Should I Get a Formula Dispenser?

Mom bottle feeding her baby

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There are so many gadgets and gizmos out there to help make parents' lives easier, that sometimes it's hard to know whether you should splurge or save your money.

One such product is a formula dispenser. As any parent who feeds their baby formula knows, preparing a bottle is not something you can do with your eyes closed. It's very important to measure exact amounts of formula powder and water before mixing a bottle. Even if it sounds simple at first, doing it eight times a day—not to mention when you're low on sleep—can easily make this task into a burden.

Enter the formula dispenser, a gadget that promises to do all the work for you. Let's break down exactly what a formula dispenser does and take a look at the pros and cons to help you decide if it's right for you.

How Does a Formula Dispenser Work?

A formula dispenser mixes, warms, and pours a bottle at the push of a button. Think: a Keurig, but for babies. You put in water and the formula powder, and it prepares a warm bottle for you. Most products cost around $200.

As mentioned, the exact ratio of formula to water is very important when making a bottle by hand, but a formula dispenser will add the appropriate amounts automatically. "Depending on the formula you use, there are settings on the machine you choose," explains Krystyn Parks, MS, RD, IBCLC, a pediatric registered dietitian and lactation consultant and the owner of Feeding Made Easy, LLC.

Pros and Cons of a Formula Dispenser

The main benefit of having a formula dispenser is convenience. You can have a bottle ready to go with the push of a button. This can be helpful when juggling everything else you need to do to take care of your baby and yourself.

"When a parent is mixing formula, which they do several times a day, they have to scoop an appropriate amount of powder to mix with the right amount of water, and heat it to the right temperature," says Ali Alhassani, MD, the Head of Clinical at Summer Health. "Sometimes the scoops are uneven, or part of the scoop can spill and not actually get into the bottle, or the formula may be too cold or too hot."

In the early months of parenthood, you'll likely be doing little else than changing diapers and feeding your baby. During this time, babies need to be fed through the night and parents are often sleep-deprived. Turning to a machine to mix bottles for you might help remove one thing from your plate and give you back a few minutes of your day.

That being said, there are some downsides to owning a formula dispenser. They can be costly, and some parents have complained that they produce watery or imbalanced bottles. "There have been reports that some machines were dispensing not enough formula powder for the water volume, leading to babies becoming malnourished," says Dr. Alhassani. "Other reports have said that too much powder was poured in, causing an intolerance for the formula."

If the ratios are incorrect and your baby isn't getting the right amount of nutrition, they could end up losing weight. "If you do not follow instructions, you can easily under or overfeed your baby without realizing it," notes Parks. "This can be more serious than just weight gain or loss—it can lead to electrolyte imbalances, nutrient deficiencies or excesses, and hospitalizations."

Formula that is already prepared can last two hours at room temperature and up to 24 hours if refrigerated right away. If you make a bottle to bring on the go, be sure to use it within two hours. If you make a bottle and then realize it's not needed, refrigerate it right away and then use within 24 hours.

Always clean and sanitize bottles after each use.

Cleaning a Formula Dispenser

Maintenance is essential for a formula dispenser to ensure that bottles are made correctly. With that, be sure to check your machine's instructions for specific guidelines.

Generally speaking, the funnel of a formula dispenser should be cleaned after every four bottles, though individual machines may vary. To make things easier, consider purchasing a second funnel to place in the machine while you are cleaning the first one. "If you don't clean the funnel regularly, it can get clogged," notes Parks.

Replace the water in your formula dispenser each day. It is advised to take the whole machine apart once a month and wash everything before rinsing it and letting it air dry. "After emptying the dispenser, rinse it with warm water," says Dr. Alhassani. "Then use mild dish soap and a soft sponge or brush to clean every space. Rinse it again to remove any residue, and allow it to dry before using again."

A Word From Verywell

Formula dispensers can take a lot off your plate when you have a baby, but they also can be pricey. Some parents might find that they are still spending a lot of time cleaning the bottles and parts, so they might not consider it worth the money. Others will cherish the extra minutes that the dispenser gives them, and feel relieved to know that their bottles are measured and warmed precisely.

Consider the pros and cons to decide if a formula dispenser is right for you. And if you have any questions about the appropriate amount of formula for your child, be sure to reach out to their pediatrician or healthcare provider.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to safely prepare baby formula with water.

  2. Singer, Natasha. “Baby Brezza, a $200 Formula Maker, May Pose Health Risks to Infants.” The New York Times, 13 Mar. 2020.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Amount and schedule of baby formula feedings.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infant formula preparation and storage.

  5. Baby Brezza. Cleaning & Maintenance.

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.