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Baby & child.

Updated: 20 Dec 2021

Baby bottle warmer types

In this guide we look at the three different types of bottle warmer, as well as alternatives.
Sabrina Sahota
Boy drinking milk 436687

Using a bottle warmer can be a convenient way to make sure your baby’s milk is heated to the right temperature. Most bottle warmers will be able to fit jars of baby food as well as various sizes of bottle.

But there are cheaper ways to heat milk, and if you're using formula you should be making up each feed with fresh formula, so you're unlikely to need to warm up milk.

If you haven't already, remember to take a look at our page on bottles and teats to help you choose the best for your baby. 

Do you need a baby bottle warmer?

If you are making up formula to feed your baby you shouldn't need a bottle warmer, as the government advice is to make fresh formula for every feed.

Because formula isn't sterile, it’s recommended that you make it as your baby needs it, using water at 70ºC, and to use it within two hours.

However, if you are using ready-to-use formula cartons or expressed milk – which, according to the NHS, can be stored in the fridge for up to five days at 4°C or lower – you might want to warm the milk up before feeding your baby.

Whether or not you need a bottle warmer depends on whether your baby wants heated milk, and how happy you are with just using a jug of hot water to raise the milk's temperature.

Bottle-warming alternatives

The time-honoured method of sticking the bottle in a jug of warm water for a couple of minutes has been used by generations of parents, and is a cheap and effective way of heating milk which requires no extra equipment.

You can save time and effort for night feeds by keeping some water hot in a thermos flask. You'll need to test the milk’s temperature by shaking a few drops onto the inside of your wrist. If it’s too hot, you just put it in a jug of cold water for a short time.

Unheated milk

Don’t automatically assume your baby will reject unheated milk. Babies don’t need to have their milk warmed, and some are perfectly happy with room-temperature or even cold milk.

You could save money – and time – by working out sooner rather than later whether your baby is actually bothered about milk temperature.

Types of baby bottle warmer compared

Standard baby bottle warmers

These are the most common type, and will heat up one bottle of milk (or jar of food). You place the bottle in the central vessel of the warmer, fill around it with water from a jug, and switch it on. An element heats the water, which in turn heats the bottle.

These warmers normally have an indicator light which goes off when the milk reaches the right temperature, and a thermostat, which keeps the temperature of the water constant. Most will need descaling regularly unless you use softened water. It's useful to buy one with a timer so you know how long the milk has been in – not all warmers have these.

If you think you'll be using the bottle warmer to heat jars of food as well as milk, choose one that has an adaptor for holding jars at an easily reachable height – otherwise you can end up reaching down into the hot warmer for your jar. Some warmers have the facility to heat food in a bowl, too.

‘Feeding-system’ bottle warmers

These are more sophisticated than the standard type. They heat milk in the same way, but also have a cooler section which keeps a couple of filled bottles chilled and ready for warming.

Portable baby bottle warmers

These are the simplest type of bottle warmer available. They allow you to warm up a bottle easily when you're out and about, although the milk will generally take longer to warm up than in other types of warmer.

Car bottle warmers

In-car bottle warmers can be plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter or power socket, and have a webbing strap or wrap which fits around the bottle of milk or jar of baby food. They're not quick, though, and you need to plan ahead, otherwise you could have 15 minutes of hungry screaming.

'Flask' types

Thermos produces a bottle warmer which works like a flask. It's made up of two sections: an inner flask, and a lid deep enough to hold a bottle. Before you go out, fill the flask with boiling water and attach the lid.

When you need to heat up the bottle of milk, remove the lid, put the bottle in it, and then fill around it with the hot water from the flask. The milk can take just a few minutes to heat up. The water should stay sufficiently hot for a few hours to warm the bottle.

Baby bottle warmer accessories

Bottle steriliser

No matter whether you get a bottle warmer or not, you will need to sterilise your baby's bottles before use, as babies under one are particularly susceptible to harmful bacteria that could linger in bottles. 

Visit our page on bottle sterilising to find out more about different sterilising methods. 

Baby bottle cooler bags 

Insulated bags which keep milk fresh when you’re out and about; single or multi-bottle sizes are available (if you have a changing bag, this may include a bottle-insulating compartment anyway).

Bottle drying rack

A unit for the draining board designed for easy drying of hand-washed bottles and teats.

Dishwasher basket 

A small basket for keeping your teats, dummies, etc, in one place inside the dishwasher (otherwise they can fall through the gaps). Items still need to be sterilised after dishwashing, for babies under a year old.