Whether you choose to breastfeed, formula feed or a combination of the two, at some point it will be necessary for your baby to drink from a bottle.
There are dozens of various bottles on the market, ranging from the absolute basic, plastic bottle with bottle, nipple cap and ring, to bottles with complex systems aimed to reduce colic, bottles for breastfeeding and non-plastic versions made of glass, stainless steel or another material. Once you narrow your choices down to one of those categories, it's a matter of finding out what works for you, and more importantly, for your baby.
Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, a chemical that can leach into food and liquid from plastics, is a huge concern for parents, especially when deciding which bottle to choose. Manufacturers have responded and there currently are no bottles on the market made with BPA-containing plastics. In addition, most manufacturers make baby bottles that are free of PVC, latex, lead and phthalates (another plastic additive that can leach). Although it is rare, older baby bottles that contain BPA may be sold in discount stores or online at closeout sites. The best choice is to specifically purchase a bottle that states it is BPA-free and was manufactured after 2008.
Most babies will be happy with a basic baby bottle. The basic bottle category consists of plastic bottles that have some convenience features, but aren't necessarily targeted to a specific feeding situation. These are great for most baby feeding needs and tend to be less expensive than bottles targeted to specific issues. Even basic plastic bottles usually have some form of air reduction.
Many bottles have some kind of colic reduction system, but the more advanced versions have more complex systems based upon research into colic and reflux reduction. These may involve valves, straws and tubes that aim to either remove the air sometimes created while mixing formula or just the air found at the bottom of the bottle. Since it's this air that creates gas and therefore an upset stomach or colicky condition, it's key to get it out of the bottle before it enters the child. These bottles can be more expensive, but compared to the additional stress created by a colicky baby, many mothers are happy to pay the price.
Breastfeeding bottles are primarily aimed at easing the transition between the breast and the bottle and do so in a number of different ways. These are typically made to work easily with a breast pump, the nipple is usually longer and made of a more pliable material for the child to easily accept, and the shape may also remind the child of a breast as well. These bottles can be used as full-time feeding systems, for occasional feeding to supplement the breast, or during the transition period between the breast and the bottle.
Many parents worry about the safety of plastics that have been declared "safe," worrying that there are dangers in plastics that we are not even aware of yet. Parents with this concern often turn to glass bottles, which were available long before plastics. Advanced manufacturing techniques have brought new materials into the market. Stainless-steel bottles have long been popular for adults but now are being manufactured for babies and toddlers. That's not to say that glass bottles don't have their place, and there are still multiple manufacturers in the marketplace today. Many now offer safe, silicone sleeves to help ease the worry of breaking bottles if they are dropped.
Consumer reviews that consider price, either positively or negatively, are not ranked as highly by ConsumerSearch editors as other baby bottle features. This is because the idea of what is expensive or inexpensive is subjective, especially for a product where the upper price is measured in the tens, rather than hundreds or thousands of dollars. It was not unusual to find complaints about how expensive a baby bottle was, when, in fact, it fell into the lower or mid-range of the price point.
When you look at bottles from a cost of ownership standpoint, even the most expensive bottles may cost just pennies per feeding to use. A parent who uses bottles only occasionally to supplement breastfeeding, or who washes bottles promptly so they're quickly available to use again, may only need a few bottles. Compare that to hundreds of feedings over the course of a year or so, and maybe even use with two or more babies, and the cost becomes very reasonable regardless of the initial expense.
Because babies have different needs when it comes to feeding, ConsumerSearch evaluates the top features that a buyer looks for in a bottle, whether it is price, anti-colic systems, most like breast or concern for the environment. From there, we have determined the best bottles in four categories: Best Plastic Bottle, Best Bottle for Colicky Babies, Most Breastfeeding-friendly Baby Bottle and Best Non-plastic Baby Bottle. Within these categories, we review safety, ease of use and lifestyle-friendly features. Our sources include consumers who have purchased and used the product and review it based on real-world experiences as well as experts who evaluate the product based upon specific criteria.
In the end, it's not up to the reviewers or the parents to decide, it's up to the baby. Some babies are fussy and won't settle down with the bottle that you find the most convenient, while others will sidle up to anything with a nipple and liquid. You may have to try multiple brands and configurations before you find what works for you, and that's why some bottles have options for different nipples, making the process easier for you to discover what makes your child happy.