It doesn’t take much to bottle-feed your baby. “All you really need is the bottle, nipple, and breast milk or formula,” says Hannah Chow-Johnson, MD, a pediatrician at Loyola University Medical Center.
But a number of devices can make the process of preparing and cleaning those bottles easier.
Since newborns need to eat every 2 to 4 hours, a few minutes spared at each feeding can add up. “If a gadget makes your life easier as a new parent, it may be well worth it,” Chow-Johnson says.
To help you decide what products are most useful, you’ll want the run-down on six popular bottle-feeding devices.
1. Formula Maker
This machine does all of the prep work with the press of a button: It heats water and mixes it with the right amount of powder formula.
“Babies usually prefer a warm bottle, which mimics the temperature of breast milk,” Chow-Johnson says.
Some brands bring the water to a boil first. “Clean tap water is often fine to mix with formula,” says Julie L. Capiola, MD, a pediatrician at NYU Langone Medical Center. If you’re uncertain about the safety of your H20, bring it to a rolling boil for 1 minute or less, and let it cool to room temperature for no longer than 30 minutes.
You should also opt for boiled or bottled water if either of these reasons apply:
- Your city’s water supply is contaminated. In some cases, some bacteria or viruses may sneak through the cleaning process. You should receive a
“boil water” notice. But it’s best to contact your local health department to make sure your local tap water is safe before using it in your baby’s formula.
- You use well water that hasn’t been tested. It may contain nitrates or lead, which are dangerous for infants. Boiling won’t remove these compounds, so you may need to use bottled water.
A formula maker isn’t necessary, but it’s helpful, Capiola says. “You don’t have to measure everything out, which is handy during those middle-of-the-night feedings.”
2. Formula Dispenser
When you’re out and about, measuring out formula can be a pain.
These small containers are divided into different sections, so you’ll have a few servings of pre-portioned formula on hand.
“You can pour it right into a bottle and add water,” Capiola says.
Just make sure that you follow the recommended amounts on the formula package. Watering down those bottles can mean that your baby doesn’t get enough nutrients. It can also lead to a condition called water intoxication, which can cause seizures.
3. Sterilization Bag
You need to sterilize bottles and nipples before you use them for the first time.
You can run them through a dishwasher cycle or boil them for at least 5 minutes.
Another option is to steam-clean them in a sterilization bag: Pop them into the bag with some water, and zap in the microwave for a few minutes.
“These bags are convenient if you’re away home,” Capiola says. “If you’re a working mom, you can use the bag to clean your pumping equipment in the office.”
There’s no need to deep clean bottles and nipples after each use. “You can simply wash them with soap and hot water,” Capiola says.
The exception: If your baby has an infection, such as thrush, sterilize them daily.
4. Bottle Brush and Drying Rack
These tools might make washing bottles easier. “The brush is tailored to reach inside the bottle and clean the crevices,” Chow-Johnson says. But it’s important to have a separate dishwashing brush, so you won’t transfer germs or grease from those plates to your baby’s bottle, she says.
Most bottle-drying racks have tiers that you can place the bottles on, saving you space in the kitchen. “It’s nice to have, but not essential,” Chow-Johnson says.
5. Cooling Bag
If you’re traveling with breast milk or prepared formula, you’ll need an insulated bag and ice pack. You can keep cooled breast milk for up to 24 hours in this way. For formula, check the manufacturer’s guidelines on how long you can store it.
These cooling bags have specific pockets for bottles, but Capiola says any cooler or insulated bag and ice pack will work.
6. Bottle Warmer
If your baby likes warm milk, this small gadget can save you step. Instead of using running water or a pan of hot water, you can place it right into a bottle warmer. It uses hot water or steam to heat up the bottle.
Whatever warming method you choose, don’t pop the bottle in the microwave: It heats unevenly and leads to super-hot pockets in the formula, which may burn your baby, Chow-Johnson says. “You can test the temperature by putting a little on the inside of your wrist.”