the jug and shaking strongly in between. The whole process, start to finish, takes less than 10 minutes and not much effort.

I always wash the jug after I've emptied its previous contents. I fill it halfway and put a small squirt of dish soap in there. I shake a lot and let it sit, then pour it out and rinse it many, many times, because I definitely don't want any soap in my baby's food!

Hopefully this was a helpful Dad Tip for all you formula makers out there.


mai said...

Had I got this advice when you were a baby,it would have been a boon

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