Equipment you will Need for Bottle Feeding your Baby
If you have decided to begin bottle-feeding your baby, you will need to invest some time and energy into researching the right options for you and your baby. And yes, it will require a certain level of monetary investment to set yourself up with all the equipment you will need. Even if you are only supplementing your breast feeding with one or two bottle feeds a day, you will still need to ensure all bottles and feeding equipment are sterile before use.
Here, My BabyManual has compiled a list of the bottle feeding equipment you will need – from the essential basics up to the items that can make life a little easier.
When you have the equipment sorted, you will also need to think about what formula to feed your baby. Click through to our article on choosing baby formula.
The basics for bottle-feeding
To begin bottle feeding your baby you will need:
- Between four and six bottles (to start)
- Between four and six teats (to start)
- Suitable formula milk
- Sterilising equipment
- A couple of bottle and teat brushes
Choosing the right bottle for your baby
There are many different types of bottle available. The majority will hold around 225ml (8 fl oz) of prepared formula. Smaller bottles are also available for pre-term and newborn babies. Bottles come in a wide variety of shapes and widths.
- Standard plastic bottles: a relatively cheap option (especially if you choose generic brands) that can be used with the majority of sterilisers, warmers and carriers — they are also likely to be compatible with a broad range of teats and lids. (Check whether standard bottles can be used in a steam or microwave steriliser before purchase if you intend to use one of these methods for sterilising your bottles.)
- Steriliser bottles: these can be sterilised in the microwave, as well as a steam steriliser, so are a safer bet if you are frequently on the move or haven’t decided how you will be sterilising your bottles yet. They are likely to be a little pricier than the basic alternative.
- Glass feeding bottles: favoured by eco-conscious parents who may also have concerns about the use of plastic in standard bottles. They are made from heat-resistant glass that is toughened to prevent potentially dangerous breakage during feeding and transportation, and if you use a steam sterilisation method.
- Anti-colic bottles and anti-colic teats: designed to reduce the intake of air in babies who have trouble with wind. They usually have an air vent, tube or collapsible milk bag for this purpose. However, they are more expensive, can be tricky to clean and may not do anything to reduce your baby’s colic. Our tip would be to buy one and try it out, before investing in a set.
- Wide-necked bottles: these are usually shorter and fatter than standard bottles, but generally hold similar amounts of milk. They can be easier to fill and clean, and some may be anti-colic.
- Disposable bottles (ready-to-use bottles): these are very convenient and come complete with teat and lid but generally are only suitable in specific circumstances as regular use of disposable baby bottles will have a significant financial as well as ecological impact.
All plastic baby bottles for sale in the UK should not contain BPA (Bisphenol) following its European-wide ban in 2011. Many sterilising units come with bottles that fit neatly inside. Check the price and availability of further bottles if they are not a standard shape as you will almost certainly have to buy more bottles as time goes on.
Choosing the right teat for your baby
Do not overlook the importance of the teat when it comes to bottle feeding your baby. In fact, the teat may be the single most important piece of equipment when it comes to ensuring a successful feeding experience. This is because the teat determines the level of milk flow received by your baby: too much flow and your baby will have milk spilling out the sides of her mouth as she splutters to control the influx of milk; too little flow and your baby will become frustrated as she sucks and sucks without ever quite getting enough milk. Usually, it is best to start with a slower flow for a newborn and to transition to a medium flow nipple as your baby’s sucking becomes more powerful.
Furthermore, teats can be made of either silicone (for durability) or latex (for flexibility); be shaped like a maternal nipple or can come in the standard shape. There are also anti-colic teats and single-use disposable teats. Again, when you buy a set of feeding bottles they will come with teats attached, so you may wish to consider this when choosing a set of bottles or equipment, however, if you then need to change the teats, it relatively easy and inexpensive. The best advice is to buy one or two of a particular style/material and try it with your baby before investing in enough for your whole set of bottles.
Whichever type of teat you choose, you should remember your baby’s sucking combined with washing and sterilising will mean it will degrade over time. Keep an eye out for signs of wear and tear, particularly as your baby’s teeth come through as a damaged teat can present a potential choking hazard.
Choosing the right bottle steriliser for your baby
Sterilising is an essential part of bottle-feeding your baby. There are four methods for sterilising a baby bottle. However, whichever method you choose you will need to wash the bottle with soapy water and a bottle brush first, ideally as soon as your baby has finished feeding. The four methods are as follows:
- Steam sterilising
- Microwave steam sterilisers
- Cold water sterilising
Click through to our detailed page on sterilising baby bottles and feeding equipment for more information on this crucial step for bottle-feeding your baby.
Baby bottle warmers
Bottle warmers are a convenient tool for ensuring that your baby’s milk is heated to the correct temperature from cold, but they are another financial outlay and are not essential equipment in order to get started with bottle feeding.
When are bottle warmers needed?
If you are making formula fresh for every feed (as advised by the NHS) rather than preparing one or more bottles in advance, you are unlikely to need a bottle warmer. However, a bottle warmer may come into its own if you are using prepared formula cartons or expressed milk that has been refrigerated, but even in this situation, a warmer is not a necessity; some babies want slightly heated milk (lukewarm) while others may be content to have it cool or at room temperature.
And if you don’t want to buy a baby bottle warmer you can simply place the bottle in a bowl, jug or saucepan of warm water (not boiling) and leave to heat for a couple of minutes before testing the temperature of the milk by dropping a little onto the inside of your wrist. Always remember to shake the bottle so that the temperature of the milk is even throughout the bottle.
The different types of baby bottle warmer
There are several types of baby bottle warmer on the market: These include:
- Standard baby bottle warmers: These plug in devices are heated by an element and keep a constant temperature. Just fill the vessel with water, place the baby bottle inside and switch the system on.
- Feeding-system bottle warmers: These work in the same way as standard bottle warmers but also have a chilled section for keeping bottles cold in preparation for warming.
- Portable bottle warmers: These are simple if a little slow to work and allow you to warm bottles when out and about.
- In-car bottle warmers: These plug into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter port. There is no water involved (instead they are a kind of heated sleeve that warms the bottle). However, they can take up to 15 minutes to heat the bottle so are not ideal if you (or your baby) are in a hurry.
Note about bottle warming It is not recommended to heat a baby bottle of chilled milk in the microwave as the milk is likely to be heated very unevenly and there’s a risk of scalding your baby’s mouth.
Choosing the right bottles, teats, sterilisation and bottle warming methods are crucial to making sure bottle feeding is safe for your baby and achievable for you. There are lots of pieces of equipment on the market to make life more convenient (steam sterilisers and electric bottle warmers for instance) but they may not be affordable or suitable for all.
Lastly, it is not always possible to get bottle feeding right from the first feed, so be prepared for a bit of trial and error when it comes to the formula you choose and the bottle/teat combination.