Baby Bottles: A Guide to Your Choices

The good news: When it comes to baby bottles, nipples, bibs, and more, you’ve got a lot of choices. The bad news? When it comes to baby bottles, nipples, bibs, and more, you’ve got a lot of choices.

Should you go with glass, plastic, or disposable bottles? Should bottles be BPA-free? Do you need a bottle warmer and sterilizer? How about bibs, burp clothes, and brushes? Fortunately, you don’t need all the products out there, but a few will definitely come in handy. We cover the essentials below.

Baby Bottle Basics: Plastic Versus Glass

Your profusion of choices starts with baby bottles. There are three basic choices:

  • Plastic baby bottles

Pros: They’re light-weight, strong, and unbreakable.

Cons: Plastic baby bottles may not last as long as glass.

  • Glass baby bottles

Pros: They last a long time and can also be deep-cleaned by boiling.

Cons: They’re heavier than plastic and may shatter if dropped.

  • Disposable baby bottles

Pros: These are essentially reusable plastic bottles that use a disposable sterilized liner for each feeding. They’re very convenient for quick clean-ups.

Cons: The disposable inserts may not be environmentally sound, and the bottles are usually more expensive than regular plastic or glass. You also need to have a supply of liners, which can be costly.

Which kind should you choose? Ask for advice from friends, family, or your baby’s pediatrician. Sometimes, the best way is to experiment yourself, try a few and see which you suits and your baby the best.

Once you decide on a specific bottle, plan on buying at least a dozen of them. Even if you’ll be breast-feeding, you may want some extra baby bottles for pumped breast milk storage.

Nipple Confusion: Which Kind to Buy?

As with baby bottles, you’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to nipples.

Baby bottle nipples are usually rubber or silicone and may be rounded, wide, flat, or shaped to mimic a mother’s nipple when in the baby’s mouth. Depending on the size of the nipple hole, they also have different flow rates, from slow to fast.

As with baby bottles, babies may show a preference for a certain nipple type. The only way to find out which nipple your baby prefers is to try them out. To get started, ask friends, family, and your baby’s doctor about which types and brands they prefer.

Plan on buying at least 12 nipples and covers, keeping in mind that nipples crack and leak with use, so you may end up buying more over time.

Baby Bottle Gear: Brushes, Burp Clothes, and Bibs

There’s a wide array of baby bottles and nipples to choose from and an even bigger assortment of accessories to go with them, from brushes and bottle carrying cases to sterilizers and special dishwasher bottle baskets.

Pediatricians and parents generally agree that the following items are helpful to have:

  • 1 baby bottle brush
  • 1 nipple brush
  • 6-12 bibs
  • 1 breast pump with storage bottles/freezer bags (if breastfeeding)
  • 12 burp cloths (or alternatively, receiving blankets or clean cloth diapers)

Are Plastic Baby Bottles Safe?

They are now. In the past, some people were worried about the safety of baby bottles that contained bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to make hardened plastic. But the FDA banned the use of BPA in 2012 from baby bottles and sippy cups.

Baby Bottles & Gear: The Dos & Don’ts

  • Don’t sterilize glass baby bottles and nipples before every use. Sterilizing bottles was only necessary in the past, when municipal water supplies were not as reliably clean as they are now. Do sterilize new glass baby bottles and new nipples by putting them in boiling water for five minutes Afterward, you can wash bottles in the dishwasher -- which cleans better than hand-washing them -- or wash by hand with hot, soapy water and rinse well.
  • Do replace baby bottles and nipples if you find a certain set just doesn’t agree with baby’s needs.
  • Do replace a glass baby bottle if it’s cracked or chipped.
  • Do replace a plastic baby bottle if it’s cracked, leaks, is discolored, or smells bad.
  • Do replace a nipple if it’s discolored or has deteriorated (a damaged nipple can be a choking hazard), or if baby formula comes out too fast. To test the flow, turn the bottle upside down. Only a few drops should come out; if more does, the hole is too big and your baby may be getting more infant formula than he can handle. Nipple packages should state the flow rate on them.
  • Don’t buy a baby bottle warmer unless you really want one. Standing a baby bottle in a glass of hot water for a few minutes is easier and less expensive. Just remember not to heat your baby’s bottle directly in the microwave, which can create hot spots in the liquid, because of a microwave’s uneven heating ability.