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How To Choose Bottles for Your Baby


Mother feeding baby with bottle
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Does it matter which bottle you buy for your baby? Often, it doesn't, but for some feeding situations, choosing the right baby bottle can make all the difference.

Don't Buy Too Many Bottles for Newborns

I have a theory about baby bottles, based on my own experiences with my daughter. Buying dozens of one baby bottle style before your baby arrives is the best way to ensure that your baby will hate that brand or style of bottle. Babies have very definite preferences right from the start, particularly about what goes in their mouth. Some babies need a bottle that does a good job of keeping air bubbles away from the nipple. You won't know that until baby is here and ready to eat. If you think you'd like to use a certain brand or type of bottle, buy one or two at first and see how your baby responds. You can always buy more bottles later on, or try out new brands if baby isn't happy with your initial choices.


    Bottle Nipple Shape May Be Important

    If you intend to formula-feed only, the shape of the bottle nipple isn't all that important as long as your baby happily eats from it. If you will be breastfeeding your baby but occasionally using a bottle, you may want to consider buying bottles with wide-base nipples that more closely resemble a mother's breast. Some babies have a hard time switching from the wide latch of breastfeeding to a narrow bottle nipple.


      Nipple Flow Rate Matters, Too

      The speed at which formula or breastmilk can come through the bottle nipple varies a lot by brand, and some brands even sell nipples designed for fast or slow flow. Most newborns will need a slower flow nipple at first, so that they don't have to gulp their dinner. Too-fast flow can cause tummy troubles for tiny babies. However, some infants may not like the slowest newborn flow nipples, so you may need to experiment a bit to find a nipple that lets your baby eat at his or her preferred pace. You should plan to buy faster flow nipples as your baby grows, too.


        Bottle Materials - Glass or Plastic

        Classic glass baby bottles are regaining popularity thanks to recent news about chemicals found in some plastics. Glass bottles are easy to care for and last a long time, but do pose the risk of cuts to mom or baby if one breaks. Several companies make cute bottle wraps out of silicone or cushy foam to help protect glass bottles from breaks. Plastic bottles may not last as long, but tend to be a bit cheaper. Experts disagree on whether plastics leach harmful chemicals into baby's dinner, but if you're concerned, there are plenty of BPA-free choices available today. Most bottles will say right on the label that they're BPA-free. If you choose to use a polycarbonate bottle that isn't BPA-free, consider hand-washing so you don't expose the bottle to the high heat of the dishwasher, and be sure to throw bottles away if they become cloudy or look scratched.


          Bottle Shapes and Vent Systems

          Some babies swallow more air than others as they eat, and some babies are more plagued by tummy discomforts than others. For babies that tend to be fussy after meals, bottles with an air vent system, or bottles with an angled shape, may help prevent so much air from entering baby's tummy, which may in turn reduce post-meal fussiness. If you buy a bottle with an odd shape, check to see if it is dishwasher safe, or if you can buy a special bottle brush to fit inside. The bottle won't be helpful for long if you can't get it clean. If you're planning to use a bottle warmer, you should also check to see if your special bottles fit in it.


            Drop-In Bottle Liners

            If you'd like to avoid much of the washing that goes along with bottle feeding, take a look at drop-in bottle liners. These flexible plastic bags fit inside some bottle systems and can be tossed in the trash after meals, so you only have to wash the bottle nipple and rinse the other parts. The downside is that you're adding more trash to your local landfill. Some babies swallow less air with this type of bottle system, though, so it may be worth it if your baby is extra-fussy after eating. This type of bottle also lets you avoid the concern of plastics chemicals leaching into baby's meal.


              Nipple Materials - Preference and Safety

              The dark-colored latex bottle nipples you may remember from your own childhood are still available, but are much less popular now that silicone bottle nipples are here. Clear silicone nipples don't pick up smells or tastes, even after many uses, and they don't carry the potential for allergies that latex can. Silicone nipples are also more difficult for baby to chew holes in, so there is less risk of choking on a piece that is chewed off. Industrious teethers can still chew through silicone, even though it's more difficult, so watch for any extra holes that may appear when baby sprouts new teeth.


                Size Matters for Baby Bottles

                Your newborn can easily get away with 4-ounce size bottles, as smaller babies don't eat that much in one sitting. If you'd like to get more use out of the bottles, you may want to consider buying 8- or 9-ounce bottles right from the start, though, because your baby will quickly require more food per meal. Just don't expect to fill that bottle all the way up right from the start. Look for bottles that have colorful, easy-to-read measurements on them. The colorless markings stamped onto many transparent plastic bottles are notoriously hard to read once the bottle is full of milk.


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