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How to buy bottles and nipples

You'll probably need bottles for your baby, whether they're for feeding formula, breast milk, or both. But when it comes to babies and bottles, there's no surefire trick for success. And there are so many different styles and brands of baby bottles on the market that it can be a little bewildering. No worries: Here's what you need to know about buying baby bottles and nipples.

Photo credit: Nathan Haniger for BabyCenter

  • How many bottles do I need?: Getting started

  • Glass bottles: Baby Brezza Natural Glass Baby Bottle

  • Silicone bottles: Comotomo Baby Bottle

  • Plastic bottles: Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle

  • Stainless steel bottles: Pura Kiki Stainless Steel Insulated Anti-Colic Infant Bottle

How many bottles do I need? The number of bottles and nipples you'll need depends on whether you'll be mostly bottle-feeding or mostly breastfeeding. If you're mostly bottle-feeding, you'll probably want eight to ten bottles, and if you're mostly breastfeeding, three or four should be enough.

Start with 4- or 5-ounce bottles. They're perfect for the small amounts of breast milk or formula newborns eat in one sitting. Shift to 8- or 9-ounce bottles at about 4 months, or whenever your baby's growing appetite makes bigger bottles more practical. (You can also start out with larger bottles, and just fill them halfway when your baby is very little. But it can be nice to have the smaller sizes.)

Bottles come with coordinating nipples, usually the slow-flow kind for newborns and infants. You'll need to buy replacements when nipples wear out, or as your baby gets older and needs a faster flow of breast milk or formula. Here are some things to consider when deciding how many bottles to purchase.

  • Cleaning and sanitizing: If you're able to clean bottles immediately after feedings, you won't need as many.

  • Preparing ahead: If you'll be preparing bottles ahead of time and storing them in the fridge, you'll need to have a few extras.

  • Daily routines: Will your baby be at a daycare or babysitter's house? If you need bottles to give to a caregiver, you’ll need to buy more.

  • Cost: Traditional glass and plastic bottles range from about $4 to more than $10 apiece. Stainless-steel and silicone baby bottles range from $13 to $30. Silicone and latex nipples range from $1 to $7 each (but are usually sold in packages of 2 or 3). Starter sets and gift sets, which include several bottles and nipples, as well as accessories like cleaning brushes and sterilizers, run from $30 to $110.

Some babies will take any bottle with a smile. Some take to a particular type of nipple or bottle and outright refuse a different brand. And some babies have less colic, gas, and spit-up with certain bottles. (Many bottles are designed to prevent these feeding problems by venting air more effectively.)

You may also find that your baby doesn't have a preference, but you probably will if, say, a particular brand of bottles and nipples leaks or has too many little parts to clean. To start, buy or register for a small selection of bottles and nipples – either a few different bottle and nipple combinations or 2 different brands of newborn starter sets. Ask friends which brands they recommend, and check reviews online.

To make it easier to transition a breastfed baby to a bottle, manufacturers have designed various types of bottles and nipples to mimic the feel of nursing. Again, you may have to try a few to find one that works for your baby.

  • Glass bottles Glass bottles are popular again partly because of concerns about chemicals in plastics. Because of this, many manufacturers now make both glass and plastic versions of their top-selling baby bottles. Glass bottles also last longer than plastic, but are more expensive. Glass is heavy and can shatter if dropped, but you can buy protective silicone sleeves to prevent this.

  • Silicone bottles Silicone bottles are light, unbreakable, and easy for your baby to hold. They're more expensive than plastic bottles, but they may be safer, because they're unlikely to leach chemicals into your baby's formula or milk. Silicone bottles are harder to find (for now at least), which can be inconvenient if a part cracks or breaks and you need a quick replacement. This silicone bottle was designed to closely mimic the feel of nursing from the breast, and has two anti-colic vents. It's soft for babies to hold and squeeze, and can safely go in the microwave, boiling water, dishwashers, and sanitizers. It comes in packs of two (either 5 ounces or 8 ounces).

  • Plastic bottles Plastic is light, shatterproof, and inexpensive, but many plastic products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals. Plastic bottles also deteriorate, so they need to be replaced regularly. The Avent brand is popular because its bottles don't have lots of parts to keep track of, are easy to clean, and are known not to leak. You can choose from glass or plastic versions. The soft, wide nipple appeals to babies who also breastfeed.

  • Stainless steel bottles Stainless steel is light, unbreakable, and free of harmful chemicals. These bottles last forever, but like silicone bottles, they are more expensive and can be hard to find. We like the Pura Kiki's special features, which make their bottles user-friendly and adaptable. Stainless steel can hold heat, so there's a sleeve to keep your baby's hands safe. While the Kiki is the most expensive bottle on our list, you'll use it for years: As your baby grows, different tops allow you use it as a sippy cup, a bottle with straw, or a snack container.

  • Disposable Inserts Bottles with drop-in plastic inserts that you fill with formula or breast milk can be handy when you're on the go: just toss the liner and wash the nipple. Each insert can be used only once. The downside of bottles with disposable inserts is that you have to keep buying refills of the single-use plastic liners. But some parents say it's worth it to avoid washing as many bottles, especially when traveling. Playtex says the liners can be recycled at some grocery and retail stores. And the liners, which collapse as your baby drinks, may prevent air from mixing with breast milk or formula.

  • Traditional bottles Traditional bottles are narrow and straight. They fit into most cup holders and bottle holders and may require a bottle brush for cleaning. Nuk's Simply Natural bottles are popular with parents because while they have just three pieces (bottle, collar, and nipple), they have a powerful anti-colic effect thanks to the venting system built into the nipple. They're available in glass or plastic versions, and their wide mouth makes them easy to fill and clean.

  • Angled neck bottles Angled-neck bottles keep air from forming in the nipple, and may help your baby avoid gas, burping, and fussiness. But because of the angle, these bottles can be a little more work to clean. Made for babies to drink more easily while lying semi-upright, the VentAire may help babies who are prone to gas, spit-up, and colic. These also have a bottom vent to prevent air from mixing with your baby's milk or formula. They come in plastic only.

  • Wide-necked bottles Wide-necked bottles allow for a wider nipple that's meant to feel more like a real breast and appeal to breastfed babies. These bottles are usually easier to clean and fill, but often don't fit in cupholders. The Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottle, which comes in plastic or glass, has a lot going for it. The curvy shape is easy for babies to hold, and the soft silicone nipple gently flexes during feeding to mimic breastfeeding. There's also an anti-colic valve in the nipple designed to keep air out. And with just three parts, this bottle is easy to clean and store.

  • Bottles with handles Some parents prefer bottles with handles, especially as their baby grows and is able to hold the bottle more independently. Keep in mind that handles are an additional piece to clean and assemble. Many bottles, such as Philips Avent, Comotomo, and Dr. Brown's, have attachable handles you can buy separately. Just fasten the handle on and you're all set to hand the bottle off to your baby.

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