We’ve all had that moment. You’re standing in a baby store staring down the extra long wall of bottle feeding parts and accessories. In your hands, you hold a set of baby bottles but you’re confused as to why there are so. many. different. kinds.
Though there is no one-bottle-solution for every feeding scenario, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help in your decision-making process. Our top pick is the Philips AVENT Natural. It has a minimalist design, a slightly contoured shape, and a wide, sturdy anti-colic nipple that breastfed babies can transition to easily. Given the complexity of bottle feeding (and the unique preference of every baby), we ultimately recommend trying multiple systems to find which works best for you.
This article was first written in January 2016. It has been updated as of October 2017 to reflect new information and additional bottle recommendations.
Small Business Spotlight - July 2018
Every month we feature a new small business trying to make a difference for parents. This month's small business spotlight is:
Baby Gate Guru was founded in 2015 with the aim of helping parents and consumers get the most out of their safety gates. Have you ever scuffed your walls using a baby gate? What about lost its mounting hardware? In 2016 they released the Baby Gate Guru Wall Protector set to help prevent damaged walls caused by pressure mounted gates, and in 2018 they released the Baby Gate Guru Extra Long Spindle Rods replacement set to provide an easy alternative to buying a new gate when pressure bolts are lost or need an upgrade.Read more from the founders.
A guide to the best bottle deserves a very important preface: babies are notoriously finicky about latching onto rubber or silicone nipples and drinking from a bottle. Medical professionals often have personal preferences about bottle types and features. You may have to try out different types of bottles/nipple and feature combinations for your little one, but we like AVENT Natural to start for its simplicity, affordability, and adaptability.
This guide combines more than 30 hours of research, interviews with daycare providers and parents of especially finicky children, and hands-on testing of some of the top-rated and preferred models to get to our pick. Latching, leaking, ease-of-use for parent and baby, cleaning and adaptability were all considered during our research.
WHO SHOULD BUY THIS?
Expectant or new parents looking for a reliable bottle that won’t leak, is easy to assemble, and won’t break when dropped. Older babies may like this bottle because the shape makes it easier for them to self feed. If you’ve been exclusively breastfeeding but are starting to pump because you’re going back to work—or just need to get to the gym or out for a date night—your baby may appreciate the wider nipple and clear measurement marks.
There are four styles of baby bottles available to parents. Let’s break down the functionality of each before we carry on in our review:
- Standard – These classic bottle shapes are offered in either a thin or wide neck design. Well-known brands featuring the standard bottle design include Tommee Tippee, Medela, and Gerber First Essentials.
- Angled Nurser – This design allows parents to feed baby in a semi-upright position, minimizing the amount of air swallowed during feedings. This is helpful in reducing chronic ear infections and may aid in reduced colic or gasiness. An example of an angled nurser is the Playtex Ventaire Anti-Colic Angled Bottles.
- Disposable – This bottle design comes with pre-sterilized collapsable liners which are thrown away after each feeding. Though it reduces air bubbles getting into tiny stomachs, they generate more waste than we feel they are worth. An example of this design is the Playtex Drop-Ins Baby Nurser.
- Vented – These are typically your anti-colic systems featuring multiple pieces, such as the infamous Dr. Brown’s. Newer bottle designs are integrating ventilation systems directly into the nipple to reduce the number of physical pieces. This design can be seen in the Avent Natural bottle nipples.
From here we can look at the materials bottles are made of:
- Plastic – Fortunately, all bottles on the market are BPA free (read more below). However, plastic bottles are still porous and need to be regularly replaced.
- Glass – These bottles are far more robust and are prone to breaking when dropped. Most glass bottles will come with a silicone sleeve to help with grip and protection.
- Silicone – The up and comer of the baby bottle materials. The design is flexible (making them easiest to clean), hypoallergenic, Comotomo and Flipsi are both great brands who use the silicone design.
- Stainless Steel – An unexpected addition to the baby bottle line. Stainless steel bottles are lighter than glass but more robust than plastic. My problem with these is that you aren’t able to gauge how much milk baby has drunk during the feeding. There are no marks for measurement, either.
What About BPA and Other Plastics?
As a parent, plastics pose a difficult conundrum. The chemicals that make them convenient can also leach into food and liquid, potentially causing serious health problems.
In 2012, the FDA officially banned the use of the plasticiser Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles because of its potential health consequences, including breast and prostate cancer, reproductive abnormalities, neurobehavioral problems, and obesity. Yet BPA is only one of many plasticisers that can pose health risks.
Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2011 showed that there are plenty of other chemicals in BPA-free plastic water bottles and baby bottles that have “estrogenic activity” and that do leach into food and liquid. Basically, one plasticiser was outlawed, but plenty of others are still used to make plastic bottles clear and strong, yet soft and pliable.
We spoke with Dr. Neal Langerman, chief scientist of the independent consulting company Advanced Chemical Safety, about this issue. “Any small molecule that’s in a container has the chemical potential to leach into the contents of the container. So that right there opens up a whole potential area for someone to worry.” Langerman said you essentially have to determine your own “risk tolerance” for the level of chemicals you or your child are exposed to.
Your safest bet is to choose a bottle made out of glass or metal, which (as long as the metal isn’t lined in chemicals) will have virtually no leaching. Yet glass and metal have practical downsides: glass breaks, you can’t see through metal, and they’re both heavy.
“Clearly the plastic bottle got rid of a lot of the downsides of glass, that’s why we went to it,” said Langerman. “If a parent wants to put up with the hassle of glass, that would be the best choice. However, what would be even better for anybody who is worried about this is to understand something about dose. After all, ‘it’s the dose that makes the poison.’ Even water at high enough doses causes harm.” Langerman said you can mitigate your risk by limiting contact time. Don’t store milk or formula in plastic bottles, and avoid heating plastics in the dishwasher or microwave. “The longer the contact time, the more small molecules can leach out of the container,” said Langerman.
We asked Dr. Jennifer Shu, co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, about her take on plastics. “Your decisions have to be made on the best possible information you have at any given time,” she said. “Our information right now is that BPA is the main thing to avoid and we’re avoiding BPA. Plastic is definitely convenient. One thing I suggest is to not heat plastic, just as a precaution.”
The downsides for using glass or metal are significant: they’re both heavier and harder to handle, you cannot see through metal containers for measurement and glass is very fragile, which is extra concerning as the baby gets older and wants to start holding the bottle for themselves or flailing their arms at any given moment.
What Makes a Good Baby Bottle?
Reiterating what was mentioned before: the number one goal of the baby bottle is to give your little one sustenance with expressed milk or formula. It doesn’t matter if you’ve bought the most expensive or cheapest bottle available, you’re going to look for a new brand if your kiddo is struggling to eat.
Bottle manufacturers have made the life of a new parent a little challenging. There are a plethora of brands with dozens of different features. The options may have your head spinning quickly like ours. What you can do before you begin the task of bottle feeding is understand the different features and decide if they warrant a trial for your child.
Modern bottles are getting more complicated every year. Many brands offer venting systems to reduce gas. Every version functions differently, but most try to accomplish the same goal: keeping air out of the baby’s mouth to lessen gas and colic issues.
Multiple pediatricians and a lactation consultant told us that reducing gas and potential spit-ups is often more about how you position your baby and the bottle. “If the nipple is completely full of milk, with no air, then that’s all you really need to do.” said Dr. Shu. Holding your baby upright for five to 15 minutes after feeding will also reduce gas, said Dr. Melina Harmelin of Tribeca Pediatrics.
Some venting systems like the one from Tommee Tippee or our pick, the Philips AVENT Natural, build the venting system into the nipple, which doesn’t add more parts. Other systems, like those from Playtex or Dr. Brown’s add a considerable number of parts and even require special brushes for cleaning.
Save yourselves headaches cleaning and assembling by sticking with a simpler venting system built into the nipple.
Did Confucius say anything about making a bottle at 3 a.m.? If so, it would be along the lines of “a foggy brain can be cleared with simple bottles.” You’ll curse the venting systems, insulators, bottle liners, complicated nipple/ring attachments and more when you’re sleep deprived and trying to make a bottle overnight. Simpler is always better.
Contoured bottle shapes become very beneficial when your little one gets into the five- or six-month age and wants to hold onto their own bottle. The contoured shape is friendlier for small hands compared to traditional straight bottles.
The design does have some downsides. It can be harder for mom and dad to hold compared to the narrower or angled bottles and they are often harder to clean.
Bottles come in a variety of sizes to grow as your little one grows. The most common sizes are:
- 2-4 ounce bottles suited for newborns to babies aged 3 or 6 months
- 5-9 ounce bottles suited for babies 3 to 6 months or older
Most companies offer an infant gift (or starter) set. They usually include three different size bottles, various nipple flows, cleaning brushes, sanitizers and everything in between. Ultimately, choosing a bottle set comes down to the baby’s preference.
Nipple Shape, Size and Flow
In our recent article What’s the Deal with Nipples?, we give parents the full breakdown on bottle nipples. It should be said that most nipples are only compatible with their corresponding bottles (you can’t put a Tommee Tippee nipple on a Avent bottle, for example).
There are typically two sizes of nipples: wide nipples versus standard nipples. The wide nipples attempt to mimic the shape of the human breast. In our testing and research across multiple product lines, that seems to be true. Still, don’t discount the standard nipples. These protrude farther into the baby’s mouth and do a better job at keeping air away from the nipple, which will help with gas issues. Within these different sizes, we also have two additional nipple shapes: Vented nipples (such as the Philips Avent Natural) and Orthodontic nipples.
Many bottle manufacturers offer a range of nipple flows which determines the amount of milk released through the nipple. These flows are newborn (or preemie), slow, medium, fast, variable, and Y Cut. All babies are different in this regard – a medium flow may be too much for some infants while causing a slow, 40-minute feeding session for others. It’s important to pay attention to your baby’s cues during feeding in order to know the appropriate time to transition to the next flow.
Adaptability and Availability
A bottle’s ability to adapt to different gadgets and scenarios may be a priority for you. This includes having bottles that are compatible with a breast pump (for example, Dr. Brown bottles fit Medela pumping systems), can fit into different bottle warmers, or offer a variety of interchangeable nipples.
A bottle’s availability in the brick & mortar stores in your area can also be considered. Out and about and forget a piece of your bottle? Having a big box store or pharmacy that carries the brand you use can save time and headache when dealing with a hungry baby.
How We Tested
Because of the nature of latching, the most important factors we considered are the parent tangibles. Is it easy to put together? Are there clear markings for measurement? What about spills and leaks? Is it adaptable to other nipples sizes and accessories? Is it easy to clean?
We considered these questions against the top-rated baby bottles available by testing ourselves, with a 4 and 6-month-old, talking to parents about their experiences, and interviewing childcare professionals that use a wide variety of bottles. We combined this information with the research from a previous version of the guide to reach our new pick.
- Size: 4oz, 9oz, or 11oz sizes
- Material: BPA-free Plastic
The Philips AVENT Natural is the simplest bottle to assemble, won’t break and is quick to be held on its own by a little one.
After weeks of research and testing, we found the Philips AVENT Natural is the most parent-friendly and baby-approved bottle available to the mass market. The simple design and construct, which made it easy to fill and easy to clean, was a big hit with our parent testers. Breastfed babies easily adapted to the wide nipple and were quick to grab onto the contoured shape.
Compared to The NightLight’s previous pick, the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature, the Philips AVENT Natural was slightly narrower, allowing it to be handled better by our parent testers. It also had a sturdier nipple that didn’t collapse during feedings and kept the milk in the baby’s mouth.
The measurement markings were very clear and included U.S. ounces, U.K. ounces and millimeters.
The simple design of the Philips AVENT Natural was one of the biggest selling points and an improvement from its predecessor, the AVENT Classic. It has four parts: the bottle, the durable nipple ring, the ventilated nipple and the lid. It was difficult to mess up bottle preparation, even under sleep-deprived circumstances. An anti-colic system built into the nipple helps gassy babies without adding extra parts or contraptions to clean.
At less than $10 per bottle (depending on size and quantity ordered) you can’t go wrong starting with this bottle and changing brands if your baby disagrees with latching and feeding.
Of course, the Philips AVENT Natural isn’t perfect. It is, after all, made of plastic. If chemical concerns still linger, Philips produces an AVENT Natural Glass bottle that includes the same-sized nipples as its plastic cousin. We also recommend optional sleeves for the fumbling baby hands.
Who Else Likes It
On Amazon, the reviews for the Philips AVENT series are some of the most consistent we have seen, especially compared to their Classic series.
- The 4oz bottles in 2 and 4 packs are rated 4.5 with over 200 reviews.
- The 9oz and 11oz bottles available in multipacks are rated 4.6 with over 600 customer reviews.
- The AVENT Natural Glass Bottles are rated 4.1 with over 1400 reviews from verified purchases.
Avent Natural also offers two Gift Sets:
- The Natural Infant Starter Set has a very high 4.6 rating out of 5 stars for over 600 reviews. The five-star reviews account for 84 percent of the total ratings. This is the highest among any of the available bottle starter sets on Amazon. This set includes a formula dispenser, AVENT Soothie Pacifier (0-3m), a branded bottle brush, 2 – 9oz bottles with included slow flow nipples, and 3 – 4oz bottles with included newborn nipples.
- The Essentials Baby Bottle Gift Set is rated 4.4 with over 200 reviews. This includes a Microwave Sterilizer, 2 Soothie Pacifiers, a bottle brush, 2 – 4oz bottles with newborn nipples, and 2 – 9oz bottles with slow flow nipples.
Lansinoh mOmma Breastmilk Feeding Bottle
This bottle was released more recently and one we are super happy to see available to breast and bottle feeders. This bottle is compatible with Lansinoh breast pumps making them a great pump and store option.
Their trademarked NaturalWave nipple is one of the most flexible we've seen. It mimics the natural shape of a mother's nipple during breastfeeding.
Both the 5 and 8oz bottles have high rating across all baby retailers. On Amazon, the mOmma bottles have over 1000 verified purchases with 80% of those being a full five starts (it has an overall rating of 4.6). On Target it is rated 4.8 with over 250 reviews. It has a 5-star rating on BabiesRUs with over 350 reviews. And on BuyBuyBaby they are holding steady at 4.7 with over 200 reviews.
The LUXURY PICK
If you’d prefer a more boob-like bottle, the Comotomo has a squishy silicone body and super wide nipple that make it more similar to the real thing.
While we love the Tommee Tippee for its simple, useful design and affordability, we think some breastfed babies may prefer the Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle. Its squishy silicone body and super wide nipple make it a bit more boob-like and easier for little hands to grasp.
Like the Tommee Tippee, the Comotomo only has four parts (no venting), which makes it easy to clean and assemble. It comes in 150 and 250 millimeter sizes. The Comotomo is rated 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon with over 2000 reviews! Reviewers overwhelmingly recommend it for finicky breastfed babies. Baby Gear Lab also chose this as their “editors choice” because of its breast-like qualities.
We did find that lint and stray pet hair tended to stick to the silicone exterior. One Amazon reviewer also complained about a strange plasticky odor emanating from the bottle, even after multiple washes.
Ultimately, we think most babies will be happy with the much cheaper Tommee Tippee. But if you willing to splurge a little more for a bottle that works, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed with Comotomo.
Medela Breastmilk Bottle Set
As always, we want to keep parents in mind across ALL price points. We acknowledge that sometimes it isn't necessary to have all the gizmos and gadgets. A budget bottle can easily be adopted into your bottle feeding regime if you're not keen on spending $10-15 for a single bottle.
That's why we're recommending the Medela Breastmilk Bottle Feeding Set. You can pump directly into the bottle, store them in the fridge or freezer with included storage lids, and use for feeding rather effortlessly. They come in 5 and 8oz sizes making them a great transitional bottle as well. They're functional and highly affordable compared to some of the other bottle sets available.
In our most recent Small Business Spotlight, we were pleased to discover and test out Flipsi Bottle.
This silicone bottle is flexible, making it easy to expel air prior to feeding to minimize colic and gassiness. The body also flips inside out making it super easy to clean.
The bottle nipples are also wide, with the availability of increased flows, to help minimize breast to bottle confusion.
Please note: the price indicated on the left is for the Flipsi two pack. A single 8oz Flipsi Bottle is also available to purchase through Amazon or the Flipsi website.
We tested these bottles, but for various reasons did not choose them:
Pura Kiki Stainless Infant Bottle — We don’t like that you can’t see the contents of the bottle. This was the only bottle my babysitter sent back with precious breastmilk still in it (because she didn’t realize it wasn’t empty). A few of our testers also found the lid difficult to screw on. This bottle seems like it would make a better choice for a toddler with the sippy cup attachment.
Born Free Glass Bottle with ActiveFlow Venting — This was the second favorite of the glass bottles we tested. Overall, we found the venting unnecessary and we’d likely lose the extra parts. One tester also found the anti-colic valve cumbersome.
Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Standard Glass Bottle — This had the most complicated venting of the bottles we tried. We didn’t like that you need to clean the venting with a mini brush. If you choose not to use the venting, the bottle will leak.
MAM Anti-Colic Bottle — We found this bottle, which you fill from the bottom, prone to leaking. The venting for this bottle has many parts, which testers found tricky to clean properly.
Think Baby Bottle — Although one of our testers liked that this bottle is lightweight, others felt that it was cheaply constructed. Think sent us their “Thinker System,” which converts the baby bottle into a sippy cup. My daughter liked the sippy cup, but after she threw it on the ground multiple times I noticed that a plastic piece on the nipple ring broke off.
Playtex VentAire Bottle — This was one of two bottles that only I tried. Like the other bottles with venting, I found the VentAire’s many parts a little cumbersome to put together, as did my husband.
Playtex Drop-Ins Premium Nurser — This was the second bottle that only I tried in our test group. Although I’d read positive reviews that the drop-in liners make these bottles easy for daycare (since you don’t need to clean the bottle), I found the drop-ins wasteful. At nearly $8 for a box of 100 liners, this system also adds significantly to the cost of this bottle.
Medela Breastmilk Bottle — The shape made it possible to get every last bit of milk out of this bottle and it was prone to leaking.
We also considered these alternatives from manufacturers, but ultimately do not recommend them.
Munchkin Latch BPA-Free Baby Bottle – Many reviews mentioning the collapsing nipple and the venting system place at the bottom of the bottle (and difficult to clean) discouraged any chances of this bottle.
Kleen Kanteen Baby Bottle — This didn’t get higher editorial or user reviews than the stainless steel Pura Kiki bottle and was also more expensive than that bottle.
Adiri Natural Nurser — Similar to the Comotomo, this bottle is made of soft silicone and has a wide, boob-like nipple. However, we read multiple reviews about catastrophic leakage.
Evenflo Glass Bottle — We didn’t find any editorial recommendations for this bottle and it didn’t receive higher user reviews than the bottles we opted test.
The First Year’s GumDrop Wide-Neck Bottles — This bottle did not receive higher user reviews than the bottles we tested.
The First Year’s Breast Flow Bottle — Multiple Amazon reviewers complained about this bottle leaking. It also did not receive higher editorial or user reviews than the bottles we tested.
Philips AVENT BPA Free Classic Polypropylene Bottle — Many Amazon complaints about these bottles leaking. The refreshed AVENT Natural is our pick.
Nuby Non-Drip Bottles — Parents.com said the nipple on this bottle is prone to collapsing during feeding. Multiple Amazon reviewers also complained about leaking.
Getting Your Baby to Take a Bottle
As a new parent, it can sometimes feel like you need a baby whisperer to get your little one to latch to a bottle. Your best chance of success may come down to introducing one early.
“I recommend not waiting too long before you start,” said Dr. Jennifer Shu. “If you’re dedicated to breast feeding—which is great—your tendency may be to not also introduce a bottle. What I suggest is to have moms pump some breast milk and give it to their baby in a bottle maybe once a week or more if they want to—once a night, if they want their partner to help out. Try not to get the baby so used to just the breast that they refuse to take anything else.”
And what about potential nipple confusion? “I think it’s overrated. I almost never see it,” said Dr. Shu. “I see far more babies that can go from breast to bottle to pacifier than kids who get really confused.” She stressed, however, that establishing breastfeeding exclusively within the first week or two is important, but after that it’s fine to introduce a bottle.
Care, Use, Maintenance, and Repair
Unlike in our grandparents’ day, you don’t need to sterilize bottles after each use. Unless you’re using water that might be contaminated with harmful bacteria, you can simply wash them with hot, soapy water either by hand or in the dishwasher, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of course, always wash your hands before handling your baby’s bottle.
Bottles and nipples should be washed thoroughly after each use and allowed to air dry completely. This reduces the chance of bacteria growing in leftover milk or even water. Some parents like to sterilize the nipples and bottle parts immediately prior to feeding. Sterilization bags or a microwave steam sterilizer are great options to accomplish this. You can read more in our guide about the Best Bottle Sterilizer.
To reduce the chance of plastic bottles leaching chemicals, Dr. Neal Langerman recommends disposing of bottles that are scratched. And as with all plastic storage containers, it’s best not to microwave plastic baby bottles or heat them unnecessarily. “I don’t put them in the dishwasher,” said Dr. Jennifer Shu, “I only sterilize them the first time.”
- Chun Z. Yang, Most Plastic Product Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Health Problem That Can Be Solved, Environmental Health Perspectives, July 1, 2011
- Emily E Stevens, et al, A History of Infant Feeding, The Journal of Perinatal Education, Spring 2009
- Lindsay Ellis, The Best Baby Bottle Review, Baby Gear Lab, December 12, 2012
- Babble Blogger Favorites: Best Baby Bottles of 2013, Babble, April 10, 2013
- The Best Baby Bottles, BabyCenter
- Heather Eng, 15 BPA-Free Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups, Parents.com
- Sterilizing and Warming Bottles, HealthyChildren.org, last updated October 31, 2013
- Zena Barakat, Ask Well: How to Clean Baby Bottles, New York Times, December 18, 2013
- Ambernectar13, Photo: "Things on water", Flickr, January 10th, 2012
- Flipsi Bottle, September 2017