A Mom's Guide for Choosing the Right Baby Bottle

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Whether choosing to breast or bottle feed your child, most moms are overwhelmed by the wide variety of baby bottles to choose from. Breastfeeding expert Donna Dowling offers advice on helping parents make informed choices about the many products available.

Dowling, an associate professor of nursing at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, researched evidence behind manufacturer’s claims. Most are designed to mimic breastfeeding based on early research that demonstrated differences in how infants obtain milk through either the breast or the bottle. But in the end, it comes down to mother and baby preference for their individual needs.

For the most part, simpler is better. Dowling says of the complicated bottle and nipple systems, “The more parts and tiny areas in the components, the harder it will be to clean.”

The first component to look at when purchasing a baby bottle system is the nipple. Babies usually show a preference for a certain nipple type and rate of flow. Baby bottle nipples are usually rubber or silicone and may be rounded, wide, flat, or shaped to mimic mom’s breast.

Clear silicone may be the best material, because it does not pick up smells or tastes like latex can, and is less of a cause of allergies. Silicone are also more difficult for babies to chew holes in once their first teeth come in, so there is less risk of choking.

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For those who are bottle feeding only, it may be trial and error to find which is best for you and your baby. For breastfeeding moms who will offer the occasional bottle while away, mom and baby products guide for About.com Heather Corley suggests wide-based nipples that more closely approximate breast feeding.

Younger babies will need slower rates of flow when first learning to feed. A flow that is too fast can cause stomach discomfort. As baby gains more feeding experience, medium and fast flow nipples are available.

Next comes the bottle itself – plastic or glass, reusable or disposable? Plastic baby bottles are less expensive, light-weight and unbreakable, but may not last as long as glass. Start off with 4-ounce bottles, because younger babies are not able to take in as much at one feeding. Some bottles are shaped at an angle with the theory that this will prevent the swallowing of air.

With plastic bottles, it is best to err on the side of safety and choose one that is BPA-free. A Harvard study found that babies drinking from plastic bottles containing BPA had more exposure to the chemical, which has been linked to many adverse health conditions. While the FDA is investigating the safety of BPA, most moms choose to find bottles that are BPA-free. The top six manufacturers of baby bottles in the US have agreed to stop using BPA in their bottles, but if the package is not marked, steer clear of bottles with the number 7 or the letters PC (polycarbonate) on the bottom.

Some baby bottles come with a disposable sterilized liner inside that is convenient for quick clean-ups, although they are usually more expensive and create a lot of extra waste. However, some babies may swallow less air with this type, so it may be worth the expense if baby is fussy after eating.

Other advice from the bottle experts:
• Ask for advice from friends, family, or your baby’s pediatrician before buying, but in the end the best product is one that is comfortable for you and your baby.
• Do not buy too many of one style until you know which works best.
• Give baby a chance to adapt to a new bottle. Don’t give up if he rejects the first feeding. Too many changes can result in frustration for both of you, and is quite costly.
• Carefully consider advertising claims that the bottles/nipples prevent colic
• Remember to wash bottles before the first use.

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