Ah, baby product shopping! The absolute next best thing to actually holding a new baby in one’s arms. And for many parents, the most important pre-birth purchase is baby bottles. After all, little ones have to eat! And whether mom is planning on bottle feeding from day one, wants to have bottles on reserve just in case, or is aiming to pump milk, a reliable set of baby bottles is key to have on hand.
There’s nothing quite like rushing into your nearest grocery store or Wal-Mart and frantically reading labels and comparing prices, only to speed back home to sanitize the bottles and fill them with whatever sustenance your baby requires. It’s far easier to plan ahead, do some research, and pick at least one or two bottles before baby’s arrival. It might take some more work when they arrive- even newborns can have strong preferences- but a bit of prep can help relieve stress and make mealtimes easier.
But what should you look for when shopping for bottles? As a two-time bottle feeding mom who at different times did everything from nursing to exclusively pumping to strictly formula feeding, I have a few recommendations! Here’s what to consider when picking out the baby’s bottles.
20 Banishing BPA
Nowadays, most bottles are BPA free by default. Of course, once we discovered BPA, another slew of concerns popped up about the components in baby bottles. While shopping at local stores is often safest in terms of getting bottles that are free of potentially harmful ingredients, ordering online is another ballgame. Ordering online is convenient, but you’ll want to make sure the seller and brand of bottle you choose is safe for the baby before adding the items to your cart. Keep in mind that other countries have different regulations on baby products, so you might find worrisome warnings on some labels.
19 Nursing Or Not
This is a huge deciding factor when it comes to what bottles you choose: are you nursing or not? While lactation consultants and medical professionals seem to be equally divided on the subject, there’s no evidence that all babies who nurse become confused by drinking from bottles. Every baby is different, of course, so many moms stress over buying the “right” bottles that mimic mom as best they can. Ideally, you want to make sure the flow isn’t too fast so the baby doesn’t get “lazy” when it comes to working for breastmilk later. And that can happen with plenty of types of bottles, even ones that don’t look like part of mom’s anatomy.
18 The Faster The Flow…
The flow of a bottle is practically the most important component, especially if you’re both bottle feeding and nursing directly. In general, the slower the flow, the better. Most babies should have to “work” a little bit for their food- it keeps them from overeating and also helps maintain their sucking strength for breastfeeding when necessary. But some babies need an easier-out bottle, such as those who don’t have the energy to work for a meal, like NICU babies or those with other health conditions. Of course, an older baby who has never been breastfed will have different flow needs than a newborn who’s with mom most of the time!
17 Growing With Baby
Ideally, most moms want to buy one set of bottles and be done. But the reality is, you may have to switch things up as your baby grows. Depending on how much and how often they eat, babies may need different types of bottles or ones with faster flow- or higher capacity. Keep in mind that shopping for bottles might not stop at the newborn stage, especially if you find that you need more bottles to keep up with a formula prepping and washing routine. Plus, some bottles are specifically for the newborn stage only- pay attention to the ratings on bottles, since older babies may bite through softer nipples meant for newborns, which poses a choking hazard.
16 Starting Out Sanitary
With my two boys, I used a combination of at least five different brands with each baby. Some were plastic and some were glass, and I always struggled with keeping them clean. We had a routine of washing and sanitizing, both in microwave sanitizing pouches and boiling pots of water on the stove. Although my glass bottles were heavier and more unwieldy when it came to getting things ready, they never had a smell or a film on them like the plastic ones seemed to develop. And if you sanitize your plastic bottles often, they’re more likely to wear out sooner and need replacing, too.
15 Compatibility Conundrums
For moms who are strictly bottle feeding formula, this isn’t a concern. But if you express breastmilk to bottle feed to your baby, you’ll probably run into compatibility issues with your pump. Personally, I used three different pumps with my two kids, and none of the bottles were interchangeable. For example, my Spectra bottles, in addition to being a wonky shape as you can see above, weren’t compatible with any lids or nipples from any of our other bottles. But I needed the bottles to pump into, so we couldn’t always use them for direct feeding- and our other bottles didn’t attach to my pump at all. Thankfully, some brands offer adapters- check this out before buying bottles to be sure they’ll fit!
14 Seeing Suction Strength
Both of my babies seemed to have exceptional suction when it came to drinking their bottles! Some types of bottles, the nipples would always collapse while my babies were drinking. I would have to unlatch them from the bottle, wait for the air to fill up the depressed nipple, and then keep feeding. Of course, hungry infants don’t appreciate this, and it’s not ideal for them to be sucking in so much air, either! This is hard to gauge until you try a few bottles, but some babies will need a sturdier nipple (wide-mouth bottles were better in my experience) than others.
13 Care For Colic
Through all my research over an eight-year period of mothering, I’ve found the strongest recommendations for Dr. Brown’s bottles to moms of colicky infants. More specifically, the vented bottles are on the top of many moms’ lists of must-haves. Again, it’s hard to predict whether your baby will have a sensitive tummy if you haven’t given birth yet, but vented bottles offer the least amount of air in the milk as possible. Of course, the tradeoff is that you have many more small parts to clean- so think carefully on this one! Apparently, drop-ins also have the same air-reducing effect, though they involve more waste and more expense overall.
12 Fixing And Mixing
A few years ago, I would have loved to have one of those handy bottles that stores and mixes formula without having to get your hands dirty! Or, more accurately, finding somewhere to wash your hands and prep the supposedly-sterile formula for your tot! Now there are not only button-mixing pitchers for formula, but also bottles that have separate compartments for milk and formula so you can mix with one hand, no less, while on the go. Consider whether this will be helpful for your tot- it might make things easier for daycare, or if you travel often or have a lot of running around to do!
11 Likelihood Of Loss
Some baby bottles are safe for tots, inexpensive, and available widely. But if your baby is picky, has special needs, or you’re pumping or nursing, you might be looking for more specialized bottles. In that case, consider your investment wisely! Stainless steel bottles, for example, or those with lots of anti-colic vents, tend to cost more than the bare-bones bottles you’ll find at Wal-Mart or even the grocery store. Think about how much you’re willing to shell out for the ideal bottles- and whether you’ll be able to handle replacement costs later if one gets lost or damaged. This is especially important if your tot is particular about her bottles!
10 Various Versions
When my first son was only a year or so old (and still drinking from a bottle), my go-to bottle brand and style suddenly disappeared. Although the Soothie brand of pacifier we had loved was still around, the manufacturer stopped producing the bottles. It was a bummer because those were the only bottles my baby could drink without collapsing the nipple! The moral of the story? Try and buy the most recent or current version of a bottle- try to avoid anything that’s been on the market long enough that it’ll be phased out, but nothing so new that it’s a passing fad!
9 Sizing Selections
Newborns don’t eat much, but try telling a nine-month-old to put down the bottle! There’s a reason baby bottles come in sizes from two to ten or more ounces- it’s because as babies grow, they tend to eat more in one sitting. The frugal mama in me wanted to avoid buying duplicates of bottles in different sizes, so with my second son, I went with the eight-ounce size from birth. After all, you don’t have to fill it all the way! The only drawback is larger bottles often come with faster flow nipples, which could be an issue for younger babies. But if you have space in your budget, feel free to go all out and select whatever size works for your babe this week!
8 Picky Palates
You might have a certain brand or type of bottle in mind, but your baby just winds up hating it and feeding time is torturous. Especially NICU babies, who often start out drinking those ready-made bottles with screw-on latex nipples. The texture or shape of other bottles might only frustrate them. Keep in mind that despite your best intentions, your baby might just hate the cute bottles you’ve picked. And this goes for both breastfed and strictly bottle-fed babies- sometimes they just don’t like a bottle or nipple for whatever reason, and if you want them to eat, you have to give in.
7 Frequent Shopper
One time, I needed extra bottles after forgetting a few at home while on a trip. I went to three different stores trying to find the same bottles my baby was used to. Thankfully, he wasn’t picky at the time, but some babies are- which means you may not want to special-order bottles from an inaccessible location! Ideally, you’ll want to buy bottles that are easily accessible, such as from Target or Wal-Mart. For us, even Babies R Us wasn’t local enough to make it convenient to drop in and snag a few more bottles. And you never know when one could get lost, damaged, or just forgotten when traveling far from home.
6 Hand Me Downs Happen
If you have your heart set on a certain type of bottle (stylish stainless steel or name-brand design, perhaps), you might be willing to spend a bit extra to get what you want. That is, of course, if your baby cooperates! But the upside is, especially with bottles other than plastic ones, you can often reuse or hand them down to other babies. Of course, you’ll want to switch out the nipples regardless of whether it’s your baby or someone else’s that’s inheriting the bottles. But thinking ahead can make your second (or someone else’s) baby purchases less expensive in comparison to stocking up the first time around.
5 Tried And True
Like anything else, sometimes finding the best baby products comes from recommendations from friends or trusted bloggers and reviewers. After all, bottles are a fairly important purchase in the scheme of things- it’s all about your baby’s nutrition and wellbeing! So you might want to turn to your favorite mommy blogger or even a close group of mama friends to find out what others use successfully. This is especially helpful for nursing moms since some babies show preferences for bottles that are more like mom. After all, you probably have friends on both sides of the argument regarding nipple confusion with combining bottle and breastfeeding.
4 Who’s Feeding Who
If you know that your baby will be attending daycare or going to a sitter’s, you should think ahead and plan for that, too. Especially if you’re working full time, you won’t want to come home every evening to a sink full of rancid milk bottles to wash. If your sitter washes bottles as part of her job, that’s great- but most of us have to do it ourselves! In preparation for daycare, consider buying double the amount of bottles so you don’t ever “run out” between washes. Also consider labels or a special design on each bottle so the care providers know whose milk it is- important with formula, but crucial when you’re sending breastmilk!
3 Aging On Out
While it seems counterintuitive, there are bottles out there that only offer limited flow speeds and sizes of bottles. Although you may have found the perfect four-ounce newborn flow bottle, that doesn’t mean it will work for your 10-month-old later. Take a look at what sizes and options the brand or style you’re considering offers, so you can plan ahead for when your baby may need a faster or bigger bottle. Then again, some babies are content with small amounts of milk more frequently (most common in primarily breastfed babies), and the slow flow of a newborn bottle doesn’t bother them.
2 Tackling Transitions
One of the innovations I’ve seen since my kids were on bottles is the ability to switch out infant nipples for sippy cup tops. So many brands are offering a quick switch lid that helps “train” babies on sippy cups without getting rid of their favorite bottles. To me, this seems like a great help for transitioning away from bottles, and some babies may hardly notice the change, especially if the material is the same in their mouths. And while it seems glass and steel bottle manufacturers were first (longevity is great on sturdier materials!), plenty of plastic bottles now offer the same functions.
1 Holding Their Own
When my second son was young, we used Como Tomo bottles- the ones with a wide opening and a squishy bottom. It was supposed to mimic the breast (supposedly), but ours leaked for some reason. It also couldn’t stand up on a countertop without jiggling around and threatening to fall over. Not an enjoyable event for a mom who spent hours pumping precious drops of breast milk! And forget having the baby hold his own bottle- he would have sprayed milk all over himself and everyone within a five-foot vicinity. Suffice it to say, don’t hand your baby a squeezable bottle unless you trust that he won’t shoot milk at passersby.
Reference: This one mom's experience.