Whether you feed your baby breast milk, infant formula, or both, you will need to buy bottles and nipples. You have many choices, so it can be hard to know what to buy. Learn about the different options and how to care for bottles and nipples.
How to Choose Bottles and Nipples
The type of nipple and bottle you choose will mainly depend on which type your baby will use. Some babies prefer a certain nipple shape, or they may have less gas with certain bottles. Others are less fussy. Start by buying a few different types of bottles and nipples. That way, you can try them out and see what works best for you and your baby.
Nipples can be made from latex or silicone.
- Latex nipples are softer and more flexible. But some babies are sensitive to latex, and it does not last as long as silicone.
- Silicone nipples last longer and tend to hold their shape better.
Nipples come in different shapes.
- They can be dome-shaped, flat, or wide. Flat or wide nipples are shaped more like a mother's breast.
- Try different shapes to see which one your baby prefers.
Nipples come in different flow rates.
- You can get nipples that have a slow, medium, or fast flow rate. These nipples are often numbered, 1 is the slowest flow.
- Infants usually start with a smaller hole and slower flow. You will increase the size as your baby gets better at feeding and drinks more.
- Your baby should be able to get enough milk without having to suck too hard.
- If your baby is choking or spitting up, the flow is too fast.
Baby bottles come in different materials.
- Plastic bottles are lightweight and will not break if dropped. If you choose plastic, it is best to buy new bottles. Reused or hand-me-down bottles may contain bisphenol-A (BPA). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles due to safety concerns.
- Glass bottles do not have BPA and are recyclable, but they can break if dropped. Some manufacturers sell plastic sleeves to prevent bottles from breaking.
- Stainless steel bottles are sturdy and will not break, but they may be more expensive.
- Disposable bottles have a plastic sleeve inside that you throw away after each use. The liner collapses as baby drinks, which helps prevent air bubbles. Liners save on cleanup, and are handy for traveling. But they add an extra cost, as you need a new liner for every feeding.
You can choose from several different bottle shapes and sizes:
- Standard bottles have straight or slightly rounded sides. They are easy to clean and fill, and you can easily tell how much milk is in the bottle.
- Angle-neck bottles are easier to hold. The milk collects at the end of the bottle. This helps prevent your baby from sucking in air. These bottles can be harder to fill and you need to hold them sideways or use a funnel.
- Wide bottles have a wide mouth and are short and squat. They are said to be more like a mother's breast, so they may be a good option for babies who go back and forth between breast and bottle.
- Vented bottles have a venting system inside to prevent air bubbles. They are said to help prevent colic and gas, but this is unproven. These bottles have a straw-like inner vent, so you will have more parts to keep track of, clean, and assemble.
When your baby is small, start with the smaller 4- to 5-ounce (120- to 150-milliliters) bottles. As your baby's appetite grows, you can switch to larger 8- to 9-ounce (240- to 270-milliliters) bottles.
Cleaning and Care
These tips can help you safely care for and clean baby bottles and nipples:
- When you first buy bottles and nipples, sterilize them. Place all of the parts in a pan covered with water and boil them for 5 minutes. Then wash with soap and warm water and air dry them.
- Clean bottles right after you use them so the milk doesn't dry and become caked onto the bottle. Wash bottles and other parts with soap and warm water. Use a bottle and nipple brush to get at hard-to-reach areas. ONLY use these brushes on baby bottles and parts. Dry bottles and nipples on a drying rack on the counter. Make sure everything is completely dry before using again.
- If bottles and nipples are labeled "dishwasher safe," you can wash and dry them in the top rack of the dishwasher.
- Throw out cracked or torn nipples. Small pieces of the nipple can come off and cause choking.
- Throw out cracked or chipped bottles, which can pinch or cut you or your baby.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling bottles and nipples.
American Academy of Pediatrics website. Practical bottle feeding tips. www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Practical-Bottle-Feeding-Tips.aspx. Accessed July 8, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. How to clean, sanitize, and store infant feeding items. www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/healthychildcare/infantfeeding/cleansanitize.html. Updated October 29, 2020. Accessed July 8, 2021.
Goyal NK. The newborn infant. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 113.
Review Date 5/24/2021
Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.