If you are planning to bottle feed, or breast-feed, but have someone give your baby a bottle at some point, you’ll need to have a few bottles around before the baby is born. We didn’t really give a bottle until probably around 2 months and Henry didn’t routinely take them until he was at daycare at 4 months, so someone with more extensive bottle feeding experience should feel free to jump in here.
Not all babies will take to just any bottle, so I wouldn’t actually spend that much time deciding what bottle or bottle system YOU like. I would buy one or two bottles of a few brands that look reasonable in the store to you or that someone recommends. Then I would see how the baby reacts and buy more of them if your baby seems to do well with the ones you bought. If your baby balks at the bottle you bought, you may need to try lots of different ones before your baby finds the one they like.
You can wash your bottles on the top rack of the dishwasher or in hot soapy water. Most Docs now tell you you don’t have to sanitize the bottles by boiling them or anything like that. A bottle brush helps if you’re hand-washing and a little dishwasher caddy helps to contain all the nipples and small bottle pieces if you’re using a dishwasher.
If you’re planning on bottle-feeding with formula, you’ll need to have some of that on hand. I really don’t know much about all the different types of formula—I just know that the more convenient to use it is, the more expensive it is. Meaning the cheapest is powder that you buy in canisters and mix with water; then there’s the cans of concentrated formula that is pre-mixed but to which you add water, finally there is the ready-to-drink kind of formula that you just pour into the bottle and go. I believe I read that all formula has to meet pretty restrictive federal guidelines so there’s not actually a whole lot of difference between one brand or another. I think the main things to figure out are with iron or without and regular milk formula or soy formula—this stuff I leave to other people to comment on, or better yet ask your Dr.
I would stress from experience, even if you are planning to breastfeed, you should have a few bottles around. Like Tamra said, babies don't always see things the way we do so even if we think it's the best bottle (etc. ) in the store, they might not be happy with it. So don't go crazy and buy a bunch but a few of a different kind (keep the receipts in case you hit on THE ONE the first go round).
The same goes for formula, have a few of the premade cans around, just in case you have to supplement in the very beginning. I'm sure this will come as a topic for discussion later.
A dishwasher caddy is an essential in our house and we have not used bottles for some time now. This is a HUGE timesaver for working Mom but in the very beginning, there may be something primal that tells you to BOIL the nipples, along with your pedi. It's Ok go with it if you have time, and especially if you have a breast pump which will need cleaning. I used a giant stockpot every night and had a baby bottle etc. witches brew going for a few minutes. Dump it into a colander and let dry, tada, instant sanitizing, for me anyway.
Breast Milk Bags/Bottles
If you’re planning on breast feeding and at some point you think you’ll be expressing (pumping) some milk, you’ll need some kind of milk storage receptacles. Keep in mind that even if you’re staying home for a year with your baby and plan to breast-feed diligently, you might like to have some expressed milk on hand for someone else to feed your child so you can get a break. As far as milk storage goes, you can either buy storage bottles or bags. Depending on what kind of bottles you settle on, you can find storage bottles that use the same nipples so that you can just pop a nipple on the storage bottle without having the transfer the contents to your normal bottle. If you’re planning on pumping much, i.e. you’d like to build up a serious supply, i’d go with the milk storage bags. They’re a lot cheaper, and they take up less room in your fridge or freezer because you can lay them flat and stack them on top of each other. The best kind have a Ziploc top. We used Lansinoh storage bags and they worked great.
If you’re planning on breast-feeding you will leak milk, at least at the beginning. Your best friend will be some good breast pads. Breast pads come in disposable or washable options. I’m a fairly environmental/crunchy person but I’ll tell you, at least for me, the washable ones were fairly terrible. They didn’t contain nearly enough liquid, they weren’t big enough in diameter, so they stick right on top of your breasts and make you look like you’re wearing some kind of pasties under your shirt. I loved the Lansinoh disposable brand. They have a huge absorption capacity and they’re big enough that they cover your whole breast so they don’t show up under your shirts. Buy at least 1 big box pre-baby and know that you’ll be back to the store frequently for more.
If you’re nursing, it really, really helps to have some nursing bras. I would recommend waiting to buy them until you actually have the baby though, because your breasts will change sizes and you’ll want to get some that actually fit.
If you think you’re going to be serious about breast-feeding you’ll probably want a pump. Pumps are either manual or electric. If you’re just going to be expressing a bottle of milk now and then and you think you’ll primarily be feeding your baby directly until you stop breast-feeding, a hand-pump/manual pump would probably work fine for you. These are very inexpensive. I will say that I personally never got them to work but that was probably my own short-coming.
If you plan to keep breastfeeding after you head back to work or you are really set on pumping enough that your partner can give a certain daily feeding, you should seriously consider an electric breastpump. I believe the most popular brand is Medela (which is what we had) and these things aren’t cheap. I think they’re in the neighborhood of $200-$300 new. The best kinds will have all the parts so that you can pump both breasts at the same time. You’ll want one that plugs in although a battery option can be nice for travel. Remember that you’ll be lugging this thing to work so you want something as compact as possible.
I have a medela double electric breast pump and I think if you are planning on working or at least being active or getting any amount of sleep, you need one. You may not need the fully electric version depending on what your lifestyle is but if you want to work and pump at work, you need electric power. I'm sure this will come up so I won't go in detail but we used bottles. Working away from home, with the double electric pump, bottles were the best choice for me. They fit right into the specialized compartment so I could carry home my milk everyday. Plus, you can wash these and reuse. Probably the best solution is a combo, bags in the beginning when you are at home to save milk and bottles when you are at work away from home.
When you’re feeding the baby it’s nice to have some kind of pillow to be able to lay them on and help raise them up a bit (especially if you’re breast-feeding). A lot of people use the boppy for this purpose. You can also just use a regular bed pillow. I know I’ve heard that one problem with the boppy is that if you’re on the bigger side or don’t lose that much weight right after birth, it can be hard to get the boppy around you. We had a regular bed pillow we used and it worked great.
I have a boppy, it was far better to use the regular pillow with a nice cover.
A little down the road, you’ll use some type of highchair to feed your child—especially once they start solids. Highchairs can generally be folded-up, raised and lowered, and the seat can be reclined—which can be nice if you’re using one more as a hang-out spot for your little one. They also take up some serious space and can be hard to clean. Another option is a booster seat. This is very similar to a high-chair (they come with a seat back and tray) but you just strap it to an existing chair. They obviously take up less space and I’ve even seen some new ones that have a recline feature as well. We have only ever used a booster seat and are glad we did. One really nice feature is that the entire thing can go in the dishwasher so if it’s just too gross to really get clean I throw it in the dishwasher and it comes out totally clean with very little effort on my part.
We have a Graco highchair with a removable tray that can go in the dishwasher. If you have space and or nice furniture, a highchair is nice. We have neither but went the highchair route anyway. I wish I'd bought the little strap on boosters Tamra is talking about but we don't have nice chairs either.
Q: I have a couple of questions about storing milk. Do you know how long your milk is good for if you freeze or refrigerate it? Also, with the storage bags, I am assuming you defrost an entire bag at a time - are there any devices to transfer the milk from the bag to the bottles? I imagine transferring gets quite messy.
A: Monette and I have a lot of experience in the storage of fresh breast milk. In a deep freezer, you can store milk up to 6 months. In your regular run-of-the-mil freezer, if you store it near the back, it can last up to 3 months (do not store it on the side door). Be careful not to contaminate the breast milk, or it gets sour quickly, or you can give your baby a yeast infection, or if you both bottle feed and breast feed, you can give yourself a yeast infection. Monette has a high amount of lipase in her milk, so we learned the hard way. All of the milk she stored without scalding it first, went sour after defrosting. After scalding, and then freezing, it was good. Fresh milk can stay out at room temperature for about 2 hours. In the fridge for almost a week, but I wouldn't go past 4 days without using it. There are a lot of information on this subject on the Internet. Yes, you do defrost an entire bag at a time. Never refreeze the milk, or it will go rancid. We hardly used the bags because the hospital gave us really nice sterilized plastic jars with lids. They were perfect to stack and store without worrying about puncturing them or leaking.
A: In my experience it wasn’t a big deal to transfer from the bags to the bottles because they bags have a little “spout” area built in to them. We did have some bottles and I preferred those but I had up 30+ containers of milk in the freezer at one time, and we just eventually ran out of bottles. I also found it nice to just be able to throw the used bags away rather than having to wash the bottles out.
If you’re freezing your milk you want to rotate your stock, i.e. put the newer milk at the back and pull from the front to use. The bags have a place to write the date on them with a sharpie. We found that the blue painters tape with a sharpie works well on the bottles—it stays on in the freezer but pulls off without leaving any residue when you’re ready to wash.