Choosing feeding bottles

New parents often worry about what to buy for their baby, and there is an almost overwhelming amount of choice out there.  Each baby bottle claims to be closer to breastfeeding, to prevent colic or wind, to keep your baby comfortable. Should you choose a latex or silicone teat, what about the flow rate, are the expensive bottles worth it? You are unlikely to find any independent research into the marketing claims, but your family, friends and social media all seem to have clear opinions.

Common sense would suggest that you buy one or two bottles at first, and see which one your baby prefers. The bottom line is that most babies are able to cope with most bottles. However, you may have to experiment to find the ones that your baby prefers and can use most effectively.

When choosing a teat, look for a shape that slopes gradually from tip to base (such as the Lansinoh Natural Wave). Your baby needs to be able to grasp it deeply with an extended tongue, and be able to maintain a good seal with relaxed lips. If your baby is squirming, readjusting, sliding up and down or leaking milk, you might need an alternative teat. While a wide teat base helps some babies to keep a wide open mouth, tiny babies and those with suck problems might need a narrower base.

Teats vary in firmness and texture. Babies with tight mouths or those who collapse teats while feeding will need a firmer brand.  However, all mothers are different, and if you have soft breast then you might choose a soft teat that feels more familiar to your little one.

It is important to find a teat that your baby can take easily and not too fast, so that bottle feeds generally last somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.  Many brands offer a slow flow teat for newborns and then faster flows for older babies.  There is a considerable difference between the flow rates in different brands.  Some teats are variflow or only offer milk when your baby sucks well on them – great for some babies but hopeless for babies with a compromised or weak suck.  Orthodontic teats work well for some babies but others are less able to get milk from them.   The choice between latex or silicone teats is up to the parents, recognising that latex causes an allergic reaction in some people.

For more information on pacing bottle feeds, see other articles and videos here at www.helpmebreastfeed.net.

Choosing infant formula

Many parents find anxiety levels rising when confronted with the huge choice of formula milks available.

The key point is that newborn infants need formula that is suitable from birth, which will be labelled 1. This is appropriate all through your baby’s first year, after which baby can be offered full fat cows’ milk instead.  Other formulas labelled “follow on formula”, “hungry baby”, “goodnight formula”, “lactose free” or anything else, are not recommended. In some cases, they are an inferior product to number 1 formula.  Parents are particularly advised not to use specialist formula e.g. lactose free or soy, unless this is prescribed by a doctor.

Marketing claims on formula packets are exactly that, marketing.  The basic contents are heavily regulated.  Additional components in “premium” brands may not be good for your baby. The research indicates that the supermarket brands are just as good as the high price brands, although they are considerably cheaper.

There is a trusted organisation called First Steps Nutrition that has conducted independent research into infant formula.  Their reports are free to download from their website https://www.firststepsnutrition.org/infant-milks-overview.

Powdered formula is a more cost effective option than ready mixed formula, although pre-prepared formula is generally much more convenient.  Many parents are using the Tommee Tippee Perfect Prep Machine to prepare powdered infant formula more quickly than the standard boiling a kettle approach. If doing this, please take care to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and keep your machine clean.