It took me until about day 4 to realize just how much *stuff* was being thrown away during our NICU stay. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I started sneaking things away into a bag and brought home all of it. Felt like one of those things I could control when nothing else seemed controllable. Seven months later, I'm still thinking of more ways to use them!
These mini pumping bottles, hold barely an ounce but that doesn't mean they don't have a use once you get home! Try using them as a mini water bottle for small hands to keep cool during the summer months or to practice holding on their own (top post photo). I also recently discovered that they hold powdered formula in single serving sizes (4-6 ounces depending on the size of your formula scoop). Much easier than packing the whole can and cheaper than fancy formula dispensers. No need to mix the bottle if I'm not sure I will use it.
Ready to Feed Formula Packaging
Our NICU used ready to feed formula and I'm told that most others do as well. The formula comes in 2 ounce bottles and they are clipped together in sets of four. The plastic clips that hold them together clip perfectly onto the Medela colostrum and regular milk storage cylinders (which I came home with probably close to 100 or more of these in two giant tubs- one which used to be his bathtub and the other which was our washing "sink" for pump parts) making them super helpful in organizing your breastmilk stash in the fridge and/or freezer.
Similac Single Use Nipples
I've heard mixed reviews on how many times these single-use nipples can be used on the bottles themselves (outside of the NICU). Some people say only once, others say they can be used for a day or two, and still others say that they are good until the texture changes and they start to break down. I saved the nipples actually intending to use them for doll bottles for the girls (with some of the pumping bottles). Then Tomas ended up on a daily medication and I discovered they work even better as medication dispensers.
It took some experimenting to find the best way to enlarge the hole on the nipple, but what we found worked best was to poke the tip of a steak knife through the end. We lost a few to bad enlarging methods and we have thrown others away as they seem to be at the end of their life and now we are down to four. Watch them carefully because you don't want to accidentally create a piece that might come off and be a choking hazard. They are a great size for putting in his 2 mls of meds and he sucks it right now without losing a drop. I keep hoping he outgrows the need for the medicine before we use up those last few, but I probably shouldn't get my hopes up about that.
Now. Just to be clear. The reason the NICU staff throws all of these things away is that they can't be reused safely within the NICU. There is a very serious and valid infection control reason for this. In the NICU stuff needs to be sanitized in ways that it doesn't at home (but please still wash it at home, because that would be gross). So if you are still in the NICU, please save these ideas until your child is home! Once your child is home...use common sense.
In case you missed it, I have another post dedicated to reusing metal formula cans so be sure to check that out as well! My blogging friend Hannah has a great post about reusing syringes from feeding tubes if that's something you also have laying around.