There are many brands and styles of bottle and teat available on the market and deciding which to purchase for your baby can be very confusing. In some cases, you may need to try several types to find the perfect one for you and your child but to help you decide, here is a quick guide to some of the differences and some ideas for you to think about.
Size of bottle and teat
Most standard bottles are 250ml (8 fl oz) although most manufacturers also produce small bottles, most commonly half the size at 125ml (4fl oz). A very young baby drinks very often but only very small quantities of milk each time and so many parents find the smaller bottles easier to handle for the first few weeks or months although even the smallest of babies can be fed with the standard size bottle from birth. As your baby becomes more hungry, they will need a larger amount of milk and so if you do start with the smaller sized bottle, you will need to purchase the standard size bottle as well.
The teat of the bottles are also available in several different sizes that control the rate of flow that the baby can suck the milk at. Teat flows and the names of each size can vary between manufacturers but most will be based on a slow flow, medium flow and fast flow categories.
A newborn baby should be given a slow flow teat as this encourages both you and your baby to learn how to feed. If a baby is given a teat that is too fast them, they may struggle to keep up with the flow causing them to dribble whilst feeding or to make coughing and spluttering noises. If a baby takes in too much air whilst feeding, they may feel unwell afterwards with trapped air or sickness. Once feeding becomes more natural and rhythmic, or if your baby is flustered or frustrated during feeding times, you may need to move up to the next flow level of teat. There is no right age to move to the next level of teat as it is personal preference and you will soon understand how comfortable your baby is whilst feeding and whether you need to move up a teat size.
Types of Bottle
All baby bottles bought in the UK should be BPA Free (Bisphenol A) although you may want to check this if buying imported bottles. In 2011, the European Commission banned the use of BPA due to concerns of dangerous chemicals being absorbed by babies.
- Basic/Standard Bottles – These are widely available and are very reasonably priced. They are often narrow and cylindrical in shape and can be bought plain or with colourful designs on them. They are available with the teat and lid or will fit spare teats and lids that can be bought separately. This type of bottle should easily fit other accessories on the market such as bottle coolers, bags and standard sterilisers. However, they can be tricky to fill as the neck is so narrow.
- Wide-necked Bottles – These bottles are wider than the basic bottle making them easier to fill and clean. They are shorter and fatter than the basic bottle meaning that it may harder to fit into standard accessories like bottle cooler and you won’t be able to fit as many into your steriliser at the same time. However, some people find them more comfortable to hold whilst feeding.
- Anti-Colic Bottles – These bottles are designed to reduce the amount of air that a baby swallows whilst feeding as is thought be a cause of colic. Using these does not guarantee that your baby will not suffer from colic but they can reduce the symptoms for some babies. Anti-Colic bottles usually have an air vent, a tube or a collapsible bag inside to help reduce the intake of air. This type of bottle is usually more expensive and can be difficult to clean thoroughly. They are also unlikely to be standard size and therefore you may need to buy branded accessories like steriliser.
- Shaped Bottles – It is possible to buy baby bottles that are shaped to make it easier for an older to baby to feed themselves. You will need to research these as they come in many styles, the most popular is an oval shaped bottle with a hole in the middle making it easier to be gripped. These bottles can be difficult to clean and will not fit your steriliser easily but can help help your baby gain independence. Some manufacturers sell handles that do the same purpose which can be fitted onto their standard bottles to aid the child feeding.
- Disposable or Ready-to-Feed Bottles – Although these are convenient if you are out as there is no need to sterilise or make up milk, they can be very costly and are not environmentally friendly. They are not readily available in every type of milk and many parents prefer to find a brand that suits their child and so it may not be an option.
- Glass Bottles – Some manufacturers produce their bottles in glass as well as plastic. The advantages to using glass is there is no risk of chemicals being absorbed by the baby, they are more environmentally than plastic and that they don’t stain and are easy to clean. However, glass is breakable and this may be worrying for a new parent.
Types of Teat
Teats for bottles can be latex or silicone although most manufacturers will only produce one type of teat for their bottles. There’s not many differences between them, although latex teats tend to be softer and more flexible but silicone teats last longer and are more durable. A baby may have a preference to one or the other and if your child is struggling to be content at feeding times, you may wish to use a different teat.
The shape of the teat can also vary, the main shapes being the traditional bell shape or a ‘natural’ bulbous shape that resembles the shape of a woman’s breast and nipple.
It is important that you check the teat carefully and regularly. If they get damaged, or if your baby chews the teat once their teeth come through you will need to replace the teat as it may become a potential choking hazard.