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Buyer's Guide to Feeding Bottles

Feeding bottles have more features than you would expect and it can be tricky to find one that perfectly suits your baby


Posted: 7 September 2010
by Laura Lee Davies

Feeding bottles - find the right style for you baby

Even if you are breastfeeding exclusively, there may be times when you want to go out and leave dad or grandma with a stock of expressed milk. You may be returning to work and, despite months of feeding your child yourself, need to find a bottle that suits your baby.

Not every bottle is the same. In fact, if you read the packaging, you'd think each brand has completely reinvented the product! However, the range on offer can be useful as, whilst most babies will happily switch to a bottle from the breast, they don't all do this so easily, so having different options is great.

Even if you aren't going to move to formula milk, getting your baby used to a bottle can be useful.(One time, when our son was four months old, I had horrendous bronchitis and being able to sleep through the night, because I was away in the spare bedroom while Andy got up for the baby feeds with my expressed milk, was a godsend.)

If you are breastfeeding but would like your child to get used to a bottle, don't give them one at all for the first few weeks, while they get used to the whole feeding experience in itself. Wait until at least six weeks, but perhaps not too much after 10 weeks, to offer a bottle a few times when there is no pressure for them to take it. (That is, don't wait until you are heading out of the door on a night out before finding out that your baby simply won't feed while you're away!) And don't expect him to take it straight away (though some will) but try a few times. You will probably find it easier if someone else other than mummy tries this at first and that mummy shouldn't be anywhere too near as babies can smell their milk. In fact, it has been known for some mums to have to leave the house before their babies will give a bottle a go!

'Anti-colic' features

You will see many baby bottles heralding the promise of being 'colic reducing'. In reality this means the bottle/teat has some form of vent system which helps to work with the baby's sucking rhythm rather than letting the milk gush out. A good vent system will help the baby drink at his own pace and therefore hopefully reduce gassiness and wind. If your baby does suffer from colic, it is worth trying a few different bottles to see if this helps the problem, but 'colic' itself can be a far bigger problem which you should talk to your health visitor or doctor about.

The vent systems vary but most bottles are designed to have some form of controlled flow. Dr Brown's Natural Flow bottle has a very fancy-looking system which helps prevent air bubbles as your baby sucks and stops, sucks and stops. Playtex sell a bottle where the milk is fed straight from a disposable liner (Avent have a similar system if you want to feed straight from your stored expressed milk) so that the bag simply shrinks as the milk is drunk, thus causing less air to flow around the 'bottle'. However, even the most common regular bottles, like Boots and Avent have anti-colic features which suit many babies. A new arrival in vented bottles is the Munchkin Tri-Flow (see below).

Teats

There are two main concerns with teats, both of which are centred round the issue of 'nipple confusion' - will a baby who is usually breastfed end up prefering this to the real thing or will they refuse to take from the bottle because it's simply too different from mummy?

Firstly, there is the texture of the teat. Most teats are silicone and this will suit most babies as they get used to the texture just as easily as they get used to bottle feeding as a different experience to being breastfed. However, some babies do find these hard work - especially premature babies and young babies who are not being breastfed for the first few months - and latex teats are available which are softer and for many, a closer experience to the nipple. Beware that latex ones may not last as long as the tougher silicone ones.

Secondly, there is the issue of shape. NUK do a specially shaped teat which they believe is better suited to avoid 'nipple confusion' and the Mam Ultivent has a soft orthodentic teat to encourage suckling.

Easy to hold

The Chicco Anticolic bottle has a slightly tilted top to enable your baby to drink at a more comfortable angle. Again with the aim of reducing colic because the baby is feeding more easily. Most bottles have curvy sides and most will be quite lightweight too, which helps when you are feeding a slow drinker! As your baby grows, he may prefer to hold the bottle himself, but NEVER let him do this unattended or let someone else prop the bottle under the baby as he could choke very easily.

Flow

Most bottles come with a 'slow flow' teat, which will be the first teat your try with a younger baby. As the baby grows, he will be more hungry and be able to drink faster. It is then important to buy faster flow teats (these will come with numbered guides or symbols showing you how fast they flow). If the flow is too much for your baby, they will choke and end up with milk pouring down onto their clothes - hardly an experience they are going to warm to in the switch to bottles. If they need a faster flow, they will take far longer to feed from a slow-flow teat and possibly lose interest before they have had enough of a feed. You can always pour a little onto the back of your hand to check that the bottle is flowing appropriately.

Breast experience


Adiri make a bottle which looks more like a chic way of serving vinagrette than a feeding bottle! It's not cheap but it attempts to recreate the breast experience as closely as possible, by being breast-shaped, having an adjustable nipple where you can vary the flow and offering a breast-sized milk portion.

In most bottles, it is the comfort with which the baby can suck and breath via the vari-flow systems, which will make a big difference to their enjoyment of switching to a bottle. However, see above regarding teats, as latex teats can be useful if you are trying to persuade a diehard breastfeeder onto the bottle!

Other features

Tommee Tippee Health Check is a bottle where, like the Dr Brown's model, a long stem inside the bottle allows milk to flow up to the teat without air bubbles forming. This also acts as a thermometer to tell you if the milk is too hot.

Munchkin have just launched their 'Tri-Flow' system in the UK. This allows you to twist the ring at the top of the bottle to change the flow of milk, rather than having to buy new teats as the flow needs change.

Easy to clean?

You will be thoroughly cleaning bottles and sterilising them after every feed, so you need to be confident that you can clean them easily. Some of the ones with special features might be more fiddly to construct or clean, so bear that in mind.


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medela, dr brown's, tommee tippee, feeding bottle, latex, baby, silicone, teat, breast, feed, closer to nature, suck, milk, bottle feeding
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