How to Choose the Perfect Baby Bottle

The top 9 baby bottle contenders used by tiny tested for our Best Baby Bottle showdown.
Article By:
Juliet Spurrier, MD, Lindsay Ellis & Wendy Schmitz

Last Updated:
Friday
September 22, 2017

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How do you choose the right bottle for baby? How do you know which nipple type or materials are best? We took 9 of the most popular baby bottles on the market and handed them over to tiny testers and their parents to discover which bottles are the best of the bunch and why. During testing, we learned what makes a bottle stand out from the competition and which had features that failed to perform as well as expected. This article is designed to help you make the best bottle buying decision for your baby by walking you step-by-step through the process of elimination to find the best option.

Our complete review of the best baby bottles is a great place to start reading if you want more information on the types of bottles we tested and how each bottle ranked against the competition. You may also be interested in our related article, Are Plastics Safe for Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups?.

Little tester easily feeding himself with the grip-able silicone Comotomo.
Little tester easily feeding himself with the grip-able silicone Comotomo.

Why Buy a Bottle?


A newborn has to eat, and the options are breast, bottle, or a combination of the two. Buying a baby bottle might seem like an obvious purchase if you plan to use formula, but it might not be the first thought you have if you are breastfeeding and concerned about nipple confusion, or baby being able to latch properly. However, no matter what, or how, you plan to feed your baby, a bottle is an essential baby gear item, and here is why:
  • Provide mom with much-needed breaks — Even if mom is planning on breastfeeding, eventually she will need to take time away from baby either for her sanity for the sake of real world responsibilities. Once baby has established a nursing routine and is good at latching and thriving (3-6 weeks), then parents can introduce a bottle so mom can sleep or slip away with ease.
  • 4 month  15 pound boy drinking from Kiinde Squeeze. This tester did well with the medium flow nipple however it would rotate during feeds causing distraction.
    Help dad and other caregivers bond with baby — Feeding baby is a great opportunity for fathers to bond with their baby and take over some of the workloads from mom so she can rest. Cradling baby and making eye contact while holding a bottle brings baby and dad together in a fashion that is similar to a breastfeeding mom allowing their relationship to grow.
  • The main pocket of the Diaper Dude Messenger II. The bright orange interior fabric was a little hard on the eyes but made it easy to find items inside. We packed it to the brim with supplies for baby.
    Convenience and transportability — Being able to feed the baby when mom is not around will be a necessity at some point, and being able to carry around a bottle for baby on the go will help increase freedom for both parents on the go. An easy to use bottle can make an outing with dad a huge success instead of a frustrated, hungry failure.
  • 6.5 month girl enjoying a meal from the Tommee Tippee Feeding bottle with Level 2 nipple.
    Provide skill building time for baby --Being able to hold a bottle and learning to tilt and rotate as necessary for feeding helps baby learn hand-eye coordination, grip strength, and independence in a way that is self-motivating and takes little encouragement when baby has developed enough to make this transition.
  • Formula Feeding Only — Whether you have decided to feed formula from the beginning, or your breastfeeding dreams don't work out, you'll need a bottle to feed your baby. It is much easier to have a few on hand to test out than feeling desperate if nursing isn't working or your little one doesn't accept your original choice.

Finding the right bottle that baby likes, and you can live with, is likely going to be more complicated than you initially thought with many little ones struggling to use different types of bottles or nipples. Buying a bottle isn't as simple as grabbing a cheap one off the shelf and hitting the checkout line, and knowing what to look for and which features you should consider can be the difference between finding the perfect fit or spending a lot on bottles you'll never use.


This video features the NUK baby bottle and shows nice bottle latch facilitated by a wide-mouth nipple.

Do not buy a bundle!
We recommend parents buy only one of any potential bottle that seems like a good fit to see how your baby responds before spending more money on multiples. While some retailers, like Amazon, allow for easy returns, not many will accept a used bottle and still offer you a refund. Buying one will limit your outgoing cash until you find the perfect bottle for your baby.

Types of Bottles


The bottles we tested for this review vary in their shape, materials used, nipple design, and vents and valves. There are a few differences in bottles you should know about, especially if up until now you thought a bottle is a bottle is a bottle.

Bottle Body Material

  • The Tommee Tippee bottle is made of plastic with a silicone nipple.
    Plastic — Plastic bottles are lightweight, budget-friendly, and easy to transport. These bottles usually have volume markings on the outside of the body or liner, and they have silicone nipples with plastic collars. Some offer internal venting systems with plastic components. For more information on plastic and the potential for even BPA plastic to leach chemicals, please read our article on is plastic safe for bottles and sippy cups?
  • Editors' Choice Lifefactory glass baby bottle with silicone sleeve  here in 4 ounce size.
    Glass — Glass bottles are normally heavier than plastic and easier to break, but they are also often easier to clean, harder to scratch, have a longer lifespan, and are eco-healthy. These bottles often cost more, are sometimes harder for baby to hold, and usually, have a narrower nipple. They have silicone sleeves and nipples, plastic collars, and silicone or plastic venting systems. Bottles were originally made of glass before plastic came on the scene and this material still offers superior performance and attributes over plastic.
  • Stainless Steel — Stainless steel is an eco-healthy option that is easy to clean, recyclable, and has a long lifespan. While the bottles might be heavier than plastic, they are often lighter than glass, and some come with silicone sleeves similar to those found on some glass bottles. Stainless steel products won awards in our sippy cup reviews, but we opted not to include stainless options for infant baby bottles because you can't see through the bottle to see how much milk the baby has taken. In addition, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine noted in their 2010 paper, Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants (pdf), that "steel containers were associated with a marked decline in cell count and cell viability when compared to polyethylene and to glass." We like the Pura Kiki stainless steel bottle when used as a sippy, and it won awards in both our transition sippy cup review, as well as in our sippy cup review and our review of kid's water bottles. With the change of mouthpiece, the Kiki becomes a bottle.
  • Comotomo
    Silicone — While rare, there is at least one bottle body made of silicone. This material is lightweight, easy to clean, scratch resistant and pliable. Silicone doesn't break if dropped, can be washed in the dishwasher, and heated in a bottle warmer. It is generally considered a safe material for baby, and the silicone bottle we tested was rather impressive. The Comotomo is a cool option with a breast-like nipple shape, and made almost entirely of silicone with a basic vent in the nipple. It has very few parts, is easy to clean, and has no plastic in contact with your baby's food.

Bottle body types can come in a variety of shapes from contoured for easier holding to simple cylinders. Some have wide neck openings that make milk transfer and cleaning easy, while others have narrow openings that are hard to clean even with a bottle brush and can lead to spillage when filling.

A Note on Plastic
In a study published in Environmental Health, researchers found that some types of plastics still potentially leach estrogenic chemicals even if they are BPA free.

Many unstressed and stressed, PC-replacement-products made from acrylic, polystyrene, polyethersulfone, and Tritan™ resins leached chemicals with EA, including products made for use by babies. Exposure to various forms of UV radiation often increased the leaching of chemicals with EA.

For more on plastics and why they give us pause, please read our article on Are Plastics Safe for Bottles and Sippy Cups?.

Nipples


Nipples come in two basic types, but their venting and valve systems come in almost as many options as there are bottles. All the nipples we tested were silicone, and the primary differences are that some nipples are relatively narrow in shape and others are larger and more mound like to more closely mimic an actual breast.
  • The Lifefactory nipple has ridges in the bottom that work as a venting system. Users need to avoid tightening the collar too tight or it won't work properly and can cause nipple collapse.
    Narrow — You can often find smaller nipples on bottles with narrow necks, and this makes the bottle itself hard to clean. These nipples can be harder for the baby to latch onto, but in our tests, we found that most babies were able to take to a narrow nipple and go back to the breast with ease. The narrow nipples usually don't have vents in the nipple, like some of the wider options.
  • The nipple on the Comotomo is dual vented to help avoid colic  gas  and spit ups.
    Breast Like — These nipples are wider on the base and typically come with a wider neck bottle body which is a plus for cleaning. Breast like nipples claim to be more baby friendly and easier for latching, we found that most babies managed both types equally well, but would be inclined to recommend larger breast like nipples for infants that struggled to learn a good latch or who have troubles nursing in general.

The nipple on the Tommee Tippee is wider than the narrower options found on some of the competition  and it has a single air vent (seen here at the top of the nipple).
The nipple on the Tommee Tippee is wider than the narrower options found on some of the competition, and it has a single air vent (seen here at the top of the nipple).

Vents and Valves


Vents and valves all claim some level of prevention when it comes to air ingestion. Whether it is simple vents in the nipple or a multi-part system inside the bottle, they all say they help decrease colic, gas, burping and spit up. The reduction of air ingestion is somewhat difficult to judge even in detailed testing, and we didn't see much difference in any of the options we tested. We think it is an interesting addition and potentially indicates a higher quality bottle, but given that we didn't see much difference in our tiny testers we aren't sure that parents should use this features as a primary reason to buy one bottle over another. Alternatively, we also feel that some systems, like the one found in Dr. Brown's bottle, are so complicated that there is room for error in the assembly that could lead to leaking, they require special brushes to clean, and they have components made of plastic that comes in contact with the liquid inside the bottle, somewhat negating the use of a glass bottle.

Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Glass has 6 parts that combine to create a functioning bottle with anti-colic venting.
Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Glass has 6 parts that combine to create a functioning bottle with anti-colic venting.

In an ideal world we would like a glass bottle body, with a silicone sleeve, few parts, and a wide mouth opening. A simple vent or valve design without plastic components sitting in baby's food and a nipple that is more like a real breast that is easy for baby to latch on would also be a plus.

How to Choose the Best Baby Bottle


Taking a step by step approach is the best way to find the right bottle. Avoid being swayed or overwhelmed by friendly recommendations or bottles given to you as hand me downs. While both of these are a great place to start, it doesn't mean they will be the option that meets your goals or baby's needs.

Editors' Choice Lifefactory glass baby bottle with silicone sleeve  here in 4 ounce size.
Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Glass
 

First, Choose Materials


The photos above show the glass varieties we tested in this review. From left to right they are Lifefactory, Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Glass, and the Philips AVENT Natural Glass.

Given that this is baby's first real exposure to potential chemicals in the world and their source of nutrition will be sitting in this bottle potentially for hours, it makes sense to give priority and thought to the material of the container body. As stated earlier we prefer glass for baby bottles with silicone running a close second and plastic bringing up the rear.

The glass material used in the bottles we looked at is thermal and shock resistant and eco-healthy without any risk of potential chemicals leaching into the contents. We like that glass is easy to clean, heat, and healthy for babies. The Lifefactory glass bottle is lighter than the Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Glass, and comes with a silicone sleeve not found on the Philips AVENT Natural Glass bottle. Also, we didn't have any leaking with the Lifefactory bottle and babies in our tests seem to like the nipple and had no difficulty holding the bottle. With concerns over chemicals in plastic, we aren't big fans and feel that parents should limit exposure to plastic whenever possible. Alternatively, the silicone body in the Comotomo is also a viable option given the lack of data on potential health impacts of medical grade silicone.

The nipple on Dr. Brown's is narrow  but has interior ridges to help avoid nipple collapse.
While the neck of the AVENT bottle is fairly wide  the nipple is not as large as some of the competition like the Comotomo or the Tommee Tippee.
The ridges inside the nipple help create a flexible natural movement to the nipple on the Tommee Tippee.
The nipple on the Comotomo is dual vented to help avoid colic  gas  and spit ups.
 

Second, Choose Nipple Style


The photos above show a variety of nipple styles and sizes. From left to right these are: Dr. Brown's, Philips AVENT, Tommee Tippee, and Comotomo.

Once you've narrowed down your body material, the next big question is what type of nipple will best suit your baby. In general, the thought is the more breast like nipples work well for little ones transitioning from the breast to a bottle and likely back to the breast to avoid confusion. There is some truth to this belief and for babies that struggled to obtain a good latch to being with it can be a big deal to find the right nipple that allows for a similar latch, so they don't lose their latching capabilities.

Nursing mothers should wait to introduce a bottle to their infant until they establish a consistent nursing routine and baby is thriving. Established nursing usually happens somewhere between three and six weeks, but you should postpone bottle introduction if your little one is still struggling to latch correctly. If in doubt, or baby isn't gaining weight as expected, we suggest you check with your pediatrician before starting baby on a bottle to avoid increasing confusion and causing feeding troubles that could negatively impact your little one's ability to thrive.

The nipple on the Munchkin has accordian type ridges in the lower neck portion so the nipple will angle supposedly for better feeding.
The nipple on the Munchkin has accordian type ridges in the lower neck portion so the nipple will angle supposedly for better feeding.

The narrow nipple style didn't cause much trouble for our little testers, though the mound style nipples do allow for a more natural latch and feeding position for baby. In the end, it is probably going to be more up to baby than you on which style he or she is likely to accept. We suggest starting with a larger nipple if possible and moving to a narrow style if their baby has difficulty or seems up for anything. The Comotomo has the most breast-like design in this review both in look and feel. The Lifefactory nipple is narrower than most in the group, but this applies to the majority of glass bottles except the AVENT. The AVENT has a larger nipple, but the bottle leaks, making the tradeoff annoying for parents and baby and disappointing in our minds. The Munchkin Latch has accordion ridges along the bottom that should help angle the bottle for easier feeding, but we weren't fond of how it performed in real life, with some babies continually rotating the bottle to accommodate the angle. The Tommee Tippee has a nipple that is well liked by many testers, but the plastic bottle makes it less desirable than a glass or silicone option. However, it is very budget friendly, so depending on your needs it might be an excellent choice.

The nipple on the Comotomo is wider and has more of a breast type mound to the design for easier latching. It also has dual vents in the nipple that claim to decrease the amount of air available for baby to ingest.
The nipple on the Comotomo is wider and has more of a breast type mound to the design for easier latching. It also has dual vents in the nipple that claim to decrease the amount of air available for baby to ingest.

Third, To Vent or not to Vent


After choosing body materials and nipple styles, you've probably landed on one or even two options and don't need any other performance metrics or attributes to help break a tie. Sometimes, if you've hit upon a couple of choices, it might benefit you and baby to buy one of each to see which your baby prefers before committing. However, if by some fluke you've made it this far and have several options to pick from you might want to consider what kind of vent or valve system the bottle has. We think simple is better given that the more complicated options are hard to clean, are often made of plastic, or could lead to leaking if installed or assembled incorrectly. In our tests, we didn't see any significant reduction in symptoms of air ingestion for any of the products. So while we feel most options probably do improve babies feeding experience, they seem to be about the same, and even the simplest dual vent located in the nipple appears to work well.

We purchased and tested 9 top baby bottles with real infant testers and their parents for our Best Baby Bottle review.
We purchased and tested 9 top baby bottles with real infant testers and their parents for our Best Baby Bottle review.

Conclusion


The world of bottles is convoluted and with advances in design technology the market has become even more confusing that it once was. From plastic to glass, and even disposable liners, there is something for everyone and some things you might want to avoid. In our review of 9 different bottles we think there is an option for every baby, and using the guidelines outlined here, you can find which options are your best bet, even if they didn't win an award.

Dr. Juliet Spurrier is founder and Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab
Juliet Spurrier, MD
About the Author
Dr. Juliet Baciocco Spurrier is a board certified pediatrician, mother of two, and founder of BabyGearLab. Juliet earned her Bachelor of Arts degrees in Anthropology and Italian Literature from the University of California at Berkeley and her Medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine in Washington DC. She completed her pediatric residency at the Doernbecher Children's Hospital at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, OR, and subsequently practiced pediatrics in both the Pacific Northwest and Silicon Valley. Juliet serves as Mom-in-Chief at BabyGearLab, where she oversees all baby product review activity, assuring that each review delivers on our commitment to quality.

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