If you read my breastfeeding story with Hector here on Rock My Family a couple of months ago then you’ll already know that I hoped to breastfeed him until he was about six months or until I felt happy to stop. As we all know, the best-laid plans often go awry and it so happened that Hector ended up being bottle fed (albeit with breastmilk to begin with) from the first week.
I was heartbroken that I wasn’t able to breastfeed (more about that in the post above) but I was incredibly lucky to have a lovely group of very generous friends who had purchased a whole heap of useful things prior to me giving birth. Combine this with a super practical mother and my control freak tendencies and I unknowingly had pretty much all the equipment I needed to go down the bottle feeding road without having to dash out to the shops for more supplies in the first couple of weeks.
This post isn’t about debating the pros and cons of breastfeeding versus bottle feeding; you lot already know that a fed baby is a happy baby whichever method is used. Instead this post is about providing you lovelies with a handy checklist and our snippets of advice gleaned from our own experiences for the mamas out there. We hope that this will help those of you who are about to embark on a bottle feeding journey whether that be with a newborn or with a baby making a transition from breast to bottle.
Probably the best place to start is with bottles themselves and folks it is a jungle out there! I can only recommend those brands I’ve personally experienced or those tried and tested by close friends of mine. First up then has to be Avent which I used throughout Hector’s own bottle feeding journey. I opted for Avent’s Natural baby bottle range buying both the 260ml and 125ml sizes, the latter being perfect for early newborn stages before moving up to the bigger bottles as Hector grew. In total I had about 6 of the smaller size bottles and then about 8 of the larger so that I always had a couple close to hand without having to constantly wash up bottles for the next meal. It also meant I could sterilise in bulk too.
As Hector moved onto solely formula milk, having all those spare bottles meant I could fill all of them up with boiled water and allow them to cool ready for formula to be added as required.
I was lucky in that Hector didn’t suffer from either reflux or colic so we didn’t need to invest in specialist bottles but I’ve heard lots of good things about Dr Brown’s Natural flow bottle for Colic relief and also about Medela’s Calma bottles which are said to imitate the sucking behaviour of the baby at the breast. Having seen the teat in action I have to say that it looks fairly impressive and I can see how it can help to reduce nipple confusion – I’d love to hear what you mamas have to say if you’ve had any prior experience of them.
Not a huge amount to say about teats other than what’s already been said above. Just make sure that you have enough for the number of bottles purchased and that they’re appropriate for your child’s needs. Don’t be lulled into thinking that your child should move up to the next level of teat just because he or she has grown older either. Hector only moved up to size three teats when he was 11 months old since he found the flow too fast for his little mouth at a younger age.
Muslins & Bibs
I had literally hundreds of muslins (you can never have too many) purchased for me by friends and family when I was pregnant but by far and away my favourites were some plain white numbers by Mamas and Papas. They were super soft and amazingly absorbent – which I found wasn’t always the case with cheaper ones – and these were the ones I regularly reached for in the muslin drawer.
From a practical perspective I tended to keep to the all white spectrum as it meant I could wash them in bulk at a higher temperature without worrying about colours running. But for those of you who like a bit of colour in your life I particularly like these supersized ones from Mamas and Papas which can also be used as playtime blankets and changing mat covers. Aden & Anais are supposed to be top dog on the muslin cloth front but I’ve not had any personal experience; these jungle themed versions are cute though.
Equally bibs are another personal preference. Certainly when Hector was very small, I forwent bibs in favour of a muslin tucked under his chin, it was easier for me and softer on his skin too. When he started teething we purchased these farmyard inspired bibs to keep the drool at bay.
One of my best friends bought me the very sexy steam steriliser from Avent and presented it to me during my baby shower to excited yelps of glee from me. Yep that’s how exciting my life had become at eight months pregnant. I hadn’t envisaged cracking it open quite so early on after Hector was born but it was an absolute godsend and did its job perfectly every single time.
It’s currently in storage to be used at some point further down the line and still looks as good as new. From a practical perspective I found that I could get a substantial amount loaded in during each sterilising session without packing it too tightly to compromise its effectiveness. I’d pre-wash all of Hector’s bottle-feeding equipment first with hot soapy water and then sterilise it afterwards. Bottles can be placed in the bottom compartment and smaller items such as teats and dummies lined up in the top section.
If you’re someone looking to sterilise via microwave then this version from Tommy Tippee holds four bottles and sterilises all accessories in 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the wattage of the microwave. For total convenience, the contents stay sterile for 24 hours if the lid is left unopened. Equally these microwave steam bags from Medela disinfect breastfeeding accessories and bottles and tubes in less than three minutes and can be reused up to 20 times.
If you prefer cold sterilising then these tablets from Milton are a safe and convenient way to cold water sterilise your babies equipment in just 15 minutes. They are said to kill viruses, bacteria, fungi and spores and the baby safe formula means there is no need to rinse after sterilisation.
Vital for scrubbing away old milk and preventing build-up and a breeding ground for bacteria, a bottle brush will be your best friend throughout your bottle feeding adventures. I rate the Avent one highly from experience but I also like the look of the version from Dr Brown’s. Featuring a combination sponge and bristle brush head for thorough, easy cleaning of bottles and it also combines chevron channels at the base of the brush to clean teats.
Alternatively I also recommend forcing washing up liquid and water through the holes in the teats (with clean hands of course) to ensure there’s no milk left behind to block up holes.
Breast Pump and/or Formula
There’s not really much to be said about formula here other than make sure you’ve got the right formula for your baby’s needs if you’re choosing to bottle feed and enough of it. I always make sure I have a back-up box in the house just in case I run out of the box I’m currently using unexpectedly.
Even if you’re intending to breastfeed you’ll find that there might be times when you’ll need to bottle feed your baby albeit with breastmilk. Whether it’s because you need to go back to work, you’re popping out on a rare night out or perhaps have succumbed to a nasty bout of mastitis, chances are that you’ll express at some point. I know some girls who are, incredibly, able to hand-express but for the rest of us a pump will do the trick admirably. A friend purchased this hand-held pump for me which I expected to use on the odd occasion here and there and which was my saving grace in the early days before moving over to a hospital grade electrical pump that prevented my arms from becoming scarily like popeye’s!
If you’re keen to buy your very own electric pump then I 110% recommend the Medela Swing which I’ve heard is excellent from pretty much every single one of my friends. Its small and compact design is easy to use, transport and store and you can opt to use the machine with batteries if you’re not near a mains plug. You can also buy storage bottles from the same brand to keep the milk in or storage bags from Lansinoh that you can pop in the freezer for use at a later date.
Bottle warmers. Now this could be considered a frippery rather than an essential but I’m inclined to pop it into the latter category. Technically it is just as practical to pop a bottle in a jug of hot water requested from a cafe or restaurant while you’re out and about and at home you can create your optimum milk temperature from a mixture of recently boiled water and cooler boiled water. This is great in theory but when your baby is born near the tail end of Autumn and has a particular penchant for very warm milk you often find yourself despairing about the length of time it takes to warm a bottle up. Combine that with a resistance from some establishments about giving you boiling water and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect storm.
I heartily wished I’d just bitten the bullet and bought a travel bottle warmer and really the same applies for an ‘at-home’ version too. It would have saved so many tears and reduced my stress levels hugely.
Obviously there are different models for different bottles but I liked the fact that Philips’ Avent baby bottle warmer is able to warm milk quickly and evenly in just 3 minutes and features a defrost setting and can also be used to warm baby food.
Equally the travel version from Tommy Tippee holds enough water to warm up two feeds when you’re out for the day, keeping water warm for up to 6 hours whilst you’re mobile.
Handy for when you’re on the move, simply pop your required amount of formula into this powder dispenser and off you go. There are lots of different types of formula containers on the market but I loved Avent’s handy little unit which carries three pre-measured portions of milk powder in separate compartments. Just pour the powder into a bottle of pre-boiled cooled water as required and off you go; the inner sections can also be removed so that the whole thing can be used as a bowl or container later on in your baby’s weaning journey.
We didn’t actually purchase a bottle rack for Hector’s bottles as they tended to dry out in the steriliser to begin with and then when Hector reached about 11 months we switched to the dishwasher which again dries everything as part of the cycle. That said I know plenty of friends who sterilised using fluids rather than by steam or microwave methods and needed something to dry their multiple bottles on.
Munchkin seem to have cornered the market with their Sprout and Deluxe drying racks which are able to hold bottles, teats, cups, valves and straws as well as a bottle brush. The Deluxe version also folds flat so you can store it away in a snap and the Sprout spins on its base for easy access.
Lastly I would say that it’s worth investing in a washing up bowl just for bottles when you’re washing them by hand in the early days. That way you can pile them up in there ready for a monster bulk wash without cluttering up your sink with baby related paraphernalia.
Hopefully our recipe of bottle feeding essentials will help those of you preparing for your new arrival or act as a guide for those of you transitioning from breast to bottle. We’ve also included a handy checklist as part of this post that you can download and print off to be doubly sure that you’ve got everything whilst shopping. Let us know if there’s anything else you simply couldn’t live without as this might help another mum too.
BOTTLE FEEDING DOWNLOAD
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