Even so-called "basic" bottles often feature special venting or nipple systems to reduce colic, curved shapes that make them easy to hold and a variety of nipple options to make it easier to find one your baby will love. Others have liners or special angles that are meant to reduce air and decrease reflux and postprandial fussiness.
Most baby bottles are a standard cylinder shape, although many come in wide-mouth designs that make them easier to clean and better to mimic an real breast.
Plastic bottles are by far the most widely used bottles on the market. They are affordable and usually simple to use, lighter than bottles made of other materials, like glass, and hold up well under repeated use and washing. Chemical leaching is rarely a concern in plastic baby bottles any longer since virtually all manufacturers of baby feeding products have stopped using BPA-containing plastics.
The BornFree Classic Bottle (*Est. $20 for three 9 oz. bottles) have always been BPA-free. They are made from PES plastic (polyethersulfone) and are one of the most highly rated bottles by both users and expert reviewers. Like many nursing systems on the market, BornFree offers various stages of nipples (Levels 1, 2, 3, Y-cut or variable flow) that can help the infant transition as he or she switches between breast and bottle or as he or she grows and is able to handle more liquid flow. The BornFree Classic Bottle has an inner valve to prevent side leaks, but a few parents complain of leaks anyway. Although, several parents note that any leaking issues they experienced are simply a result of the nipple or valve not being inserted correctly -- a problem that can be easily remedied.
BornFree baby bottles get good marks for reducing air intake thanks to their special venting system, which is especially important if your baby is prone to colic or gas. Breastfeeding moms appreciate the wide base of the nipples, which mimics the shape of the breast better than most other nipples. All BornFree bottles have a wide neck making them easier to wash as well. While BornFree bottles have more parts to wash than standard bottles, several parents note that there are fewer parts than with Dr. Brown's bottles and BornFree's are easier to clean.
TheSimilac SimplySmart bottle (*Est. $10 for two 8 oz. bottles) is a unique design tailored to the formula manufacturer's product line. The bottle itself doesn't have a lot of fancy features (other than the locking indicator on the cap), but the star of the show is the mixing device installed in the center of the bottle. It helps to mix formula more thoroughly, with less clumping, trapped air and foaming. Just measure the formula and give it a gentle swirl or shake, and the bottle is ready. While we assume that Similac hopes the consumer will buy their formula, the bottle will work with any brand.
Many reviewers liked the easy-to-mix feature of the Similac SimplySmart bottle. Additionally, some mothers commented that they feel the nipple helps prevent nipple confusion when transitioning from the breast to the bottle. Although there is talk in reviews about the venting system that helps to prevent colic, the star is clearly the mixing tool, and it's the main reason why most mothers bought the bottle in the first place.
The Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottle (*Est. $28 for three 9 oz. bottles) has been sold in the U.K. for years and in the U.S. since 2011. The bottles get high marks for the shape, as reviewers say it's easy to grip and also, along with the wide nipple, mimics the natural breast's form. There are numerous reports of leakage, but the instructions on the website say that the ring has to be carefully installed to prevent leaking. It is dishwasher safe on the top rack. The anti-colic system is part of the nipple assembly, so it does not add any additional parts to clean or assemble. There are a lot of reports of nipple collapse.
One of the more convenient inventions to come out of the baby bottle industry is the disposable liner. Instead of putting formula or breast milk in a bottle, it goes into a liner. When feeding is done, the liner is thrown away and only the nipple has to be sterilized. Formula or breast milk can also be stored in the liner, which is convenient for travel. However, formula cannot be mixed in the liner, it has to be mixed in a separate container.
Playtex is the leader in this category with the Playtex Drop-Ins Premium Nurser (*Est. $12 for three 8 oz. bottles). It has replaced the Playtex Drop-Ins Original Nurser, which was one of the most popular bottles of all time but has been discontinued. The Premium Nurser is made of BPA-free plastic and comes with silicone nipples. There are no small parts to present a choking hazard, but the liners should not be left in an accessible place because they may become a choking hazard.
Unlike most manufacturers, Playtex still offers the option of purchasing a latex nipple (*Est. $13 for a pack of two). Silicone nipples are clear and firmer than latex. Latex nipples are amber in color, softer and more flexible. The concern with latex is that latex allergies are very common, and there is a possibility of having an allergic reaction, or developing an allergy by repeated exposure, for both mom and baby. In addition, latex, because it is softer, can be bitten through more easily, possibly posing a choking hazard.
Playtex claims the Drop-Ins Premium Nurser is the best bottle to deliver a bottle experience close to breastfeeding, and many moms say that this is the one bottle that their breast-fed baby will take. However, most reviewers say the Drop-In liner bottles have two big selling points: ease of use and the collapsible nature of the liners, which helps reduce air intake. They are simple to use and don't require any special handling, other than sterilization of the nipple. Pour the breast milk or formula into the liner, put the assembly into the bottle, then squeeze out any excess air from the liner using your hands. It's as basic an anti-colic system as you can get. When the baby is finished feeding, throw out the liner and clean the nipple.
Ironically, the main drawbacks to liner bottles are concerns about the liner. They are recyclable but made of No. 4 plastic, which is not accepted by the majority of curbside recycling programs but may be at other community locations. Drop-Ins also cost more over the long run than most traditional bottles, because the liners have to be continually purchased. The bottles themselves are relatively inexpensive, but you can expect to spend, conservatively, another $150 on liners over the course of a year.
Mom reviewers know all this but still say the added convenience is worth the price. They love that the liners are freezable for storing breast milk and traveling with them is amazingly easy. They also like the portability factor, since tossing a few liners in a bag with just one bottle is much easier than carrying multiple bottles.
Playtex pretty much has the market cornered when it comes to disposable liner bottles, but there is one other brand that has a disposable liner option -- The First Years Breastflow bottle (*Est. $13 for three 5 oz. bottles). It is a runner up in our section on best bottles for colicky babies and is fully reviewed there. It is not primarily a liner bottle, but it is available as a disposable bottle in both 4- and 8-ounce sizes. It works with Ziploc and Playtex disposable liners.
Many bottles have some sort of angled shape, usually a slight angle to better mimic a breast, which tends to curve slightly rather than just be a straight cylinder. Bottles sold as "angled bottles" are more sharply so; manufacturers claim this reduces the incidence of ear infections and air intake. They are also supposed to be easier to hold because they feed the baby in a more upright position, though very few babies actually lay flat to eat, since the mother's arms provide a natural angle. These bottles also may be more difficult, not easier to hold, since holding an angled bottle for a baby who is already semi-upright may require lifting the elbow away from the arm support.
The Playtex VentAire, which comes in standard and wide sizes, is one of the more popular models in this category. It's made from BPA-free plastics and, in spite of a relatively large number of parts, has none small enough to present a choking hazard. It gets mixed reviews for ease of use. Some say it's easy to disassemble and clean, while others say it takes too long and if you don't get the parts together just right, it leaks. In fact, it gets quite a few complaints about leaking. However, other parents say that if the bottle is assembled correctly it will not leak, so it may be a function of assembly. All components are dishwasher safe on the top rack.
The point of the angle is to promote upright feeding and to reduce air intake, as the bottle is designed for air to remain trapped in the top of the bottle. Like all air, colic and reflux reduction claims, this works for some babies and not for others. The nipples are also popular with some babies, and not with others. Parents say the angle makes it difficult to use in some bottle warmers, but Playtex says it will work in many different models of warmers.
Another angled bottle is the Evenflo Purely Comfi (*Est. $10 for three 9 oz. bottles). This is a simple bottle that's angled to keep air out of the nipple. Reviewers commented on how easy it was to hold for both them and their children, and how they took to the nipple quickly and easily.
The main issue with this bottle is leaking. Reviewers from multiple sites discussed how their bottles leaked from almost every conceivable part. Some said it was near the nipple, others at the bottle cap and some also claimed it was the bottle itself. For some the bottle lasted a while and then started dripping, and for others it was right away. Although some of this can be chalked up to user error, where there's that much smoke there's usually fire, and that makes this a bottle that's hard to recommend.
The highest rated and best overall baby bottle in the plastic bottle lineup is the BornFree Classic Bottle (*Est. $20 for three 9 oz. bottles). Liner bottles are super convenient and may be the best choice for air reduction, but there are environmental concerns that can't be ignored. Angled bottles don't seem to live up to their hype and have never really caught on. The BornFree Classic Bottle is versatile, easy to use and popular with both consumer and expert reviewers.