If I were in the market for a no-fuss baby bottle, I'd go with the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle. ($24 for 3) It has minimal parts to wash (or lose!), the contoured shape makes it easy for older babies to hold, and—because it's plastic—there's no risk of shattering (as with glass versions). The bottle's wide nipple also makes it an easier sell for breastfed babies.
Now, before I get into why we chose the Tommee Tippee, I should mention that babies can be notoriously finicky about latching to a rubber or silicone nipple. From experience, I know it's stressful when your kid won't latch. Most experts agree that trying out a few bottle-nipple combinations is the best approach. The Tommee Tippee may not suit every baby, however we think its simplicity, affordability, and thoughtful design make it standout from its competitors. If your baby ultimately doesn't take to the Tommee Tippee, you won't lose much financially. We also offer a few other great choices below.
After 15 hours of research, we chose 10 top-rated bottles from nine different manufacturers and put them through the ringer for several weeks with six families, testing for leaking, ease of cleaning, whether babies latched, and how easy it was to keep track of different parts. We also spoke with two pediatricians and a chemist from an independent consulting firm. After all that, the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle came out on top.
Who Should Buy This?
Expectant or new parents looking for a reliable bottle that won't leak, that's easy to assemble, and that won't break when dropped. Older babies may like this bottle because the shape makes it easier for them to self feed. If you've been exclusively breastfeeding but are starting to pump because you're going back to work—or just need to get to the gym or out for a date night—your baby may appreciate the wider nipple on the Tommee Tippee.
What About BPA and Other Plasticisers?
As a parent, plastics pose a difficult conundrum. The chemicals that make them convenient can also leach into food and liquid, potentially causing serious health problems.
In 2012, the FDA officially banned the use of the plasticiser Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles because of its potential health consequences, including breast and prostate cancer, reproductive abnormalities, neurobehavioral problems, and obesity. Yet BPA is only one of many plasticisers that can pose health risks.
Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2011 showed that there are plenty of other chemicals in BPA-free plastic water bottles and baby bottles that have "estrogenic activity" and that do leach into food and liquid. Basically, one plasticizer was outlawed, but plenty of others are still used to make plastic bottles clear and strong, yet soft and pliable.
I spoke with Dr. Neal Langerman, chief scientist of the independent consulting company Advanced Chemical Safety, about this issue. "Any small molecule that's in a container has the chemical potential to leach into the contents of the container. So that right there opens up a whole potential area for someone to worry." Langerman says you essentially have to determine your own "risk tolerance" to the level of chemicals you or your child are exposed to.
Your safest bet is to choose a bottle made out of glass or metal, which (as long as the metal isn't lined in chemicals) will have virtually no leaching. Yet glass and metal have practical downsides: glass breaks, you can't see through metal, and they're both heavy.
"Clearly the plastic bottle got rid of a lot of the downsides of glass, that's why we went to it," says Langerman. "If a parent wants to put up with the hassle of glass, that would be the best choice. However, what would be even better for anybody who is worried about this is to understand something about dose. After all, 'it's the dose that makes the poison.' Even water at high enough doses causes harm." Langerman says you can mitigate your risk by limiting contact time. Don't store milk or formula in plastic bottles, and avoid heating plastics in the dishwasher or microwave. "The longer the contact time, the more small molecules can leach out of the container," says Langerman.
I asked Dr. Jennifer Shu, co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, about her take on plastics. "Your decisions have to be made on the best possible information you have at any given time," she says. "Our information right now is that BPA is the main thing to avoid and we're avoiding BPA. Plastic is definitely convenient. One thing I suggest is to not heat plastic, just as a precaution."
When I started reporting this guide, I felt certain that I wanted to avoid plastic at all costs. However, as my newborn has grown into a spirited 8-month-old, fond of dropping her bottle for fun or pounding it against the counter, I find myself loosening on this rule. I give her a plastic bottle to play with and for the one bottle a day she takes at her babysitter's, but I only store my breast milk in glass.
What Makes A Good Baby Bottle?
Although there've been crude iterations of baby bottles throughout history, the bottle as we now know it really didn't become popular until after the industrial revolution. For most of history wet nursing was the common alternative to mother's milk. In fact, for millennia wet nursing was its own cottage industry, creating jobs for many poor and even middle-class women around the world. Yet, with the rise of easily accessible animal's milk, formula, and increasingly negative societal views of surrogates nursing, baby bottles became more popular.
The first modern version, developed in 1851, was typically Victorian, made of glass with a cork nipple and little ivory pins to increase the milk flow. Bottle developers even experimented with leather and then natural rubber nipples, which apparently had a "repulsive odor and taste." Thankfully, for our babies, bottles have come a long way since then!
That said, many modern bottles are probably more complicated than they need to be. You'll literally find dozens of brands offering complicated venting to reduce gas, others with fancy nipples, and still others with ergonomic shapes for easy handling. But is any of this necessary? "I think, in general, most babies do fine with any bottle nipple combination," Dr. Jennifer Shu told me.
In our own research and testing, we found that simpler is often better. Usually just a bottle, nipple, and ring (with a sturdy cap) are best. The bottle shouldn't leak in your diaper bag or when your kid flings it onto the floor, and it should be easy to clean. If the bottle has a lot of parts it'll be difficult to assemble with your sleep-deprived zombie brain at 3 a.m. Plus, more parts mean it's easier to lose them, and then you've got to buy a new bottle.
Clear measurements are also important. A blessing of bottle feeding—whether with formula or breastmilk—is that you can see exactly how many ounces your little one is sucking down. (This, of course, is the disadvantage of metal bottles.)
So, is venting important? For really colicky babies, maybe. However, both pediatricians I spoke with said that reducing gas and potential spit ups is often more about how you position your baby and the bottle. "If the nipple is completely full of milk, with no air, then that's all you really need to do." said Dr. Shu. Holding your baby upright for 5 to 15 minutes after feeding will also reduce gas, says Dr. Melina Harmelin of Tribeca Pediatrics. If your baby is spitting up a lot after feeding, Dr. Malina suggests tilting his or her mattress slightly on the head end by simply placing a folded towel under the mattress on that side.
All of the bottles we tested come in small and large sizes, ranging from 4 to 15 ounces. Which one you purchase depends wholly on whether you mind growing into a bigger bottle, or prefer starting small and then sizing up.
Nipples, of course, are another issue. You'll find a variety of "sizes"—meaning flows. Slower flow nipples are targeted toward newborns, while faster flow nipples toward older babies. Sometimes you just have to experiment. Some newborns might be fine with a faster flowing nipple, while some 9-month-olds might prefer a slower flow nipple. Traditionally, bottle nipples tend to be narrow, but many newer bottles—such as the Tommee Tippee—are fitted with a wider, more breast-like nipple.
In our research, we found that most bottles range from $4 to $20 each. More expensive models tend to be those made of metal or glass, or those with elaborate venting. We think it's worth splurging on glass or metal if chemical leaching is a concern for you.
We found a range of professional reviews of baby bottles. The most thorough was from Baby Gear Lab, which tested 18 bottles with babies ranging from 3 to 9 months. Roundups from Babble, BabyCenter, and Parents.com were helpful for comparison, but weren't nearly as thorough or transparent with their testing methodology. We also looked to Amazon user reviews for comparison.
How We Tested
We gave eight top-rated bottles to five families with babies ranging from 3-months to 12-months-old, and had them use the bottles for three weeks. Additionally, I tested the eight bottles (plus an additional two) on my 7-month-old daughter. We were looking to see, overall, how easy the bottles were to use and clean, and whether our babies liked drinking from them. We observed whether the bottles leaked, if lids were difficult to screw on, if components were easily lost, or if our little cherubs could break off parts by dropping or gnawing the bottles.
After three weeks of testing, we found that the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle performed the best. Our testers liked that it doesn't have complicated venting to wash or keep track of and that its squat, contoured shape makes it easy for babies to hold. The clear plastic also won't shatter if dropped.
As far as leaking, the Tommee Tippee performed on par or better than most of the bottles we tested. None of our testers found that the nipple or cap leaked when traveling or while the bottle was laid on its side.
The Tommee Tippee was also easy to clean by hand or in the dishwasher. The wide mouth means you don't necessarily need a bottle brush. (One tester, however, did find that the contoured shape of the bottle made it a little difficult to clean.)
We found the bold black measurements easier to read on the Tommee Tippee than many of the other bottles. The Tommee Tippee has clearly marked millimeter and fluid ounce measurements and—unlike the metal bottle we tested—it's easy to see the liquid level inside the bottle.
The Tommee Tippee's simple design, with just a bottle, nipple, nipple ring, and lid, made this one of the easiest bottles to clean and assemble. If you prefer a bottle with venting, Tommee Tippee also sells a vented version. It also comes in 5 and 9 ounce sizes.
Although Dr. Shu says most babies will ultimately take any bottle and nipple combination, we found that the breastfed babies in our test group liked the Tommee Tippee's wider nipple more than the others with thinner nipples.
At only $5 per bottle, the Tommee Tippee is also a bargain compared to more expensive bottles (and even similarly priced ones) that just didn't perform as well.
Of course, the Tommee Tippee isn't perfect. It is, after all, made of plastic. If chemical concerns trump convenience for you, check out our favorite pick for a glass bottle, below.
Who Else Likes It?
Baby Gear Lab chose the Tommee Tippee as their "best value" bottle, saying its "simplicity is complemented by high scores in function and usability, and when it comes to a baby bottle, that's all we ask for." We were impressed with Baby Gear Lab's thorough testing, so their recommendation goes a long way for us.
In a blogger review on Babble.com, the Tommee Tippee was chosen as the "best bottle overall," with the author saying "They are easy to assemble, easy to wash, and have never leaked — even in transport. "
On Amazon, the Tommee Tippee scores a solid 4 out of 5, with 146 customer reviews. One customer, who runs a daycare, says " Breastfed babies have always been a little bit of a challenge to feed. I bought a set of these bottles recently to try for my newest daycare baby. She took to it immediately, and slept peacefully. It's the first really good day we had, and she's doing well on the bottle now."
The Step Up: Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle
While we love the Tommee Tippee for its simple, useful design and affordability, we think some breastfed babies may prefer the Comomoto Natural Feel Baby Bottle, available for a street price of $16. Its squishy silicone body and super wide nipple make it a bit more boob-like and easier for little hands to grasp.
Like the Tommee Tippee, the Comotomo only has four parts (no venting), which makes it easy to clean and assemble. It comes in 150 and 250 millimeter sizes. The Comotomo gets 4.5 out of 5 on Amazon (averaged from 287 reviews) and reviewers overwhelmingly recommend it for finicky breastfed babies. Baby Gear Lab also chose this as their "editors choice" because of its breast-like qualities.
We did find that lint and stray pet hair tends to stick to the silicone exterior, and in our testing this bottle was more prone to leaking than the Tommee Tippee. One Amazon reviewer also complained about a strange plasticky odor emanating from the bottle, even after multiple washes.
Ultimately, we think most babies will be happy with the much cheaper Tommee Tippee. But if you go with the Comotomo, we don't think you'll be disappointed.
Also Great: Lifefactory Baby Bottle With Silicone Sleeve
If you're just not comfortable with the potential of chemicals leaching from a plastic bottle, we recommend the glass Lifefactory Baby Bottle with Silicone Sleeve, which you can pick up for between $15 and $20, depending on size. The Lifefactory was our favorite of the glass and metal bottles we tested.
The Lifefactory's silicone sleeve mitigates some of the danger of glass shattering, but it's still easy to see the measurement marks along the side (and to see how much milk or formula is inside). It gets a 4.3 of 5 on Amazon, of 166 reviews, and was another top pick in the Baby Gear Lab review.
This bottle is expensive, and if you want to clean the silicone sleeve it can be a bit tricky slipping it back onto the bottle. However, we think it's easy to use and appreciate that it doesn't come with complicated venting (like the other two glass bottles we tested). If you want an alternative to plastic that you can still see through, we think the Lifefactory is easiest to use.
We tested these bottles, but for various reasons did not choose them.
- Pura Kiki Stainless Infant Bottle — Although this was Baby Gear Lab's top choice, we didn't like that you can't see the contents of the bottle. This was the only bottle my babysitter sent back with precious breast milk still in it (because she didn't realize it wasn't empty). A few of our testers also found the lid difficult to screw on. This bottle seems like it would make a better choice for a toddler with the sippy cup attachment.
- Born Free Glass Bottle with ActiveFlow Venting — This was the second favorite of the glass bottles we tested. Overall, we found the venting unnecessary and that we'd likely lose the extra parts. One tester also found the anti colic valve cumbersome.
- Dr. Brown's Natural Flow Standard Glass Bottle — This had the most complicated venting of the bottles we tried. We didn't like that you need to clean the venting with a mini brush. If you choose not to use the venting, the bottle will leak.
- MAM Anti-Colic Bottle — We found this bottle, which you fill from the bottom, prone to leaking. The venting for this bottle has many parts, which testers found tricky to clean properly.
- Think Baby Bottle — Although one of our testers like that this bottle is lightweight, others felt that it was cheaply constructed. Think sent us their "Thinker System," which converts the baby bottle into a sippy cup. My daughter liked the sippy cup, but after she threw it on the ground multiple times I noticed a plastic piece on the nipple ring broke off.
- Playtex VentAire Bottle — This was one of two bottles that only I tried (our larger test group did not test this one). Like the other bottles with venting, I found the VentAire's many parts a little cumbersome to put together. My husband also found this bottle complicated to put together.
- Playtex Drop-Ins Premium Nurser — This was the second bottle that only I tried in our test group. Although I'd read positive reviews that the drop-in liners make these bottles easy for daycare (since you don't need to clean the bottle), I found the drop-ins wasteful. At nearly $8 for a box of 100 liners, this system also adds significantly to the cost of this bottle.
We also considered these alternatives from manufacturers, but opted not to test them and can't recommend them.
- Kleen Kanteen Baby Bottle — This didn't get higher editorial or user reviews than the stainless steel Pura Kiki bottle, and was also more expensive than that bottle.
- Adiri Natural Nurser — Similar to the Comotomo, this bottle is made of soft silicone and has a wide, boob-like nipple. However, we read multiple reviews about catastrophic leakage.
- Evenflo Glass Bottle — We didn't find any editorial recommendations for this bottle, and it didn't receive higher user reviews than the bottles we opted test.
- The First Year's GumDrop Wide-Neck Bottles — This bottle did not receive higher user reviews than the bottles we tested.
- The First Year's Breast Flow Bottle — Multiple Amazon reviewers complained about this bottle leaking. It also did not receive higher editorial or user reviews than the bottles we tested.
- Philips AVENT BPA Free Classic Polypropylene Bottle — Many Amazon complaints about these bottles leaking.
Medela Breastmilk Bottle — Didn't receive higher Amazon or user reviews than the bottles we opted to test.
- Nuby Non-Drip Bottles — Parents.com said the nipple on this bottle is prone to collapsing during feeding. Multiple Amazon reviewers also complained about leaking.
Getting Your Baby to Take a Bottle
As a new parent, it can sometimes feel like you need a baby whisperer to get your little one to latch to a bottle. Your best chance of success may come down to introducing one early.
"I recommend not waiting too long before you start," says Dr. Jennifer Shu. If you're dedicated to breast feeding—which is great—your tendency may be not to also introduce a bottle. What I suggest is to have moms pump some breast milk and give it to their baby in a bottle maybe once a week or more if they want to—once a night, if they want their partner to help out. Try not to get the baby so used to just the breast that they refuse to take anything else."
And what about potential nipple confusion? "I think it's overrated. I almost never see it," says Dr. Shu. "I see far more babies that can go from breast to bottle to pacifier than kids who get really confused." She stresses, however, that establishing breastfeeding exclusively within the first week or two is important, but after that it's fine to introduce a bottle.
Care, Use, Maintenance, and Repair
Unlike in our grandparent's day, you don't need to sterilize bottles after each use. Unless you're using water that might be contaminated with harmful bacteria, you can simply wash them with hot, soapy water (either by hand or in the dishwasher), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of course, always wash your hands before handling your baby's bottle.
Bottles and nipples should be washed thoroughly after each use and allowed to air dry completely. This reduces the chance of bacteria growing in leftover milk or even water.
To reduce the chance of plastic bottles leaching chemicals, Dr. Neal Langerman recommends disposing of bottles that are scratched. And as with all plastic storage containers, it's best not to microwave plastic baby bottles or heat them unnecessarily. "I don't put them in the dishwasher," says Dr. Jennifer Shu, "I only sterilize them the first time."
Wrapping It Up
For its convenience, modest price, and simple design—plus its high performance in our testing—we don't think you can go wrong with the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle. I'll happily pack ours away in my daughter's daycare bag until she grows into a sippy cup.
1. Chun Z. Yang, et al, Most Plastic Product Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Health Problem That Can Be Solved, Environmental Health Perspectives, July 1, 2011
2. Emily E Stevens, et al, A History of Infant Feeding, The Journal of Perinatal Education, Spring 2009
4. Babble Blogger Favorites: Best Baby Bottles of 2013, Babble, April 10, 2013
5. The Best Baby Bottles, BabyCenter
6. Heather Eng, 15 BPA-Free Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups, Parents.com
7. Sterilizing and Warming Bottles, HealthyChildren.org, last updated October 31, 2013
8. Zena Barakat, Ask Well: How to Clean Baby Bottles, New York Times, December 18, 2013
Christine Cyr Clisset writes about food, sewing, and textiles. Her work has been published in Martha Stewart Living, Slate, Marie Claire, and more. She's based in New York City.