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Friday, February 22, 2013

Why I use a scale to measure & mix Neocate

We recently switched back to powdered formula (Neocate Jr) after being on ready-to-feed Peptamen Jr for 2 years. When we used powdered formulas before the Peptamen, we always just used the scoops inside the cans to measure the powder with. Raya is our 4th child but she's the first one we had ever used formula with, so I don't think it even occurred to me during the first year of her life that there was another way to do it aside from the scoop. This time around though, we happen to have a digital food scale thanks to our brief adventures with counting oral and blended food calories, so I decided to do a little experiment. {note: I'm not saying that either way is right or wrong, I just made an observation that I thought was interesting and wanted to share the results. this could go for any powdered formula too, not just Neocate.}

When we started using Neocate again a few weeks ago, I was curious how accurate the scoops would be so I got out the scale to weigh the powder.

I started by putting a styrofoam cup on the scale and zeroing it out with the empty cup on it.

I had just opened a new can, so the powder was kind of compacted from settling during shipping. I scooped, patted the formula down with my fingers to make sure there was powder in the bottom of the scoop, and then leveled it off.
For an 8 ounce bottle, it takes 6 scoops, which should equal 49.2 grams. I found out while doing this little experiment that my scale does not display odd numbers, so I rounded up to 50 grams. When I scooped, patted, and leveled, this is what I ended up with:
Instead of 50 grams per 6 scoops, it came out to 54 grams.

Then I started over but this time, I stirred the formula in the can to loosen it up. When I sooped the formula out, I tapped the scoop to make sure it was full down to the bottom and then leveled off.

6 scoops later, here's what I had:

This time, it was 46 grams instead of 49-50 grams. Neither of those discrepancies sounds too far off, but then I did some calculating.

Currently, Raya gets the equivalent of 4 8oz bottles per day (plus a little extra which I didn't figure into this because I mix it separately). At 54 grams per 8 ounce bottle instead of 50, she would be getting an excess of 16 grams of powder per day. Multiplied out over 30 days in a month, she would be getting an extra 480 grams of powder per month. To put it into perspective, that's more than ONE FULL CAN of Neocate. Having just switched to Neocate, we do not have ANY extra, and our home health company does not allot us any extra, so if we were to measure the formula that way for every "bottle" every day, we would run out of formula before the end of the month. Not only would we be using 480 extra grams of powder per month, but she would be getting an excess of 2294 calories per month, which divides out to 76.5 extra calories per day that she doesn't need.

At 46 grams per 8 ounce "bottle" instead of 50, she would be short 12-16 grams of powder per day. Multiplied out over 30 days, that's a shortage of 360-480 grams, or approximately 1 can of formula powder. The shortage would equate to 1720-2294 calories per month. That's a deficit of 57.4-76.5 calories per day. These numbers may not be greatly significant to a 3 year old who is maintaining a good growth rate, but it could have a significant impact on a small infant or on a child who has difficulty gaining weight.

In fairness, I did measure a third time and happened to hit exactly 50 grams. I think the lesson to be learned here is that using a gram scale to measure formula powder is going to be consistently accurate, whereas using the scoop to measure will be consistently inconsistent. And again, the differences may not make a significant impact on everyone, but for some, they very well could.

On to the next subject...

Mixing Neocate doesn't seem like rocket science, and it's not, but there are some things that can make it easier and can result in less pump alarms. When I mix Neocate, I like to mix the entire 24 hours' worth at a time before I go to bed at night and put it in the fridge. There are several advantages to this method, with convenience being a huge advantage. It's much easier and faster to pull pre-mixed formula out of the fridge and pour it into the pump bag than it is to have to mix formula several times throughout the day and night. When you're on the go during the day, you can put whatever amount you're going to need either into the pump bag or into a baby bottle with a tightly fitted lid and keep either one cold with an ice pack. Another advantage is that mixing at night and refrigerating overnight allows the formula to settle so that there is no foam or tiny lumps of powder that will clog pump bag tubing or cause the pump to alarm. Another thing that makes a difference in the way that the formula dissolves is using warm water instead of cold water. It doesn't need to be hot, but formula generally mixes better in warm water. There aren't as many tiny little lumps of formula when it's been mixed in warm water.

We've experimented with a lot of different containers since we started mixing Neocate again. When we used it 2 years ago, Raya was on a smaller volume so the container we used to use isn't big enough anymore. (and yes, I still have the same container. I never get rid of things...) I mentioned that I like to mix 24 hours' worth at a time. Sometimes I don't get the entire volume mixed at once though so I do half. When I do that, the best container to do it in is a blender bottle, which you can get at nutrition stores or the protein powder aisle at Walmart. They come with a little springy metal ball in them, and they do a FABULOUS job of mixing Neocate. The other nice thing about them is that they have measurements marked on them so when I'm mixing 480ml of Neocate, I fill the bottle to the 400ml line with warm water, dump in the powder, put the lid on and shake it.

When I do mix the whole day's worth at once, I like to use an empty 1 liter Pedialyte bottle. It gets extremely messy (and wasteful) without a funnel, and the absolute best funnel I've come across for pouring formula powder into a container is this:
Thaaaaaat's right. The plastic shield from a breast pump. Medela, to be exact. (you can find them on Amazon) The neck is small enough to fit into most containers that would be the right size for mixing formula in, and it's wide enough that the powder doesn't get packed into the bottom of it like regular funnels. {So glad that breast pump can come in handy since I didn't get to use it for its intended purpose for very long. ha ha}
I can mix Raya's full volume of formula in a Pedialyte bottle, refrigerate overnight, swirl it around in the morning to make sure there's nothing settled on the bottom, and it's good to go. The down side to the Pedialyte bottle is that it doesn't have any volume markings on it so I measure with a different container. If I was really on the ball, I'd put in the amount of water I need and then mark the water level on the bottle...

As with any of the "instructional" blog posts I've done, there are many ways to do things. I'm not saying that the way I do it is the only/right/best way and I'm sure there are lots of other great methods, this is just what works for me. In the month that we've been using Neocate again, we have not had any pump alarms from clumpy or foamy formula, so what we're doing is working. :)


  1. Brilliant idea with the breast shield! I am so stealing that! I have like 4 sets!!!

  2. Yes, me too. Not that I really need a funel, but good to know when I'm done with the pump that I can actually 'recycle' parts of it.

  3. I am thrilled with this method as it is really similar to what I do. It drives providers crazy because I know exactly how many grams of formula per day, but not how many oz. I mean really! The water doesn't give the calories. I use a cuisinart kitchen scale to measure, a 32oz nalgene bottle with a blender ball, and a canning funnel (which is not a perfect solution, but works.)

    I measure into the cans themselves for a week, then store the formula in the pantry so I'm not measuring daily. I mix with water in the mornings, but from mixing to getting the tube on (infinity pump) is s 6-minute process. And my 11-yr old can do most of the attaching on his own.


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