Breast is best, right? But if you’re going back to work or want to have an afternoon off, you’ll have to pump and bottle feed. And that’s OK! But the big question is, which are the best bottles for breastfed babies?

If you have commitments that will keep you from feeding baby exclusively from the breast, but you want to maintain a nursing relationship, you need to know which bottles are best. Luckily, there are some great options that will help you keep a strong breastfeeding relationship while you’re away from baby.

When to offer the bottle

Lactation consultants recommend waiting until your milk supply is fully in and breastfeeding is going well before offering a bottle (or pacifier). This usually happens after 2–3 weeks. On the other hand, waiting too long (after 6 weeks) may cause baby to refuse a bottle altogether. That can make it tough when down the road, you and hubby need a night out, or you have a ladies’ lunch, or a business trip—or, you just a break!

That means the magic window for offering a bottle is somewhere between 3 and 6 weeks. From then on, offer the bottle once or twice a week (let daddy or grandma take a turn!) to get baby used to the bottle while maintaining a strong breastfeeding relationship. And don’t forget that even if you’re away, you need to pump every time baby gets a bottle to keep your supply up! (Want more pumping tips? Check out this post!)

What difference does the bottle make?

I wish I could give you a hard and fast rule on how this works. But the truth is, every baby and situation is different. For example, if you are only occasionally going to bottle feed, you may have more resistance from baby but it’s probably not a major stressor since it’s so infrequent. Some babies will accept the first bottle you give them. Others are much more finicky. I’ll never forget my working (outside the home) neighbor having to try TWELVE bottles to get one that her baby would take! As a caregiver, keep a positive attitude and believe baby is going to accept the bottle 🙂 It can’t hurt and baby may be picking up on some of your anxiety, causing him to reject the bottle.

Some babies will want a bottle that mimics a breast, and this can help the baby have continuity in regards to his feeding experience. I had a hard time getting Griffin to take a bottle until I found one that was shaped more like the breast because this is what he was used too.

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The importance of Paced Bottle Feeding

But truly, the way you bottle feed (see our post on Paced Bottle Feeding) is so critical… even more important than the bottle selection. This is where you can really “echo” the rhythm and flow of breastfeeding, which will support your overall breastfeeding relationship. Be sure to educate your care provider on the Pace Bottle Feeding Method before introducing a bottle.

Best bottles for breastfed babies

There are dozens and dozens of bottles out there So what are the best bottles for breastfed babies? Well, they will have a few key features.

Low flow or baby-controlled flow

When baby is at the breast, he is able to control the flow of milk with his suck. Bottles, on the other hand, often pour milk into baby’s mouth, not allowing him to pause to signal that he’s had enough (and learning early the feeling of satiety.)

It also takes work from baby to get milk from the breast, which strengthens and develops the baby’s palate, as well as gives him a form of exercise (watch how newborns will “sweat” sometimes when nursing!)

If baby has bottles all day that flow easily, he may lose the ability—and even the desire in some cases—to sufficiently remove milk from the breast when you two snuggle in for breastfeeding time. If your goal is to maintain a close breastfeeding relationship and not exclusively pump, this is obviously not good news!

In fact, the term “nipple confusion”, which we hear a lot about when we want to introduce a bottle, may really be more of a flow issue. Some babies will start to prefer the bottle because they don’t have to work so hard to get the milk. It’s gulp, gulp, gulp, burp and they’re done 🙂

That’s why bottles with a low flow or baby-controlled flow are the best bottles for breastfed babies. At the very least, choosing an infant or preemie nipple will help slow the milk flow and allow baby to retain those sucking muscles!

Nipple type

For some babies, the more similar the bottle nipple is to mom’s nipple, the more likely baby is to go back and forth between bottle and breast easily. These nipples are soft, wide and long enough to encourage proper sucking. Also, a wide textured nipple base most closely resembles mom’s breast. These bottles are almost always slow flow, so you don’t have to be as cautious when feeding baby. (It’s always a good idea to take breaks though throughout the feeding time to echo the rhythm of breastfeeding.)

For other babies, they will prefer a more narrow, traditional nipple shape. In fact, some Lactation Consultants prefer this type because baby can flange their lips onto the nipple, and have a deep latch, like they do with the breast.

Venting

Proper venting helps reduce gas and colic when baby drinks from a bottle by reducing the amount of air a baby swallows. If your bottle has venting, it’s even more important to make sure the bottles are sterilized properly and all milk is cleaned out of the vents.

Safe materials

Plastic, even BPA-free plastic (or especially BPA-free), is harmful and best avoided. There is no perfect bottle, but the safest materials to look for are stainless steel, silicone, and glass.

Breast-like shape

Though this feature is of least importance, it is still good for baby to have a similar shape for bottle and breast. A large rounded bottle is ergonomically similar to the breast. The combination of the breast-like shape, plus the fact that baby will have to work at sucking to get milk, will also help her palate formation, which is very important for long-term mouth, nasal and jaw formation. And if you’re noticing any sort of pattern here, it’s that whatever bottles are like the breast, are the best bottles for breastfed babies!

Best bottles for breastfed babies

Here are some of the best bottles for breastfeeding babies that include the above features, and help to support the precious nursing relationship.

Best bottle for breastfed babies: Philips Avent

Philips Avent

This bottle is made of borosilicate glass, which means you can take it from the fridge to hot (even boiling) water without it breaking. It has the wide nipple base and textured nipple that are so great for breastfed babies.

Best bottle for breastfed babies: Comotomo

Mama Natural Comotomo

The Comotomo is an all-around great choice. It’s 100% silicone and is soft, flexible, and shaped like a breast. The flexibility of the bottle mimics a breast and helps baby be active in “letting down” the milk, just like with breastfeeding. The slow flow silicone nipple is perfect for breastfed babies. Keep in mind that silicone is safest when not heated, so if you want to heat the milk, use another container first.

Best bottle for breastfed babies: Pura Kiki

Mama Natural Pura

This stainless steel bottle is awesome because it’s not only safe, but it can grow with your child. You can change the baby nipple to a sippy top and then to a sport top as her needs change. As you can see in the above image, this bottle has a more narrow, traditional nipple shape, which works better for some babies. Pura makes their own infant nipples designed for baby to regulate the flow of milk. It also fits many other nipples, including Pigeon, Dr. Browns, and ThinkBaby nipples, which are great for baby-regulated milk flow and for encouraging proper suckling, though they aren’t the ideal wide breast-like shape.

One drawback is that the painted bottles have been known to chip, so I would stick with the unpainted ones, either plain stainless steel or with a silicone sleeve.

How about you?

When you’re looking for bottles for your breastfed baby, remember to go with a bottle that is most like the breast and made from safe materials. Baby will tell you which one she likes best! And know, if none of the breast-shaped bottles work, try other types. Obviously, the most important thing is that baby eats!

How about you? In your experience with your children, which was the best bottles for breastfed babies? Share with us in the comments below!