Choosing a good baby bottle is not about finding the most expensive or technologically advanced model. It’s not about finding out what worked best for your friends or family members either! Finding the right baby bottle can be easy or hard, and it’s about finding the thing that works best for your baby AND for you.
Will I Need a Bottle if I’m Breastfeeding?
You might not ever need to use a bottle, but most people find bottle feeding handy at some point. Even if you don’t plan to go back to work, or plan to leave your baby with a caregiver and bottles, you might still like to get away during baby’s mealtimes every once in a while. You might like to have a day or night out with your partner or for a special occasion. Or you might just like to do some shopping on your own while a grandparent is home with your baby.
If you are breastfeeding, this might mean you leave some of your pumped milk in a bottle so a caregiver can feed your baby if they get hungry while you’re gone.
Other Reasons for Bottle Feeding
Most people go back to work at some point after having their baby. Most babies are still getting their nutrition from breast milk or formula at that point, so it’s important that they can get their milk from a bottle when the time comes.
Sometimes people have to be separated from their babies for other reasons including illness, injury, surgery, birth complications, unplanned trips, etc. And occasionally bottle feeding happens because people can’t breastfeed directly or choose not to.
When to Buy Bottles and How Many to Get
A very important tip is to make sure that you don’t purchase or receive a huge supply of the same bottle before your baby arrives. You might not need as many bottles as you think, and it’s very hard to know which bottle will work best for your baby.
Sometimes well-meaning friends and family members will buy you a big box of THEIR favorite bottle. This is so thoughtful, but unfortunately might not be the right thing for you. A great recommendation would be to include one of each of several different types of bottle on your registry or buy them for yourself.
They might ALL work for your baby, and then you’re set! Or your baby might refuse all but one of the bottles, and then you can just go out and buy a few more of that type.
Some babies will take milk from anything. That makes it very easy! In that case, you just have to focus on making sure that your baby is not eating too fast and that they’re getting the right amount
Other babies will be very particular about the type of bottle they’re willing to use. Some bottles might be accepted by your baby more easily than others. In this case, it’s great to try out a few and find the one that works best for your baby. It will make bottle feeding much easier once you get that figured out.
How to Increase Your Chances of Bottle Feeding Success
Most lactation consultants will talk about a “magic window” for introducing a bottle for the first time. Not everyone can delay using a bottle, but if you can, waiting until the baby is 3-4 weeks old might get you better results. If you are planning to breastfeed AND bottle feed, this is especially important. The baby gets a few weeks to get breastfeeding well-established. They get to develop strength and coordination with breastfeeding before being introduced to a bottle.
Babies this age are usually still open to trying new things and are less likely to reject a bottle. They are also very comfortable with breastfeeding, so are less likely to prefer the bottle and reject the breast since bottles are easier to get milk from. These babies may also be less picky about the type of bottle you try since they have some strength and experience.
Parts of the Bottle
Depending on the brand and type of bottle, there may be some interchangeable parts. It’s also important to pay attention to all the different components of the bottle when you’re thinking about buying one. Some brands also have extra parts, the parts shown below are the main things to look for.
- The nipple: The nipple is the part the baby holds on to. Some are dome-shaped, cone-shaped, or mostly flat. Some are very firm and others are very squishy and collapsible.
- The screw-ring: This is the top. The nipple goes into this piece, and then you can attach it to the bottle base.
- The bottle or base: This is the main body of the bottle. It’s the part that holds the milk. Bottles vary in the amount of milk they hold, but most bottles will hold a lot more than you’ll need, so it will seem big. A formula-fed baby might need the entire bottle filled once they’re about 9 months old, but breast milk fed babies do not. The milk changes to provide more of what they need, so you don’t need to increase the volume much at all. The opening of the base can be a lot of different sizes too. You can sometimes buy extra parts when you need them. You might be able to buy just the nipple if one of yours ends up in the garbage disposal or lost. You might also need to change out the nipple as your baby grows. This can be a big benefit and means you don’t have to replace the whole thing when this happens.
Depending on when and how you are introducing a bottle, there are some other considerations to make when choosing a product.
- If your baby is breastfeeding AND bottle feeding, you might want to choose a nipple that is designed to resemble a breast, and maybe even YOUR breast. Going back and forth between bottle and breast might be easier if the nipples are similar enough.
- To help bottle feeding resemble breastfeeding even more, you might also look for a nipple with a “slow flow” tip. This will make the baby need to work a little harder to get milk out of the bottle, which is similar to breastfeeding.
- A cone-shaped nipple may also be closer to a breast than the others. Watch the included video to see an example of this type of nipple!
- If your baby is premature or weak, you might look for a nipple with larger openings. This would be the opposite of a “slow flow” tip. Once your baby gets a little older and stronger, you may be able to gradually shift to a different bottle nipple.
- If you will be doing a lot of bottle feeding, make sure to find a bottle body that is comfortable for YOU to hold for long periods of time. It’s best to feed babies slowly so they don’t over eat. It’s good to take 15-20 minutes per bottle, so you want to be comfortable! It’s also important to use the Paced Bottle Feeding Method to avoid over feeding your baby.
- Cost might be a factor too. Even if you have to purchase a pricier bottle for your baby, you can often save by buying fewer bottles. You don’t necessarily need to have A LOT of bottles. It’s not safe to save unfinished bottles anyway, so you can save money, space, and simplify by just washing the bottle after each use. Having two or three bottles might be plenty for a lot of people. You may need to replace nipples that get worn or bitten, but you might not have to purchase any more bottles.
Choosing a bottle might seem complicated, but if you’re worried about getting just the right one, you might feel better knowing that there is no perfect bottle for everyone. You don’t have to buy the most expensive bottle or keep up with the latest technology. Your baby might not even like those if you do! It’s best to understand what your baby’s specific needs are and narrow it down from there. You might not get it right on the very first try, but you’ll get there.
Watch this interview with Breastfeeding Success IBCLC, Laura J. to hear more about bottles and how to choose a bottle for your baby.