You’ve got the nipples. You’ve got the bottles. Aside from the baby formula, what else do you need? There are all sorts of accessories available to help make bottle-feeding easier. While you can certainly get by without any of these, you may find that some of them really come in handy – and none of them will break the bank.
Here are a few accessories to consider:
Burp cloths: Whether you like to use a clean cloth diaper or an expressly designed burp cloth, you’ll likely want to have a fair number of these (say, a dozen) on hand to clean spit-up and drips off your baby’s adorable chin and to fling over your shoulder as you try to coax out a belch. Some moms even like to make their own burp cloths out of soft flannel fabrics. If you are motivated and can find the time, go for it. Otherwise store-bought cloths will work just fine, and this is one area where it may not be worth getting too fussy about aesthetics. After all, how cute is the burp cloth really going to look when you put it to good use?
Brushes: Bottle brushes can help scrub the very bottom of your baby’s bottle; nipple brushes clean small, hard-to-reach places in the nipple. These brushes come in a variety of styles and shapes and colors. Some dispense their own soap. Others have suction-cup bases to stand up on their own. Choose whatever works for you.
Drying racks: Sure, you could use your regular drying rack for your bottles and nipples, but if there’s room on your counter, it can be more convenient to have all your freshly scrubbed baby gear in one place so you don’t have to go picking through the pots and pans for a nipple when you have a hungry, howling baby in your arms. Plus, they come in all sorts of adorable shapes and configurations. We like the ones that look like blooming flowers and (perhaps most of all) the ones that look like a field of grass.
Sterilizers: You don’t really need one of these since you can sterilize glass bottles and nipples before the first use by immersing them in boiling water for five minutes. Unless there’s an issue with your tap water, there’s no need to sterilize between uses. Just wash with hot water and mild soap, rinse thoroughly, and air dry your bottles and nipples – or throw them in the dishwasher. But if you do want a sterilizer, there are a bevy of options to choose from.
Bibs: If you don’t want to see stains on all of those adorable onesies friends and family have bestowed on your babe, you’ll probably want to have a good stock of bibs (anywhere between six and twelve) on hand to keep formula and spit-up off those snazzy duds.
Baby bottle carriers/travel packs/diaper bags: If you want to leave the house with your infant, it can be helpful to have something to pack your bottles in – whether it’s a light travel pack, an insulated bag (to keep formula at a desired temperature), or a diaper bag with dedicated pockets just for bottles and accessories.
Bottle warmer: These don’t do anything that a cup of warm (not hot) water won’t do, but judging from the number of models of warmers available on the market, some parents find them useful. (Note: Don’t ever warm your baby’s formula or bottled breast milk in a microwave – it can heat liquids unevenly, creating hot spots that can burn your baby’s tongue.)
Although some formulas come pre-mixed and ready to use, many powdered or liquid-concentrated baby formulas must be mixed with water before use, raising the following questions: What kind of water should you use? Is tap water OK? Is bottled water better? Should you boil or filter?
The answers to those questions depend on the quality of the tap water in your area and also on the health of your baby. You may want to ask your family’s pediatrician what he or she recommends.
In general, tap water is safe for formula preparation, but you may also want to check with your local water utility to find out how much fluoride your tap water contains – or consult your dentist. The American Dental Association approves the use of fluoridated water for infant formula but cautions that if the formula is the baby’s primary food source and is mixed with highly fluoridated water, he or she may be at slightly greater risk of developing mild enamel fluorosis, which will not affect your child’s health or the health of her teeth but can cause faint white spots to appear on baby or permanent teeth. On the other hand, exposure to some fluoride during infancy may help stave off tooth decay.
Another option is to use either a ready-to-feed infant formula (which can be more expensive) or to spring for bottled water that is low in fluoride (purified, demineralized, deionized, distilled, etc.), available at your local grocery store. Some water is even marketed specifically for use with baby formula, though all bottled waters are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and are required to meet its standards.
You may also want to switch off between (fluoridated) tap water and (non-fluoridated) bottled water so that your child gets some fluoride to prevent tooth decay but does not take in so much that fluorosis becomes a concern.
When you use tap water, make sure to let the water run cold for several minutes in order to clear impurities (like lead and other minerals) from your pipes. Don’t use water from the hot water tap, which is more likely to include these impurities.
In general, boiling water is not required, but if you have been instructed by a healthcare provider or other local health official to boil the water you use in your baby’s formula, make sure to bring the water to a rolling boil for about a minute (no longer) and then allow it to cool thoroughly before mixing it with the formula.
If the water in your home is well water, make sure to have it tested for safety. In this case, boiling water may not help purify it – and may even make heighten the concentration level of nitrates in the water.
Be sure to wash your hands and follow the instructions on the formula container when mixing water with formula, measuring carefully (using a clean cup) and taking care to add the right amount of water.