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Baby Bottles

More Choices for Easier Feeding
Feeding baby can be one of the most pleasant interactions between an infant and a parent, and choosing the product that's right for you and your child is an important decision. There are many options available, varying in terms of material as well as design, and it may take a few purchases to determine which is most comfortable for your baby.

The two basic categories of bottles are reusable and disposable. As indicated by the name, reusable bottles are filled, sterilized and refilled, used hundreds of times during your child's infancy. Reusable bottles are generally made from glass or FDA-approved polycarbonate plastic, both of which are dishwasher-safe. Disposable bottles incorporate a single use bag that attaches to a plastic holder, thus eliminating the need to sterilize the bottle each time. Many parents view this as a convenience, particularly if they are feeding baby away from home. Disposables liners can also be used to refrigerate breast milk which can be easily reheated for later use. For some babies, switching between reusable and disposable bottles may pose a problem if they sense a difference in the shape of the nipple. If this is the case, select a brand which offers the same shape nipple in both bottles to avoid "nipple confusion." Whether you opt for reusable or disposable, make sure the bottle and bags have clear markings which enable you to measure the correct amount of breast milk or formula for your baby's feeding.

There are several shapes of reusable bottles to consider: the standard bottle with narrow neck, the angled bottle with narrow neck and the wide neck feeding bottle. Narrow necked bottles may be more difficult to clean and fill. One must take extra care in cleaning the ridges inside the neck of the bottle as they act as germ traps. However, brushes specifically designed for cleaning baby bottles can alleviate this concern. Angled bottles can also be very unstable during filling and heating. Wide necked bottles are shorter with a wide base to give added stability and have no interior ridges or seams to catch germs. The wider neck bottles also facilitate safe and easy filling and cleaning.

The nipple is the one part of the bottle with which baby comes in contact in a meaningful way. How the nipple feels in baby's mouth and the resulting feeding experience are important considerations when selecting a bottle. With the exception of nipples designed for wide neck bottles, nipples may be interchanged for use on various styles of bottles.

Nipples have three basic shapes: traditional, orthodontic and natural-shaped. Nipples are made from latex, rubber or silicone rubber. Latex has a distinctive smell, absorbs milk fats and rapidly decomposes creating cracks, tears and over time will change shape. Silicone has a slick texture, is inert and will never change shape nor take on odors. Since getting the baby to take the bottle is the goal, you may have to try various nipple styles and see what baby prefers.

Natural-shaped nipples have a wide base and longer nipple tips promote a suckling action by the baby, more like on the breast. The natural nipple is broad and soft and most closely resembles the breast, permitting baby to suckle, thus reinforcing her natural reflex. This allows you to switch between breast-feeding and bottle feeding without confusing baby. Baby's mouth covers the nipple without coming in contact with the plastic nipple retaining ring. With the wide necked bottle, air flows into the bottle through a valve in the nipple, thus preventing nipple collapse. If the nipple does collapse, it does not have a valve that allows a continuous flow of milk.

In the standard and angled bottles the baby has to stop feeding so that a vacuum in the bottle can be released by air flowing back into the bottle through the hole in the top of the nipple. This can cause the baby to swallow too much air, resulting in discomfort. With disposable bottles, as the baby feeds, the bag contracts and allows her to feed continuously and not swallow air, thus avoiding discomfort.

Regardless of the type of bottle you select for baby, take extra care when heating formula or breast milk. Never judge the temperature of the liquid by feeling the exterior of the bottle or bag. Take the time to drip a few drops on your forearm so you can feel exactly what will be going into baby's mouth. There are also bottles on the market with heat sensitive ink printed on the bottle, which indicate when the formula is too hot.

Introducing a bottle to baby, whether it's immediately or after a period of exclusive nursing, may take more time than you expected. But once you and baby find the right bottle and nipple, feeding will become a special one on one time you'll long remember.

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