What bottles and teats do you need for babies?

There are so many different brands of bottles and teats. Choosing one can feel confusing. Here’s a round-up so you can decide what’s best for you and your baby.

How many bottles and teats do I need?

This will depend on how frequently you’re planning to use bottles to feed your baby. If you’re planning to exclusively express your breastmilk or use formula, as well as sterilising equipment, you might want around four or six bottles and teats to get you started. This is because newborns tend to feed eight to 12 times over 24 hours so you’ll need enough to cover the feeds.

If you plan to use bottles occasionally, or once a day, then it might make sense to buy just one bottle and teat.

If you’re planning to breastfeed, don’t worry too much about buying bottles ‘just in case’. Over 90% of maternity units in the UK are now Baby Friendly Accredited, which means your midwife should be able to support you if you do have any difficulties with breastfeeding straight after birth (Unicef 2017). They’ll help you with hand-expressing your colostrum and feeding it to your baby using a spoon, syringe or feeding cup (Unicef 2017). Find out whether your maternity unit is accredited here.

What size bottle will my baby need?

Most standard bottles hold 225ml (8fl oz) of milk. You can also get smaller ones (4oz) for new babies (Which? 2019). For the first few weeks, newborns feed little and often because their stomachs are so small (Unicef, 2019). Some parents find the smaller bottles more suitable for this period. It’s a personal choice though and a lot will depend on what suits your baby.

Parents who are feeding their baby with formula milk often find that they need to move onto using larger bottles eventually if they start with the smaller ones. Every baby is different so there isn’t a set age for when this should happen (Unicef, 2019). It’s important to follow your baby’s feeding cues and signs that they want more milk, such as starting to get restless or sucking on their fists or fingers (NHS, 2015; Unicef, 2016).

What type of feeding bottle is best?

Since 2011, the European Commission has banned the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles. This was due to concerns that the chemical could leach out of the plastic and be absorbed by babies. None of the bottles for sale in the UK should have BPA (NCT, 2011).

Many parents want to know ‘which brand of baby bottle is best?’ The fact is there is no research that suggests one brand of bottle or teats is better than another. It’s down to you and your baby to see what works for you. Here’s an overview of the main types of bottles available on the market.

Basic bottles

These are the standard bottles, often narrow and cylindrical in shape. They’ll usually come with their own teats and lids and are reasonably priced. They are widely available but it can be trickier to fill these narrow-necked bottles (Which? 2019).

Anti-colic bottles

These are pricier bottles and their design is supposed to reduce the likelihood of colic symptoms. These bottles usually have air vents, tubes or collapsible bags for the milk in order to reduce the amount of air swallowed.

It’s important to keep the teat full of milk, whichever bottle you use to decrease the likelihood of your baby swallowing air (NHS, 2018; Unicef, 2019). This is because some babies can become uncomfortable if they swallow air.

Using these bottles isn’t a guaranteed cure but they might help ease the symptoms for some babies. On the other hand, they might be trickier to clean and they don’t work for all babies (Which? 2019).

Wide-necked bottles

These bottles are shorter and fatter than the basic ones but you can put the same amount of milk in them. They usually come with silicone rather than latex teats and have a self-sealing lid.

Some advantages of using these bottles are that they can be easy to fill and clean, and some have anti-colic properties. On the other hand, they can take more space in a steriliser so you probably won’t be able to clean as many bottles at once (Which? 2019).

Ready-to-feed bottles

While powered formula is not sterile and you need to use water that’s at least 70 degrees to prepare it, ‘ready-to-feed’ bottles contain milk that’s already been sterilised (NHS, 2018; Unicef, 2019).

Ready-to-feed bottles can be a convenient short-term solution if parents have been advised to give their baby top-ups on medical advice. They’re more expensive and not great for the environment though (NHS, 2018; Unicef, 2019).

If you are planning to use formula from the start, your local hospital might ask you to bring these types of bottles in, as they might not have the room or facilities to sterilise bottles. Do check with your midwife (NHS 2018 and Unicef 2019).

What teat should I use?

Teats are made from silicone or latex. Silicone is less flexible but more durable than latex which needs to be replaced regularly (Which? 2019).

Some parents are cautious about using latex teats because allergies to latex are increasing worldwide (Kimata, 2004).

There is no independent evidence to suggest that one shape of teat is better than another one. Teats come in either standard shapes (traditional bell shape) or ‘natural’, i.e. one that mimics a nipple. You might have to try both types to see which one your baby prefers (Which? 2019).

To feed comfortably, your baby will need to open their mouth wide and draw in the teat of the bottle (NHS, 2018). This might be easier for a newborn baby if the base of the teat is a medium size. This is so they can make a tight seal around the teat.

When should I change bottle teat size?

Flow rates of teats refer to the size or number of holes in the teat. This affects how quickly milk ‘flows’ from the teat into your baby’s mouth. The categories are slow, medium and fast.

Slow flow is generally preferable for newborns, while you’re both learning to feed. A flow that is too fast might make your baby cough or splutter, or struggle to keep up with the flow of milk so it dribbles to the side of their mouth. This could also mean they feel upset and bring up lots of milk after a feed or swallow air during feeds (NHS 2018)

Once they’re used to bottle-feeding, or seem frustrated by the flow of milk, you could move to a medium flow. Just follow your baby’s lead to see what teat is right for them. Some babies prefer to stay on the slow flow teats for many months. You can also buy variflow teats where the flow rate can be varied (Which? 2019).

Make sure you change the teats regularly and check them too. Once your baby’s teeth start coming through, they can damage teats by chewing them. And this is a potential choking hazard (Which? 2019).

Why is it important to sterilise bottles and teats?

Sterilising bottles is a must for babies under a year because they are more vulnerable to harmful bacteria (Unicef, 2019). This means cleaning and sterilising bottles and teats every time you use them.

Before sterilising, you will need to clean all bottles and teats by hand or in the dishwasher (NHS, 2018). If washing by hand, you will need a separate brush for cleaning bottles and teats (NHS, 2018; Unicef, 2019).

When should I throw away my baby’s bottle?

If you notice that your baby’s bottle is damaged, scratched or cracked, it’s a good idea to replace it.

It’s also recommended that babies stop drinking from bottles with teats by the time they are one year old (NHS Choices, 2015; Oral Health Foundation, 2017). Read more about this here.

This page was last reviewed in May 2019

Further information

We support all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.

Our support line offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Kent JC, Mitoulas L., Cox DB, Owens RA, Hartmann PE (1999) Breast volume and milk production during extended lactation in women, Experimental Physiology 1999 Mar;84(2):435-47

Kimata, H. (2004), Latex allergy in infants younger than 1 year. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 34: 1910-1915. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2222.2004.02128.x

NCT (2011) NCT response: BPA ban https://www.nct.org.uk/about-us/news-and-views/news/nct-response-bpa-ban (Accessed May 2019)

NHS Choices. (2015) Drinks and Cups for Babies and Toddlers. Available from:  http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/drinks-and-cups-children.aspx [Accessed 1st October 2017].

NHS. (2015) Guide to bottle feeding. Available at: h 

NHS (2018) Bottle Feeding Advice
Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/bottle-feeding-advice/ (Accessed May 2019)

Oral Health Foundation. (2017) Caring for Teeth: Children’s Teeth. Available from: https://www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/caring-for-teeth/childrens-teeth [Accessed 1st October 2017].

Unicef UK. (2016) A guide to infant formula for parents who are bottle feeding. Available at: https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/12/Parents-guide-to-infant-formula.pdf [Accessed 26th August 2018].

Unicef (2017) Guide to the Baby Friendly Initiative Standards Available at: https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/02/Guide-to-the-Unicef-UK-Baby-Friendly-Initiative-Standards.pdf [LINK TO https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/02/Guide-to-the-Unicef-UK-Baby-Friendly-Initiative-Standards.pdf]

Unicef (2019) Guide to bottle feeding Leaflet
Available at: https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/baby-friendly-resources/bottle-feeding-resources/guide-to-bottle-feeding/ (Accessed May 2019)

Which? Baby bottles and teats. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/baby-feeding-products/article/buying-baby-feeding-products/baby-bottles-and-teats

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