Unless you're available to breastfeed 24/7, you're probably going to need bottles. Whether they're full of breast milk or formula is up to you—and what kind you end up using is pretty much up to your baby.

There are a myriad of combinations of bottles and nipples, including different shapes and materials for both. Will your baby like a bent-neck plastic bottle with a realistic silicone nipple? Or will he prefer a straight-neck disposable bottle with a traditional latex nipple?

All babies are different, and they’ll actually have clear preferences, easily taking to some bottles and not to others. It will soon become clear that your baby is the ultimate decision maker, so don’t over-invest in any one approach until you’ve figured out what works.


YOUR BASIC CHOICES

There are plenty of options, and we’ll cover those in a minute. But the first decision to be made is what style of bottle you want.

Reusable Plastic Bottles
Reusable plastic bottles get filled, used, cleaned, and used again. The most popular choice among parents, these bottles don’t break, are typically less expensive, and are easy to find.

Disposable Bottles
This option consists of a non-disposable holder and disposable bags. Though less ecologically sound, this is a more convenient choice for quick cleanup. And, if you have a breast pump that uses a disposable-bottle system, you can transfer your milk from pump to bottle without losing a drop.

Reusable Glass Bottles
There’s a growing population that believes glass is healthier for delivering milk. Of course, the drawback with glass— even tempered for use by babies—is that it’s both easier to break and heavier. Where you stand in this debate is 100 percent personal. Ask your pediatrician if you want an expert opinion.


General Guidance

Start with the choices that fit your personal lifestyle and philosophy, but be flexible and try out different bottle/nipple combinations. There’s no point in pushing what doesn’t work. In the end, your favorite will be the one your child takes to the most.

Another important thing to keep in mind: nothing will drive you crazier than a bottle that leaks, so make sure the brand you choose seals well before you stock up.


FEATURES TO LOOK FOR

  • Neck styles. Reusable bottles have two different neck styles to choose from: straight or bent. Some parents feel straight necks are easier for switching between breast- and bottle-feeding; others argue that bent-neck bottles minimize air intake during nursing. Consult with your pediatrician, and listen to your baby, too.
  • Nipple materials. Silicone nipples (the clear ones) are firmer and hold their shape longer, while latex (the ambercolored ones) are softer but may not hold up as well over time. Babies often prefer one over the other, making your choice simple.
  • Nipple shapes. There are three nipple shapes to consider: traditional, orthodontic, or realistic. Traditional nipples have the regular protruding shape that you normally see. Orthodontic nipples are flat on the side that rests against the tongue. Realistic nipples—some of which are also considered orthodontic—are flatter and designed to mimic a mother’s nipple, making it easier to switch between breast- and bottle-feeding.
  • Nipple size. One size does not fit all. Start small for newborns and go bigger for toddlers. Experiment till you find the right fit.
  • Nipple flow rate. Nipples come with different flow rates, based on your baby’s age. Check the packaging to be sure you’ve got the right one.

STAGE CONSIDERATIONS

The ideal nipple for your baby is typically defined by her age (although some doctors advise breast-feeding moms to stick with a first-stage nipple). Part of the equation is the size of the nipple, but flow rate is also an important factor. You can either buy different nipples for different stages, or find nipples that adjust accordingly.


Usage Tips

  • Milk should drip, not pour. If the milk comes out in a steady stream, it’s time to replace the nipple.
  • Never microwave milk or formula. After heating the milk, do the old inner wrist trick to make sure it’s the right temperature—typically room temperature, never hot.
  • Newborns need their bottles sterilized, but at some point you can just start washing bottles in the dishwasher. Some people only sterilize for a month, while others sterilize for two years. Consult your pediatrician for an expert opinion on when you can make the switch.

ACCESSORIES

  • Bottle-cleaning brush. This is an essential item for keeping your bottles clean and ready for use.
  • Insulated bottle carriers. Keep your bottles at the optimal temperature anytime you’re out and about with a portable bottle carrier. These can carry anywhere from a single to a four-pack of bottles.
  • Bottle-storage rack. A good bottle storage rack or bottle tree will help you dry and store bottles easily between feedings.
  • Bottle warmers. A nifty kitchen accessory that helps ensure you’re serving your milk at the perfect temperature for your baby.
  • Bottle sterilizers. Since newborn baby bottles should always be sterilized, a bottle sterilizer is a handy tool, and an easy alternative to boiling water on the stove.