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Whether you're exclusively bottle feeding or just giving a bottle occasionally, one thing's for sure – you need a lot of stuff. If you're going to introduce a bottle, doctors recommend doing so early (three weeks, if you aren't having problems nursing), so it's stuff you also need right away. Here's my guide to what you do – and don't – need.
// This post was written by The Ranty Mama for Kiss My Tulle //
Don't Buy: A ton of bottles.
Do Buy: One bottle of each of a few brands/types, and keep the receipts.
Here's the thing. You have no clue what your little one will like, dislike, or even take, when it comes to bottles. If you stock up on a ton of one type of bottles, you may luck out and have a great fit for your baby… or you may end up with a bunch of duds that you can't return.
Do your research, and try buying a couple different bottles that have the features you like (anti-colic, natural feel, etc.). Try to make sure the ones you get have different sizes and shapes of nipples, since that will be a big factor in your baby's preference. Save the receipts, and try them out one at a time.
Even better, if you have recent mom friends, see if you can borrow one of their bottles to start out, and try to borrow a few different types from a couple friends just in case some of them don't work out.
Once you find the one that works, stock up and sterilize away, and return whatever you didn't need.
This goes for all the related accessories, too – special pump conversion kits, sealing discs, different flow nipples, etc. Hold off until you settle on a bottle that works.
Don't Buy: A giant, fancy sterilizer that will take up room on your counter.
Do Buy: Some microwave steam bags or a microwave sterilizer.
I love specialized appliances. Don't get me wrong. However, unless you have unlimited counter space, or an unlimited budget, you can skip the bottle sterilizer.
We have some microwave steam bags that work great to sterilize new packs of bottles. Each bag can be used a bunch of times – twenty, maybe – so, one pack will last you for some time. Honestly, though, I used a giant pot of boiling water for the first large batch of stuff-to-be-sterilized and now use the dishwasher's sanitizing cycle to take care of the daily bottle load.
I do have a larger microwave sterilizer in case I ever run low on bags – I liked the idea of something I could reuse instead of bags you have to pitch – but we use the dishwasher so much, I haven't even busted that out yet. If your dishwasher gets hot enough to sanitize, you should be all set for most bottles, pump parts, and so on.
Don't Buy: A bottle warmer.
Do Buy: A big cup.
A) If you can get your child to take a variety of bottle temperatures, that will do you a WORLD of good.
B) Even if you can't, you don't need a bottle warmer.
Trust me, I looked at all the reviews for basically every single bottle warmer on Amazon. Everything under $50 seems to be “eh”, so decent ones are flat-out expensive. Even those have all sorts of complaints, maybe only fit certain types of bottles, take 10 minutes to heat up, blah blah blah.
We use a cup of really hot water and chuck the whole cold bottle in there. If it's really cold, we dump out the now lukewarm water and replace it with more really hot water. Done and done.
Don't Buy: Cutesy bibs that do nothing but transfer liquid to the clothes beneath.
Do Buy: Good bibs and a lot of them.
I like these because they have a waterproof layer between layers of terry, and they have an extra bump to keep the milk out of neck folds. Green Sprouts also makes a larger set without the bump. I hate doing laundry, so I have two of the big packs, and one of the bumpy ones. As a bonus, I think the “boy” pack of colors is definitely neutral enough for those who are keeping the gender a surprise!
Do Buy: A drying rack, even if your dishwasher has a heat dry setting.
There are so many parts that can get lost (read: the cats), you really need a good drying rack to keep track of things as you wash them. Plus, the bottles have spots that still collect water, regardless of the dishwasher's dry cycle.
I have a big one because I was planning on regularly pumping and needing a place for bottles and pump parts. Honestly, though, if you want something small or for occasional use, this Oxo Tot travel one works great, and includes a brush as a bonus. We used that all the time in our apartment, where counter space was at a premium.
Do Buy: Dishwasher baskets, if washing in the dishwasher.
Again, there are lots of little parts to keep track of, so having a place to put them in the dishwasher is a big help. These give you a whole set for only a couple bucks more than what many charge for one basket.
Do Buy: A good bottle brush, even if using the dishwasher.
I use this one, with these for little parts. We use Born Free bottles, and they make a tray for the nipples that is AWESOME. I don't think it will fit every bottle type, though, so check around to see if your bottle manufacturer makes one, too!
Do Buy: Lots of burp rags. For obvious reasons.
Don't Buy: A pump… at least not without checking your health insurance first. Many plans cover a pump, and possibly storage bags, without any sort of copay. You may need a prescription or other documentation from your doctor, so make sure to check your plan in advance.
Don't Buy: A special (i.e., expensive) cooling case with bottles and unicorns and whatnot from your pump manufacturer.
Do Buy: A basic cooler to tote your bottles around.
Once again, you don't know what types of bottles you'll need, so buying special ones that work with your pump may not be a good investment. Sidenote: Many bottle types do offer conversion kits for pumps that will let you pump right into the bottles you end up using. However, I found it just as easy to either use the bottles that came with the pump and then transfer to a storage bag, because those bottles fit in the bottle holder part of the pump.
I have a basic little cooler bag that has freezer packs to keep everything cool for several hours. You could easily use it for pumped milk – either throw the whole thing in the fridge at work or even keep it at your desk. The freezer packs should keep everything cold long enough to last through your work day.
If you need to make up formula bottles in advance – some child care providers require this – or if you need to let the formula sit before feeding, it's also great for keeping your pre-made formula bottles cold.
I love this little cooler for daycare. I leave the whole thing in their fridge, and they leave the empties in there for me to pick up at the end of the day. It also has little pockets for the daily notes, pacifiers, etc.
However, an insulated lunch bag or cooler would also work just fine. We've actually recently switched to a regular lunch bag because our little bottomless pit is eating three 7 oz. bottles daily at daycare, and three tall bottles in that Munchkin cooler is a tight squeeze if you need the ice packs.
Do Sign Up For: Formula coupons.
Gerber, Enfamil, and Similac all offer websites where you can sign up to receive them. Even if you're breastfeeding/pumping exclusively, the coupons are free, and there's always someone who can use them.
If you're on baby boards, you'll see moms offering coupons to those who need them all the time. The free samples can be donated to local shelters or food pantries, too.
So, even if you won't use formula at all, I'd encourage you to sign up to possibly help another mom out. You never know who might be in need. Worst case, you sell them on eBay, or throw them away.
Don't Buy: A mini can of formula just for your diaper bag, if formula feeding and using powder.
Do Buy: A formula dispenser.
Formula dispensers like these let you pre-portion the amount you need for bottles and they let you use powdered formula from a bigger can, which is often less expensive per ounce. Plus, you can make sure it's fresh by rotating it faster than if you have a dedicated can.
A good friend prefers the little tubes of powder that are pre-portioned but those aren't available for all types of formula.
Also, if you're using powder formula, I'd recommend this on-the-go spoon to stir up bottles. As a mom with a very gassy baby, stirring vs. shaking is crucial.