Baby bottles and teats
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.
Baby bottle types - how to choose
Standard baby bottles
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.
- Pros Most widely available, most likely to fit accessories such as bottle coolers and sterilisers, the least expensive type of bottle.
- Cons The narrow neck means they can be trickier to fill than wide-necked versions.
Wide-necked baby bottles
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.
- Pros Easy to clean and fill, some are designed to have anti-colic properties.
- Cons Less versatile, take up more space (you may not be able to fit as many bottles in a steriliser).
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.
- Pros Reduce the amount of air babies swallow - some parents find this helps to reduce colic.
- Cons May not work for all babies, more expensive than other bottles, can be tricky to clean.
Unusually shaped baby 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.
- Pros Easy-grip bottles encourage older babies to drink unaided.
- Cons Can be more difficult to clean, may not fit in your steriliser.
Heat-sensitive baby bottles
These bottles have an in-built temperature sensor, which changes colour if the milk is too hot.
- Pros May be useful if you're anxious about giving your baby too-hot milk.
- Cons Heat-sensitive bottles tend to be more expensive than standard bottles, and using the inside of your wrist to test milk temperature works just as well.
Self-sterilising baby bottles
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.
- Pros No need for other sterilising equipment, useful for travel.
- Cons More expensive than a basic bottle.
Baby bottle ‘sets’ or ‘systems’
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.
- Pros Versatile, good value for money if you stick with the same bottle system
- Cons Your baby may prefer a ‘non-system’ type of bottle or spout.
Disposable baby bottles
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.
- Pros Convenient to use when out as there's no need for a steriliser.
- Cons Expensive if used daily, generates waste.
Glass baby bottles
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.
- Pros Don’t stain, environmentally friendly if the glass is recycled.
- Cons Breakable.
Baby bottle teats
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.
You can read our first look review of the that's designed to fit onto ready-made formula cartons and water bottles.
- Teats are either latex or silicone - although there is no great difference between them, silicone teats have a reputation for being more durable, while latex teats are said to feel more like a nipple.
- Teats also vary in shape, and can be bell-shaped or naturally shaped to resemble a nipple.
- When it comes down to teat shape and feel, there is no evidence to suggest that one is better than the other, so it is really a question of which your baby prefers.
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.
Cleaning and sterilising baby bottles
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.
Top tips for buying baby bottles and teats
- If you'll be bottle-feeding your baby more or less from birth, you’ll need to buy six bottles.
- Even if you're breast-feeding or planning to, some people like to have one or two bottles to hand. And you’ll need them if you plan to express breast milk.
- Teats normally come with the bottle but you can also buy them separately. It pays to have more teats than bottles, as they'll need replacing.
- Most bottles will hold 225ml (8fl oz) of milk, although you can get smaller bottles for new babies.
- You'll need a bottle brush to clean your bottles properly before sterilising, and a teat brush to get into the tips of the teats.
- When buying plastic bottles, check that they do not contain Bisphenol A (BPA) in the plastic. The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) warns that BPA can leach into the milk and if absorbed by the body, can interfere with healthy growth. Since June 2011, it's been illegal to sell baby bottles containing BPA in the EU.