Whether you’re serving up brilliant breastmilk or fabulous formula, there’s no escaping the fact that bottle feeding comes with its own (large) shopping list. From teats to sterilising, there are so many different types of feeding equipment available it can be difficult to choose. Your own individual circumstances play an important part too – whether you’re exclusively formula feeding, exclusively pumping, combi-feeding or giving the odd bottle of expressed breast milk will change what bottle feeding equipment you need to buy. Here’s your comprehensive guide to bottle feeding equipment so you can feel confident that you know what you need to bottle feed.
What you need to bottle feed: BOTTLES
Regardless of what’s going in them, you’ll need some bottles! There are many different types and rest assured each and every manufacturer will market theirs as the BEST for your baby. For the most part there’s no evidence to suggest that there’s one type of bottle or teat (more on those later) better than another, so as with most things baby related go with what works for you and your baby. That being said, bottle types do differ depending on what (if any) feeding issues you might be encountering.
Basic bottles do exactly what they say on the tin – hold milk and deliver it to your baby. They come in a wide variety of sizes and can fit most conventional warmers, sterilisers and changing bags or carriers. The downside? They can contribute to trapped wind or lengthy burping sessions as they don’t have anything to attempt to combat your little one swallowing air when feeding.
Anti-colic bottles aim to combat this common feeding issue by being designed to reduce the amount of air your baby takes in while feeding. It’s thought that this issue is a possible cause of colic so if your baby is unsettled after feeding and/or suffers with wind it might be worth giving this type a go. Sadly they tend to be more expensive but some find them invaluable.
Cups if you’re offering an older baby expressed milk or formula, you may wish to use a cup rather than bottle! Generally as they get older these are better for their teeth and development and can also help to avoid bottle refusal in breastfed babies. We love the b.box Sippy Cup, Munchkin Miracle 360 cup and Kidly silicone drinking cups.
What you need to bottle feed: TEATS
The sheer number of different options can be overwhelming. They come in various flow sizes, materials (such as flexible silicone or durable latex), and even different shapes (standard or ones that mimic the shape of a nipple which can be great for combi-feeders). As with bottles you can buy anti-colic teats that aim to reduce the amount of baby takes in but as we said before unfortunately there’s no ‘magic cure’. When it comes to flow, a slow flow teat is generally an essential for newborns until they get the hang of it (remember feeding whatever the method is a learned skill for both baby and parent). From there you can increase the size of the flow depending on how they’re getting on without being overwhelmed with the speed of the milk. Choking, spluttering and milk leaking from the mouth are all possible signs that the milk is coming out a little too rapidly.
Sadly, all teats deteriorate over time and should be checked regularly for signs of damage, especially once your little ones’ teeth start to make an appearance! This means they shouldn’t be used for subsequent children either. If you choose to use boiling water to sterilise (more on that later) then this can deteriorate them faster.
What you need to bottle feed: STERILISING
There are four main methods you can use to sterilise your bottles in between feeds in order to kill off those tummy upset causing bacteria: boiling, steam, microwave or cold water. If you’re exclusively bottle feeding you’ll almost definitely want to invest in a steriliser. However, don’t rush to buy one if you only plan to give the odd bottle!
One of the most cost effective methods is simply submerging everything in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes after giving it a thorough clean. Feeding equipment will remain sterilised in the pan for up to 3 hours. The great thing about this method is that you don’t need to buy anything!
Conversely, cold water sterilising involves soaking everything in a non-toxic sterilising solution using sterilisation tablets or liquid. It takes slightly longer than boiling water but you do have the added convenience of being able to take tablets out and about with you in case you don’t have access to boiling water after a feed. You can also now buy no-rinse liquid from Milton so you can sterilise without any water!
Many parents swear by buying an electric steam steriliser which can sterilise all your bottles, teats and even breast pump attachments in some models. We’d pop them on the ‘nice to have’ list. They’re not essential but they will save time and energy. In the spirit of utilising kitchen equipment you might already have, microwave sterilisers are a great option. They are small containers that fit inside your standard sized microwave.
You can also now get UV sterilisers! It is 2022 after all. These machines can sterilise your baby’s bottles in under three minutes. No water, no microwave, cooling time or chemicals – just a bulb!
One more for luck: Self-sterilising bottles! YEP. We love that MAM bottles can be self-sterilised in just a few minutes with a splash of water – as long as you’ve got a microwave.
What you need to bottle feed: BREAST PUMP
If you’re bottle feeding breast milk then you’re going to need to pump. Either occasionally or exclusively! You’ll need a method to extract and store your milk. This is a topic we’ll delve into in more detail but for now, here’s a quick round up of our favourite breast pumps.
For occasional use, catching let down and avoiding wasting a drop: every breastfeeding mama needs a Haakaa Silicone Manual breastpump! Trust us, these are cheap and worth having in your breastfeeding tool kit even if you don’t plan to bottle feed.
If you’re going to pump exclusively or more regularly then you cannot beat Medela. They are the ultimate brand of breast pump. We think the Freestyle Flex Electric Double Breastpump is absolutely amazing and if you’re going to pump regularly, worth the investment which – admittedly – might sting a bit. However you can also take this quiz to see which Medela pump suits you best!
What you need to bottle feed: Prep Machine and Bottle Warmer
These items are luxuries rather than absolute necessities, though if you’re formula feeding they may just be a real saviour. Having the ability to have a machine mix the bottles (at 3am – yes please, can it wind the baby too?) and deliver them to you at the precise temperature for feeding is an absolute game changer for some parents. If you have the budget and the space then it’s a no brainer. The Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine is the most well known but there are others too.
For those wanting an added dash of convenience for breast milk bottles without having to wait for the bottle to warm up, investing in a bottle warmer can also work wonders. However, you can also just run it under the hot tap for free.