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Choosing the Best Bottles and Nipples for your Baby
Read time: 5 minutes
What to know about choosing a baby bottle
What to look for in baby bottles: shapes, sizes, and materials
How to know what’s best for your baby when it comes to bottles and nipples
Whether you’re feeding your little one formula or expressed breast milk, navigating the wide selection of bottles and nipples can feel like a daunting task. As every baby is different, bottles and nipples are certainly not one-size-fits-all.1 It may take some experimenting to find what bottle works best for you and your baby.
What materials do baby bottles come in?
Bottles are made of a variety of materials: plastic, silicone, glass, and even stainless steel.
Plastic bottles are lightweight and inexpensive. Some bottles require a disposable plastic bag liner, which can be helpful for cleaning but requires purchasing bags on a regular basis.
Silicone bottles are softer and more flexible than plastic but may be a more expensive option.
Glass Bottles are sometimes chosen instead of plastic. Glass is long-lasting, is easy to clean, and does not contain the chemicals that plastic bottles may – should that be a concern.2,13 The downside is that they are heavier and prone to breakage. Silicone sleeves for glass bottles can be purchased which may help with grip and minimizing the possibility of breakage.
Stainless steel bottles have many of the advantages of glass without being as breakable. Yet it can be difficult to see how much milk is left in the bottle, and these are also a pricier option.
What types of baby bottles are available?
Angle-neck bottles are bent at the neck so that less air is likely to get into the nipple. Some parents think these are easier to hold as well. However, the design makes them a little harder to clean.
Disposable-liner bottles come with a plastic pouch that fits inside the bottle. As your baby drinks from the bottle, the plastic collapses without letting air in. This is claimed by the manufacturers to help prevent the formation of air bubbles in the bottle, which can increase gas in your little one’s tummy if swallowed. They are convenient (less cleaning!), but not as eco-friendly and the liners can get expensive if you’re exclusively bottle-feeding.
Vented bottles have a straw-like vent that goes through the center. The design claims to eliminate air bubbles that may increase gas in your baby. Despite a lack of evidence that these reduce gas and colic, many parents swear by them. Keep in mind that these extra parts do mean extra cleaning.
Wide-mouth bottles are shorter and wider than typical bottles. They also use wider nipples that claim to mimic a mother’s breast and nipple. If you are nursing and bottle-feeding, your baby may prefer the feel of this bottle best – but not always! These bottles tend to be easier to clean.
Read about: How to Supplement my Breastfed Baby with Formula
If you are wondering which bottle may work best for you and your little one, our team of registered dietitians, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, are available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET) and Saturday – Sunday 8 am – 2 pm (ET) to help figure out what may be going on. Chat now!
Bottles typically come in 4-ounce and 8-ounce sizes. Start small when your baby is a newborn and use larger bottles once your baby starts to consume more milk at each feeding.
Read more: Should I Feed On Demand or on a Schedule?
What type of nipple should I choose for the bottle?
Most nipples are made of clear silicone. However, some nipples are made with latex, which could cause an allergic reaction in sensitive infants.4 Chat with your doctor before using a latex nipple or pacifier to discuss their recommendations.
Note that the flexibility of the nipples can range very much between brands!
Almost every bottle nipple claims to imitate a mother’s nipple and are available in different shapes. Standard nipples are long with a narrow base and are typically easy for baby to use. Other nipples have a wider base with varying nipple lengths.
Some experts recommend that breastfeeding babies most easily latch deeply on a nipple that have a wider base with a gentle slope down, versus an abrupt widening to the base.Nipple length can be a factor as well. If the nipple is too long for your baby, they may gag. If it’s too short, they may have trouble keeping it in their mouth.
Bottom line: Every baby is different! It may take some trial and error to discover which nipple shape and length may work best for your little one.
Nipple Flow Rates
Bottle nipples come with different-sized openings for milk to flow through. They are often labelled with levels (0 or 1 being the slowest) or “slow flow”. In reality though, the flow can be very different among brands, levels, and even within the brand or package.7,8
If baby is having trouble with the flow, make sure that baby is upright and the bottle horizontal (but tilted enough to keep air out of the nipple). Watch for signs of frustration or taking a longer than usual time to feed, which may mean baby is ready for the next size.
The rule of thumb is that younger babies typically take 2-3 oz in 10-20 minutes and older babies take 3-5 oz in 10-15 minutes.
Read more about correct positioning while bottle feeding: What Is Paced Bottle Feeding?
Tips to help choose the right bottle for you and your baby
Try a variety of bottles and nipples
Babies can be quite picky about the bottle and nipple they prefer, so avoid buying one type of bottle in bulk. Instead, purchase a few different kinds of bottles and nipples that fit together.9,
Test a bottle a few times before moving on
Start with one type of bottle and allow your baby to try it several times – don’t give up if your little one rejects it the first time. Give your baby enough chances to try one type of bottle or nipple before switching to a new one since constantly changing could lead to even more frustration.
It may take some experimenting before deciding which bottle and nipple works best for your baby.9,
A note on the use of plastic
Some parents are concerned about the safety of using plastic bottles for their little ones.
The US Food and Drug Administration banned BPA (Bisphenol A, a substance that makes plastic harder) in baby bottles due to safety concerns.10,11, Unfortunately it seems there are other chemicals in plastics and silicone that may be concerning, such as phthalates.12
There is some evidence that chemicals from plastic or silicone may leach into the milk or other liquids when warmed.13 Additionally, recent studies also indicate that microplastics may be shedding into milk from bottles and nipples at a higher rate than originally thought.14,15 However more research is needed to figure out what this may mean in terms of our little one’s health.
What can you do to help minimize your risk?
Avoid microwaving or heating plastic or silicone bottles
Avoid storing prepared formula or milk in plastic bottles for extended periods of time
Choose BPA-free bottles and bottle liners
There are risks in everything we do and choose. As parents, we do all we can to minimize these risks to what we feel is best for our individual family. The most important thing is that your little one is getting the nutrition they need. Finding the right bottle and nipple for your little one is essential in helping make sure they are well-fed and developing appropriately – no matter the material, shape, or size.
Chat with your baby’s pediatrician to help make the best choice for your family.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.
Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!
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