Giving your baby a bottle is not always as simple as grabbing one off the shelf, pouring some breastmilk or formula in and giving it to the baby. Babies have different sensitivities to nipple flow and shape. Some babies will take anything, and some are very finicky. So you don’t want to stock up on a particular brand of bottle before you know for sure. Start with one or two of a couple different kinds, and buy more once you figure out your baby’s likes or dislikes. My first daughter drank out of any bottle. My son, on the other hand, flat-out refused every bottle we tried. It took about a dozen before we found one — and eventually two — that he would drink from. When looking at baby bottles, you’ll see the big differences are: bottle material, nipple shape, vent/valve pieces and nipple flow.
1. Bottle Material
pros: lighter weight, inexpensive
cons: potential for chemicals to leach from even BPA-free plastics
Silicone (ex. Comotomo)
pros: a healthier alternative to plastic, lighter than glass and not breakable
cons: hard to find, not as sterile as glass
Stainless Steel (ex. Pura Kiki)
pros: healthier material, lighter than glass
cons: expensive, can’t see through to see how much milk baby has taken
The best option may be a combination of these different materials. Personally, I love using glass bottles when at home. But I prefer not to use glass bottles when out because they are heavier and you are already carrying a lot of stuff when out with baby!
2. Nipple Shape
Narrow or wide ∙∙∙ Many people say that the wide nipple is better for breastfed babies because the shape more closely resembles mom’s breast. However, lactation consultants often recommend narrow nipples because they allow for a deeper latch that more resembles how far a mom’s nipple stretches into the infant’s mouth. The shoulders (transition from nipple tip to base) on wide neck nipples doesn’t allow for as deep of a latch. Lansinoh mOmma, Dr. Browns Options Narrow and Joovy Boob are examples of nipples with the more gentle transition. I’m not an expert on bottle nipples but have known several breastfed, bottle-refusing babies that preferred the Lansinoh mOmma and Joovy Boob bottles (including my son). The texture and the gentle transition of shape allow for a good, wide open latch. But really, this all may mean nothing for your baby. Often a baby has a strong preference one way or the other.
3. Vents and Valves
Many bottles come with vents or valves that claim to reduce the amount of air that baby swallows, thus reducing discomfort from gas. Some of these valves or vents are inside the nipple (Lifefactory, Lansinoh). Others are additional pieces (Dr. Browns, Joovy). Keep in mind, you will be disassembling, washing, drying and reassembling these bottles multiple times each and every day for many months. Almost all bottles come with at least four parts: Bottle, Collar, Nipple, Lid. Those will more complicated venting have additional parts. A complicated setup and leaves room for error and leaking.
How often will your baby have the bottle? If your baby will rarely have a bottle, you may not mind one of the more complicated bottle setups. However, if your baby will only be drinking out of a bottle, you will quickly tire from assembling and cleaning bottles with half a dozen pieces each.
4. Nipple Flow
Once you have your bottle chosen, you’ll need to select a nipple flow. A lot of parents start off with the slowest flow and slowly move up to faster ones as the baby gets older. Many brands label the nipple flow with baby age (ex: Stage 1 flow for newborns, Stage 2 flow for 3-6 months, etc.) However, many people — myself included — think you can start at a slower flow nipple and stay there. This is actually what every lactation consultant I’ve met with has recommended as well. If you are using a thicker formula, you may need a slighter faster flow nipple so the baby can get the formula out. There is no other need to move to a faster flow nipple, especially if you are breastfeeding. My son drank with the slowest flow nipple until he was over a year old. The best bottles for breastfed babies are those with slow flow nipples. It takes work for baby to suck and pull milk out of the breast. This work is good for developing facial muscles and strengthening the baby’s palate. If a baby gets used to a faster flow nipple, he or she may resist going back to the breast. According to Pediatric Feeding News, a fast flow nipple “does not “exercise” the musculature that is required for long-term bottle and breastfeeding, and for later oral feeding and language skills.”
Will you be switch back and forth between bottle and breast, or will baby just be drinking from the bottle? If you will be going back and forth, you want to avoid nipple and flow confusion. That means it’s important that your baby get a good latch on the nipple, and that the flow of the nipple closely resembles that of the breast.
Stainless Steel Bottles ∙∙∙ There aren’t many stainless steel bottles on the market, so I didn’t add them to the comparison table above. But here are a couple that you should look into if you want stainless steel: Moomoo Baby | Pura Kiki
Formula Feeding? Here are options that are convenient for formula feeding on the go.
How many bottles do you need to buy?
Start with one or two bottles of a couple different kinds. Wait to buy more until you figure out if your baby will take anything, or if he or she is super picky. Once you know what kind of bottles you are getting, the rest depends on how often your baby will be drinking from a bottle.
Will your baby be drinking from a bottle all the time because you are formula feeding or exclusively pumping? If so, you’ll probably want 10-12 bottles.
Breastfeeding moms, will you be away from your baby on a regular basis or just an occasional errand or night out? If your infant will be home with you and primarily eating directly from your breast, you will probably be fine with three or four bottles total. But if you will be working outside the home and returning to work and pumping milk for your baby, you’ll need more bottles. If you are going back to work, I’d recommend closer to 10 bottles. With that, you can send a full day’s supply of bottles to daycare while another set is at home in the dishwasher, and still have a couple to spare. Side note: I don’t recommend washing the plastic bottles in the dishwasher. While the bottle company may say it is safe, the American Academy of Pediatrics (and several other legit organizations) discourage putting anything plastic in the dishwasher. Heating plastic can cause harmful chemicals to leach on to the milk your baby ingests.
At first, your baby will not drink much at a time, so often people start with the small bottles that hold 4 or 5 ounces, and later move to the larger bottles that hold 8 or 9 ounces. If you want fewer bottles in the house, you can use the larger ones from the start and just fill them up part way.
Notes for bottles when breastfeeding:
When to introduce a bottle ∙∙∙ The sweet spot for first offering the bottle to a breastfed baby is around 4 weeks. Introducing the bottle before 3 weeks and you run the risk of baby not going back to the boob. If you wait until after 6 weeks, your baby may refuse the bottle all together. Once you introduce the bottle, keep it consistent and give the baby a bottle at least 3 times a week.
Paced Bottle Feeding ∙∙∙ This is a method of bottle feeding that mimics breastfeeding. When feeding from the breast, the baby takes frequent breaks and has to put work into getting milk out. Many parents of breastfed babies prefer their baby have a similar experience when eating from a bottle. Kellymom has great information on how to bottlefeed a breastfed baby.