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Baby bottles

Baby bottle buying guide

Last updated: April 2014
Getting started

Getting started

Bottles come in scores of styles and colors, but if your goal is to find a one that doesn't leak or cause excessive spitting up, burping, or gas, that may take some experimenting. You might love the look and feel of the first bottle you buy, but there's no guarantee your baby will. Be prepared to try a few different styles of bottles and nipples to find the best fit. Bottles should also be easy for your baby to hold (and for you to clean) and be made without bisphenol A.

You'll use a bottle the most in your baby's first year. After that, you may decide to transition to a sippy cup. In fact, that's an ideal time to wean your baby from a bottle or at least start attempting to do so. At that point, cow's milk will probably be a diet staple, possibly in combination with breast milk.

Consumer Reports has not tested bottles or nipples. Brands and models are mentioned as examples only.

BPAis banned from bottles

In July 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy cups nationwide. The FDA ban came about nine months after the chemical industry petitioned the FDA to ban such uses on grounds of "abandonment," meaning that no one was using it for that purpose any more.

BPA was used in baby bottles made of polycarbonate, a hard, translucent plastic that can be clear or colored. To be sure you are not using bottles that contain BPA, don't use bottles that are marked with the number 7, a group that includes polycarbonate.

Consumer Reports, which has been studying this issue for years, thinks that BPA should not be used in anything that comes in contact with food. When polycarbonate is heated, put in a dishwasher, or exposed to acids such as those found in juice, it tends to break down and leach BPA into food and drinks, according to Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Polycarbonate containers can get worse with age; older polycarbonate items tend to leach more than newer ones, vom Saal said. Based on the latest research, the National Institutes of Health concluded there were concerns about the effect of BPA on the brain, behavior, and reproductive system of fetuses, infants, and children at current exposures.

Recommendations

There are pluses and minuses with every nipple and baby bottle. Be prepared to try out bottles and nipples to find a combo your baby likes and that is easy for you to use. To save money while you're experimenting, start with a lower-priced bottle made without BPA, such as Evenflo, and see if your baby likes it. If so, you've got a winner. Some babies accept any bottle. Other babies prefer one type of nipple over another. If feeding doesn't go smoothly, just try another type of bottle or nipple made without BPA.

Types

Here are the major types of baby bottles to consider. Many allow you to use nipples with varying flow rates, so you can change the nipple as your baby grows--but not the bottle. In some cases you can also use nipples from one brand on a bottle from a different manufacturer.

Standard bottles


There are two basic sizes of this classic shape with straight or slightly curved sides: 4 or 5 ounces for infants and 8 or 9 ounces for older babies, in glass or plastic, including non-polycarbonate plastic. Some brands are available in 7-ounce or 11-ounce sizes as well. Bottles can start at about $1.50 each, and often come with a cover to protect the nipple.

Pros:

These bottles are easy to fill and hold, can be used repeatedly, and allow you to accurately gauge formula amounts. They can also be simple to clean. Most breast pumps and baby-bottle warmers are designed to be used with standard bottles, although you can easily transfer pumped breast milk from a standard bottle to a disposable.

Cons:

Some bottles have a valve on the bottom and vents in the nipple that manufacturers claim minimize air intake during feeding. But in our previous research, we have found no independent evidence that such designs actually minimize gas in a baby's tummy.

Angle-neck bottles


These bottles are bent at the neck, making them easier for you to hold in a comfortable position.

Pros:

Their shape causes formula or breast milk to collect at the bottle's nipple end, so your baby is less likely to swallow air, according to manufacturers. The shape may work well for feeding your baby while she lies semi-upright, a position that may help prevent fluid from collecting in her ear canals, which can lead to ear infections. One type has a vent at the removable bottom of the bottle that is designed to keep air out of the liquid so your baby will drink virtually bubble-free.

Cons:

Angle-neck bottles can be awkward to fill. You must hold them sideways or use a special funnel to pour in liquid.

Wide bottles


Some baby bottles have a wide neck, and they're slightly shorter and broader than standard bottles. Some brands offer them in plastic or in both plastic and glass. At least one type we found can be used with a variety of nipples.

Pros:

Manufacturers claim that wide-neck bottles and wide nipples feel more breastlike to babies and are a good choice for "combo moms," those who switch back and forth from breast-feeding to bottle-feeding. Wide bottles are available in 4-, 5-, 8-, and 9-ounce sizes and come in glass and in plastic made without BPA, in angled or straight sides, and with or without bottom venting. Wide nipples are available in slow, medium, fast flow, and Y-cut (a nipple with a cross-cut opening.)

Cons:

You might pay more for a wide plastic bottle compared with a standard plastic bottle, both made without BPA. And even with a wider feel, there's no guarantee that your baby will take to this style of bottle and nipple. But it's worth a try, especially for "combo moms."

Bottles with disposable liners


With these bottles, a disposable plastic pouch, or liner, fits inside a rigid outer holder, called a nurser. The top edge of the liner fits over the nurser's rim. You pour in formula or breast milk and hold the liner in place by fastening the lid (a nipple and bottle ring). The liner collapses as your baby drinks, reducing the tendency for air bubbles to form. Some brands that make nurser systems claim their liners are BPA-free. Liners are available in different sizes, such as 4-ounce and 8-ounce.

Pros:

Collapsible liners are designed to prevent air from collecting as your baby sucks. Cleanup is easy: You just remove the liner, wash the nipple, and you're done.

Cons:

You'll need to buy liners continually, which adds to the cost.

Natural-flow bottles


Natural-flow bottles have a two-piece straw-like vent system in the center of the bottle, designed to eliminate the vacuum that can form when a baby sucks, so there are no air bubbles, reducing the possibility of colic and gas. There are plastic and glass baby bottles with this feature.

Pros:

The design may just work.

Cons:

Compared with other bubble-reducing bottles, such as angle-neck models, these have an extra piece or two to wash, and the straws can be hard to clean. You'll need a tiny brush, which comes with the bottles. Replacement brushes are available where baby bottles are sold. Some are available in BPA-free plastic and glass.

Premium bottles


These eye-catching bottles are often characterized by their unique design.

Pros:

The nipple and bottle come as a unit, so there are fewer pieces to clean and keep track of.

Cons:

The different-sized bottles and nipples can come in various flow rates such as newborn, slow, medium, and fast flow. You change bottles to change the flow, so at a higher price per bottle, stocking up will cost you a bundle, although you might be able to find them for less if you shop around.

Glass bottles


Manufacturers are offering lots of choices in glass bottles. Some people prefer glass, especially if they are concerned about BPA or because they think glass is easier on the environment than plastic when recycled. Some manufacturers offers bottles in glass or plastic. Some manufacturers offer a sleeve, which helps contain the glass if it shatters.

Stainless steel bottles


Some manufacturers make stainless-steel baby bottles, but they can be pricey. One model costs about $20.

Brands

5 Phases arrow  |  Adiri arrow  |  BornFree arrow  |  Dr. Brown's arrow  |  Evenflo arrow  |  Gerber arrow  |  Klean Kanteen arrow  |  Medela arrow  |  Nuby arrow  |  Playtex arrow  |  Sassy arrow

5 Phases

The 5 Phases theory is an Eastern philosophy based on observing the natural cycles of seasons and life. Founded by people who thought there was a need to give parents options besides plastic bottles for feeding their babies, the company makes glass inserts for plastic bottles. See website for availability in your area.
www.5phases.com

Adiri

ReliaBrand, a Canada-based company, is a manufacturer and designer focused on the delivery of BPA-free plastic products for infants to toddlers. Its flagship brand, Adiri, has developed patented technology that has won many awards for design excellence. Available online.
www.adiri.com

BornFree

Developed by three concerned dads in 1996, Born Free was a pioneer in making baby products without the harmful chemicals BPA and PVC. In 2011, Born Free was acquired by Summer Infant. Check the company’s website for a retailer near you.
www.newbornfree.com

Dr. Brown's

Designed by a doctor in 1996 and patented in 1997, Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow is the only baby bottle to feature an internal vent system. Distributed by Handi-Craft in St. Louis, the products are available at Walmart, Target , Babies "R" Us, and other juvenile product retailers.
www.drbrownsbaby.com

Evenflo

For more than 85 years, Evenflo has been meeting the needs of children from birth to preschool age, with car seats, strollers, high chairs, play yards, and baby-care products.  It also offers plastic and glass bottles.  Available at most retailers and online.
www.evenflo.com

Gerber

Daniel and Dorothy Gerber started straining solid foods in their kitchen for their 7-month-old daughter Sally in 1927. Eventually, Daniel and Dorothy decided to strain fruits and vegetables at their canning business, based in Fremont, Mich. Workers in the plant requested samples for their babies, and the legacy of Gerber baby foods began. Now owned by Nestlé, Gerber products are available wherever juvenile products and infant formula are sold.
www.gerber.com

Klean Kanteen

Ever since the very first Klean Kanteen was released in 2004, the Chico, Calif., company has chosen to make its bottles from high-quality, 18/8, food-grade stainless steel—a metal superior in strength and safety that contains no harmful chemicals or toxins, including BPA.
www.kleankanteen.com

Medela

Founded in 1961 in Zug, Switzerland, by Olle Larsson, the company continues to grow under the ownership of the Larsson family. Medela serves its customers through 15 subsidiaries distributing to more than 90 countries. Medela’s U.S. subsidiary, Medela Inc., has been serving the American market for nearly 30 years. Products include breast pumps and accessories, breast-feeding devices, intimate apparel, cleaning, and mom-care products. Its comprehensive website includes information for the expecting and nursing mother, a discussion board, and an “Ask the LC” section.
www.medelabreastfeedingus.com

Nuby

Since the 1970's, Luv n' Care has been dedicated to providing high-quality, innovative products that make the lives of babies and parents easier. The Nuby brand covers feeding, weaning, soothing, play, bath, and nursery, with patented innovation in all of its categories. Nuby is distributed in more than 155 countries. Sold at Babies "R" Us, Target, and other major retailers, and online.
www.nuby.com

Playtex

With more than 75 years in business, Playtex is a manufacturer and distributor of a diverse portfolio of consumer and personal products, including bottles and nipples, pacifiers, meal-time products, and the Diaper Genie. Available wherever juvenile products and diapers are sold.
www.playtexbaby.com

Sassy

Based in Michigan, Sassy operates independently as part of a family of companies known as Kids Brands Inc. Since 1982, the company has been manufacturing toys and other juvenile products focused on stimulating four specific developmental areas during baby’s first year of life. Available wherever baby products are sold, online, and on the company’s website.
www.sassybaby.com

Shopping tips

If you're having a baby shower, register for a few starter bottle kits from different brands. They come with several of various sizes and nipples. If your baby keeps spitting out or battling with a bottle, or is especially fussy after eating, offer a slower or faster nipple. If that doesn't work, try a premium bottle, such as Born Free or Adiri.

If your baby shows signs of intolerance, such as gas, a rash, persistent vomiting, diarrhea, talk with your pediatrician. You'll probably need to switch formulas, not bottles or nipples, if your baby is formula-fed. If you're predominantly or exclusively bottle-feeding, six 4-to-5-ounce bottles will be a good start. If you're supplementing breast milk with an occasional bottle, you may need only one or two bottles. Once you settle on a nipple, buy about half a dozen.

Some of the best prices you'll find for major-brand baby bottles may be at such retailers as Walmart and Target, but online shopping can also yield bargains, so it's worth shopping around. Major baby stores offer sales, coupons, and newspaper inserts, so watch for them. They may give a 10 to 15 percent discount on different brands of bottles and feeding accessories.

Most nipples are made of latex or silicone; stick with silicone. Buy silicone nipples only if they're clear or brightly colored, not brownish. Silicone is less problematic than latex, because some babies develop a sensitivity or allergy to latex. Clear, odorless, taste-free, and heat resistant, silicone is also less porous than latex, so a silicone nipple may be better at resisting bacteria, which can settle into any textured material. Neither silicone nor latex is made with BPA.

Safety tips

DO:

  • Wash your hands before preparing your baby's bottle or before breast-feeding.
  • If you are breast-feeding and want to begin using a bottle, have someone else introduce your baby to the bottle. Your baby may associate you with breast-feeding and resist if you try to give her the bottle yourself. Jatinder Bhatia, a neonatologist and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, recommends starting that process about four weeks before you want the baby to rely on a bottle. So, for example, if you know you are going back to work and putting your baby into a day care, start introducing a bottle about a month before.
  • Get tough with glass. Thoroughly clean glass bottles by washing them in the top rack of a dishwasher, or wash them in hot tap water with dishwashing detergent and rinse them in hot tap water. You can also use a sterilizer or boil glass bottles in water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Thoroughly clean plastic and polycarbonate bottles by hand with hot soapy water, not in a dishwasher. Bottles may be labeled "dishwasher safe," but polycarbonate ones can leach BPA after being exposed to high heat.
  • Also avoid putting any plastic product into a dishwasher, a bottle sterilizer, or microwave.
  • Wean your baby from a bottle by 12 months, if possible. By that time, he will be ready to drink from a sippy cup (just make sure it's not made with polycarbonate). Prolonged bottle use (after 14 months) can cause your baby to consume too much milk and not enough food, cause cavities, and delay the development of feeding skills.
  • If you use formula, protect your baby's teeth by wiping them with a washcloth or gauze pad after every feeding so that a layer of dental plaque doesn't form.
  • Learn more about nipple safety here.

DON'T:

  • Heat formula or breast milk in a microwave.
  • Give your baby a bottle of milk or formula to suck on during the night or at naptime. The habit can cause baby-bottle tooth decay, which is painful and difficult to treat and can cause problems for permanent teeth. Give your baby a bottle only at feeding times and don't allow her to associate bottles with being in bed.
  • Prop your baby with a bottle (and let go). This feed-yourself practice can lead to choking, ear infections, and tooth decay as well as less cuddling and human contact, which all babies crave.
  • Give your baby a bottle to carry around and "nurse," especially a glass bottle, even with a silicone sleeve. It's dangerous (babies have been known to throw their bottles) and can lead to tooth decay, drinking too much, and sharing bottles with little friends, increasing the risk of colds and other infections. And the contents of the bottle can spoil, which can cause a foodborne illness, such as a stomach bug, which is no fun for your baby or for you.
   

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