Don't blame new-mommy nerves; even the most seasoned parent can get a little flustered in the baby bottle aisle. If you've decided to bottle-feed your baby, you'll want to choose something that works with any issues or preferences your baby has. Whether you're supplementing or your baby will be exclusively bottle-fed, your safety requirements and your little one's choice will determine the right baby bottle for him. It might take some trial and error, but you can avoid any bottle drama with these tips.
Since you'll find plenty of contenders in the baby bottle arena, you should know that you can mix and match with most bottles. If your baby prefers one type of nipple with a different kind of bottle, it's totally fine as long as each can be used properly with the other. When you're choosing nipples, keep in mind that your baby's mouth and reflexes are naturally designed to eat from the breast. That means that the closer the shape and texture a nipple is to the breast, the easier it'll be for your baby to adapt and eat.
- Latex: Latex nipples are traditionally the softest type of nipple and they're easier to compress, which means smaller mouths—pay attention, preemie moms—have an easier time using them. Unfortunately, latex nipples don't last as long as other nipples, so you might find yourself replacing them more often when they become cracked and worn.
- Silicone : Silicone nipples are made of a harder material. While they're still flexible, they're probably best for older babies. Luckily, they last longer than latex nipples so you'll replace them less often.
- Flat: If you're supplementing your breastfeeding efforts with a bottle, nipple confusion can throw your baby off and result in a breastfeeding strike. Keep your baby happy by choosing flat-topped nipples that mimic the shape and the feel of your breast to keep your little one nursing like a champ.
- Orthodontic. Have you ever seen nipples that have a large, flat bulb on the end? These are orthodontic nipples and they work well for babies that have palate issues. They aren't commonly necessary in healthy, normal babies.
- Flow. Once you've chosen your nipple shape and material, pay attention to the flow level of any nipple. Younger infants definitely need a slower flow to match their lazy eating habits, while babies over six months are more eager to eat and can switch to fast-flow nipples. Of course, some babies are content to nosh leisurely until they've weaned completely—you don't need to switch until your baby starts showing impatience or frustration during feeding.
So, you've scouted out the best nipples for the age of your baby and any issues he might have, but now it's time to find an actual bottle that you like. You can choose from plastic, glass or bag-based baby bottles, but your baby will be your tiny dictator in choosing which one works.
- Plastic. Plastic baby bottles might net you a few glares from the competitive mom on the street, only because they've endured negative attention due to toxins found in some types of plastic. But plastic baby bottles are completely safe as long as they're made from polyethylene, not polycarbonate, which has been known to leach bisphenol-A into milk at high temps. But if you're on the go and worried about breaking glass, plastic bottles can be a super convenient and portable choice.
- Glass. Some parents are so concerned about the bad news about baby bottles that they've switched to glass completely. Glass holds up really well, especially if you're heating and cooling the bottles often, which can deteriorate plastic. While they're more delicate than plastic bottles, your diaper bag is probably so overstuffed with diapers, blankets and toys that it's unlikely a glass bottle will break when you're toting it around.
- Bags. If your baby is of the gassy variety, you know feeding time can be stressful. Priska Diaz, CEO of Bittylab, a baby products company, points out that "maintaining an air-free environment while baby feeds helps the baby not swallow air while feeding." Bags collapse as they empty, which helps limit the amount of air your baby swallows while eating. She points out that it's only effective if you check the bag, squeezing air out as necessary. This should help limit fussiness due to gas after feeding for a happier baby—and who doesn't want that?
In the end, choosing a bottle is a lot like getting pregnant in the first place: sometimes, it just doesn't happen on the first try. By testing out different combinations of bottles and nipples, you'll have a better chance at settling the battle of the bottles. Then, when your baby's about eight months, you can introduce him to a sippy and the search will be on for the best cup instead.