The NHS recommends exclusively breast-feeding for the first six months of your baby's life to give him or her the best start. Breast milk gives babies all the nutrients they need, and helps protect them from infection and disease.
If you choose to breast feed, you may still want to buy bottles for when you have expressed milk, giving you flexibility over where and who your baby is fed by. Our breast pump reviews and advice will help you choose breast-feeding products to help.
Even if you don't breast feed - you might not be able to or may choose not to - and no matter whether you then feed your baby with expressed breast milk or with formula, choosing the right bottle is important.
Finding the right bottle for their baby is a task many parents find troublesome. That’s because different bottles, and different teats, suit different babies. Here we take a look at the various types of bottles and teats available.
These narrow, cylindrical bottles are a familiar sight. You can buy them plain, or decorated with various designs. They will fit a range of standard teats, and have self-seal lids.
These are shorter and fatter than standard bottles, but take the same amount of milk. They usually take silicone rather than latex teats, and will normally have a self-sealing lid.
Anti-colic bottles are designed to reduce the amount of air a baby takes in while feeding, which is thought to be a possible cause of colic (uncontrollable crying in a healthy baby, as a result of wind).To reduce the amount of air swallowed, these bottles usually have air vents, tubes or collapsible bags for the milk.
If your baby is unsettled after feeds, it might be worth trying out one of these bottles.
Some bottles are shaped to be easier for little hands to hold. For example, oval-shaped bottles with a hole in the middle for fingers to grip are widely available.
These bottles have an in-built temperature sensor, which changes colour if the milk is too hot.
Provided that you have a microwave, these bottles (made by baby brand Mam) don't require any additional equipment for sterilising. You pour water into a chamber in the base of the bottle, arrange the bottle components on top and microwave for three minutes.
Some manufacturers produce bottle sets including attachments such as handles and trainer spouts, which you can fit on to the bottles when your baby reaches the appropriate stage.
These aren't so much disposable bottles as disposable, sterilised bags which fit into a bottle. You put them into the bottle, fill them with milk, and throw them away when your baby has finished.
These aren't widely available, but parents who are concerned about chemicals in plastic bottles and about the environmental disadvantages of using plastics often opt to buy them.
Teats are made from either silicone or latex, and babies tend to prefer one or the other. There’s no great difference between them, but latex teats tend to be softer and more flexible although may need to be replaced regularly, while silicone teats have a reputation for being more durable.
Wide-necked bottles normally only take silicone teats, while standard bottles can take either. The usual shape for a teat is either the traditional bell shape or a bulbous shape that's meant to resemble the shape of a nipple. You may need to try both to find which type your baby prefers.
Some are designed to fit onto ready-made formula cartons and water bottles.
How fast the milk goes into your baby’s mouth, known as the 'flow rate', depends on the number and type of holes in the tip of the teat.
The flow rate suitable for your baby is not necessarily related to his or her age. Change the teat to a slower-flow one if your baby is spluttering his or her milk out and choking, or to a faster one if he or she is sucking hard but seems to be getting frustrated.
You can also buy variflow teats which either work through increasing flow as the baby's sucking increases or by you rotating the teat and bottle into different positions.
Baby bottles and teats should be sterilised every time you use them - babies under a year are particularly vulnerable to nasty bacteria, which sterilising will kill.
Before you use a steriliser, you'll need to clean the bottles and teats by hand, or in the dishwasher.
There are different types of sterilisation methods: using a microwave or electric steriliser to steam bottles is one of the easiest ways, but you can also boil bottles or sterilise them in cold water with specialised tablets.