Picking a baby bottle seems like such an easy buying decision. You go to the store, select a pack of bottles, and go on your merry way.
Yeah, maybe back in 1970 before the Internet was invented and expectant moms (and dads!) could spend hours researching which bottle is best for their upcoming arrival.
The decision does not just come down to which brand to choose, but glass versus plastic, what kind of flow you want, nipple size, cost, ease of travel, etc. And the funny thing is, one of the most important buying decisions will never cross your mind until it is far too late.
Fast forward a few months to a crying newborn baby in your arms while you are trying frantically to clean a bottle (because they are all dirty) and there are 500 seemingly tiny parts and your hands are so dry from washing bottles all day they are cracking. Fun times.
When searching for a bottle, the important considerations are:
Bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, is a chemical that produces hormone-like substances in the body, and some studies have pointed to it causing cancer and other maladies. The FDA banned the use of BPA in bottles and sippy cups in July 2012, however virtually all manufacturers stopped using BPA before this date. However, because it is almost impossible to know if old bottles and sippy cups contain BPA, we do NOT recommend using ANY old bottles or sippy cups for your child.
Glass vs Plastic
This is the first decision to make, because there are only so many glass bottles on the market.
Glass bottles are always BPA-free, can be safely washed in a microwave, and may last longer than plastic bottles. They are also heavier and therefore harder to transport, can shatter and tend to be more expensive.
Plastic bottles can be made from three different types of materials: polycarbonate, polypropylene and polyamide.
- Polycarbonate (plastic #7) bottles were the standard until BPA became a concern. Polycarbonate contains BPA.
- Polypropylene (PP or plastic #5) is the industry standard for plastic bottles, and does not break down when exposed to heat. You can therefore put them in the dishwasher and sterilize in hot water without fear. Most bottles are now made of this plastic.
- Polyamide (PA) is safe for use in the dishwasher and sterilization, and is glass-like in its transparency.
The nipple, the vessel that delivers the milk to the baby, comes in various shapes, sizes, material and flow levels.
There are three general shapes of nipples on the market, orthodontic, bell-shaped and flat-topped.
- Orthodontic – Supposedly better for a baby’s teeth, the flat portion of the nipple goes on the baby’s tongue (NUK / Gerber, MAM)
- Traditional / Bell-shaped – Many experts claim bell-shaped nipples work best for breast ed babies who take bottles of pumped breast milk. (Avent, Dr. Brown’s, Born Free, Think Baby, Medela, Playtex)
- Flat-topped – These nipples are very trendy right now and are appearing on pretty much every new bottle entrant to the market these days. This nipple mirrors the look of a breast. However, the most popular bottles use the traditional / bell-shaped nipples. (Tommee Tippee is a long-standing bottle in this category, newer models include Comotomo, mimijumi and Adiri)
Nipples can be made of silicone or latex. Some people have latex allergies, so sticking with silicone is always safe.
Nipples rangle from slow-flow to fast-flow. To understand the difference, a fast-flow nipple will quickly leak milk when turned upside down, and a slow-flow nipple will barely drip. A newborn baby would choke on a fast-flow nipple, as they are not capable of drinking that quickly.
For breastfed babies, make sure to use the slowest flow nipple available. Breastfeeding a baby is a surprisingly complex set of events, in which the baby must use their tongue, jaw, and have the proper latch to receive milk, and the mother’s breast slowly lets milk done. This is why it is often said that breastfed babies have to “work” for their milk. In order to ensure that a breastfed baby will continue to latch on correctly, you must be sure to use the slowest-flow nipple available.
Some bottles are specifically designed to be anti-colic. A few examples are Avent, Dr. Brown’s and Born Free. Each bottle is designed differently, but basically the bottle’s design allows air to be vented into the bottle, and not into the baby’s stomach. Colic is thought to originate in the digestive track, and gas in the digestive track never makes anyone happy.
Let’s face it, some bottles leak. A lot. If you are breastfeeding, you know that milk is liquid gold. And spilt breast milk is a reason to cry.
Some baby bottles require a special disc or seal to avoid leaking. This extra step can be a pain, because as a parent, you are often rushed for time and sleep-deprived, and you will forget this step. More than once.
Ease of Cleaning
This is the most over-looked aspect of picking out a baby bottle. Your baby’s bottle will need to be cleaned out every single time you use it. Combine all of those cleanings with the constant washing required of breast pump parts, and you have a recipe for some very dry hands. (Dr. Brown’s is one of the most challenging bottles to clean).
Some bottles (Playtex Drop-Ins) have a drop-in liner to supposedly make cleaning easier. I can’t vouch for this, and it does seem wasteful. However, the milk will never touch the bottle and some babies love this bottle.
Made for Formula
The newer b.box Essential Baby Bottle and Mixie Baby Bottles allow you to store pre-measured formula in a contained portion of the bottle, and can be easily mixed with water. The b.box requires you to push the bottom of the bottle up while the Mixie only requires the push of a button. Both bottles are expensive, around $20 – $22 a bottle. Also, the likelihood for parts breaking down seems high. In my opinion, it is not difficult to store formula in a pre-measured container and pour it into a bottle of water on the go, and this method allows you to use any bottle with formula.
The last thing you want is to fight with your bottle every time you need to clean it. So take it from your MomMe friends and buy a good bottle brush or five. And make sure to examine the parts that need to be cleaned on a bottle. Dr. Brown’s bottles require a special skinny brush to clean the long blue cylindrical piece. While popular, this is a major drawback to Dr. Brown’s bottles.
Some bottles can turn into sippy cups and can accommodate handles so that an older baby can feed themselves. (Avent and Born Free can both be used as sippy cups down the road).
Newest on the Market
Lansinoh’s mOmma bottle is an interesting new bottle, along with Joovy’s Boob Bottle (yes I said Boob!) which is so new, it has just become available for purchase. I did get to check out this bottle in person, and it looks very interesting. I can’t wait to test it out!
Bottles can range from $2 a bottle to $22 a bottle. Yes $22 for ONE bottle! You may be tempted to invest in a bottle pack from the start to save money per bottle, but what happens if your baby does not like the bottle you selected? (Playtex Drop-Ins and Evenflow are two of the least expensive bottles on the market, with Evenflow costing around $2 a bottle). The most expensive bottles on the market include the formula mixing bottles like the b.box bottle and the Mixie bottle.
Best Bet: Purchase two to three individual bottles. In the beginning, you will most likely be breastfeeding, and only using a bottle for pumped milk. Try out each bottle and see which one you prefer. Once you and your child have selected your favorite, send out your husband, family member or friend to the store, or purchase your favorite set online. Trust me, you will be glad you waited before stocking up!
“Baby Bargains,” a go-to book for Expectant Parents that I highlighted, dog-eared and even took baby shopping with me, recommends Avent bottles and Dr. Brown’s bottles. So naturally, I selected Avent and Dr. Brown’s bottles to try with my little one, and I ended up loving Avent.