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How to Choose Baby Equipment

How to Choose Baby-Feeding Implements

You might not be sure what items you need from the grocery store for you new baby. Your basic shopping list will look something like this:

Unfortunately, your children cannot feed themselves, and you will need a few specialty items.

Unfortunately, your children cannot feed
themselves, and you will need a
 few specialty items.

  • Bottles or nursers (which you need for water even if you're breast-feeding): one or two 8-ounce bottles and one 4-ounce bottle if breast-feeding; four to six 8-ounce bottles and two 4-ounce bottles if using formula

  • Nipples: to go with bottles and nursers

  • One long-handled feeding spoon (one with a tiny bowl) and one short- or curve-handled spoon: The long-handled spoon is easier to use to feed your baby. When the baby begins to feed herself, a stubbier spoon is the easiest for her to handle.

  • One bottle and nipple brush: one that has a large brush for bottles on one end and a smaller brush for nipples on the other end

  • Bibs: about six of soft plastic and three of firm, molded plastic with a trough bottom for when baby gets a little older. Make sure any bib has well-finished edges and adjustable neck straps, not strings.

  • Vegetable steamer: This is useful if you plan to make your own baby food.

  • Blender: This is an excellent investment if you will make baby food; three speeds will suffice.

  • Measuring spoons and cups

  • Pacifier: It can help meet the baby's strong sucking needs and soothe her while she waits for the bottle.

  • Training or "sippy" cup

  • Baby food grinder or strainer (optional)
You can get clear and opaque plastic bottles as well as glass ones. Few parents still use the glass ones, but they do have advantages. They're easier to clean but breakable. The opaque ones stain easily, and you can't see the amount of liquid in them. We recommend the clear plastic bottles. Don't bother with novelty bottles in fun shapes; they're difficult to clean.

It is not necessary to sterilize bottles. Wash them well with hot, soapy water, and rinse them with hot water.

Nursers are bottle-like frames that hold plastic bags filled with liquid. They use wide-necked nipples that attach to the top of the frame and hold the bags in place. Their advantage is that they eliminate the need for scrubbing, but the bags can be damaged if the liquids poured into them are too hot. Also, they've been known to leak, and it's hard to measure the amount of liquid in them.

Not all nipples are the same. Use the nipple your baby prefers. Nipples come in different lengths; smaller babies prefer shorter nipples-they may gag on nipples that are too long. Babies of breast-feeding mothers tend to accept nipples designed for premature babies more easily.

If the hole in the nipple is too large, the baby may choke or thrust her tongue forward attempting to cut off the excess supply of liquid. If the hole is too small, she may be frustrated. You can enlarge a too-small hole by boiling the nipple for five minutes and then cooling it for three minutes with a toothpick lodged in the hole; if you make it too big, boil it again.

Orthodontic nipples have been touted as more natural, more like a mother's breast. They have bulbous tips with protruding rims that must be positioned at the top of the baby's mouth. However, they tend to deteriorate more quickly than other nipples because they're harder to clean.

All nipples deteriorate over time as a result of exposure to saliva and milk products. Throw out nipples that show signs of stretching, peeling, or stickiness. Careful cleaning, thorough rinsing, and proper storage in a cool, dry place prolong their life.


Breast-feeding is likely to be more economical than bottle-feeding. It also provides the baby with more intimate contact, and research has shown it releases hormones in the mother that stimulate maternal, tender feelings. Human milk is especially suited to human babies-more so than formula or animal milk. It is easy to digest and actually helps protect the baby from getting sick with illnesses, such as middle ear infections. Some research even suggests that breast milk improves a baby's intelligence and can protect a baby against certain forms of cancer.

Breast-feeding supplies are minimal:
  • Nursing bras: These come in a variety of styles that either fasten in the front center or have fold-down flaps. Flaps are easier. Some women prefer to use an ordinary stretch bra that they simply lift up. Whatever your choice, wait until your ninth month of pregnancy or until after the baby has been born (but not during the days when your milk first starts coming in) to find your size. A bra that is too tight interferes with the downflow of milk and is uncomfortable. If you buy in the ninth month, however, be sure you can tighten the bra somewhat, since the size of your rib cage will decrease after the birth.

    Look for a bra that is machine washable. If your breasts are very heavy, select one with large, wide straps and extra support, such as one with underwires. Try on several types and buy up to six of the one that's most comfortable, since milk leakage during the first few months necessitates frequent washing (a damp bra can stimulate bacterial growth).

  • Breast pads: These are for milk leakage. You can use men's cotton handkerchiefs tucked into your bra or mini-pads cut in half. Commercial breast pads are more expensive, but those made of washable layered fabric aren't a bad investment. Disposable breast pads usually have plastic liners, which can irritate sore nipples by keeping moisture in. No matter which type you choose, it's important to change them when they're wet.

  • Breast pump: You may need to pump milk if you will be separated from your baby for prolonged periods. There are four kinds of breast pumps. Hand-operated pumps work with a rubber bulb for suction, but these usually don't work well. To get them to work at all, you must use an intermittent, gentle, tugging action rather than continuous suction. Breast pumps that use piston or syringe cylinders also work with an intermittent tugging action but are designed to be more effective than hand-operated pumps.

    Get one that has adapters for different breast sizes and bottles for storage. You may prefer a battery-operated pump; these are somewhat more expensive but are quicker and easier to use. Electric pumps are very expensive and are usually used by hospitals. They can be rented by the month (contact your local breast-feeding organization for information); if you have a premature baby in the hospital but you want to breast-feed, this may be the way to go until the baby is home.
Breast creams aren't necessary. If your breasts get sore, the best healer is fresh air and pure hydrous lanolin. Rubber nipple shields don't work well and interfere with the natural toughening process that helps make nursing more comfortable.

Breast feeding, while not essential, can provide valuable nutrients to your baby.
, LTd.
Breast feeding, while not essential,
can provide valuable nutrients
 to your baby.

All babies have sucking urges that go beyond feeding, and this sucking urge is at its highest between three and seven months of age. By age two, most babies have lost the urge, except when under stress. Pacifiers may prevent thumb sucking and other undesirable sucking habits. However, there is the danger that the pacifier will come apart and pieces become stuck in the throat.

There have also been strangulations from ribbons when pacifiers were hung around the baby's neck. New regulations require that pacifiers have two ventilation holes for air passage. The protrusions on the backs of shields must be a specific size to prevent ingestion, and the pacifier must be tested for durability to ensure it won't come apart. Do not tie the pacifier around your baby's neck. Instead, attach the pacifier ribbon to your baby's clothing. (Be sure the ribbon is not long enough to wrap around the baby's neck.)

Once your baby gets a little older, you'll want to use a training cup to help ease the transition from the bottle. The cup should have a snap-on lid with a narrow spout and wide handles. Look for cups that are dishwasher safe.

You'll also want baby dishes. Choose dishes that are completely immersible and dishwasher safe, for easy cleaning. Dishes with steep sides and suction bases to prevent sliding are easier for self-feeding. Feeding spoons used for a child beginning to feed herself should have semi-flat bowls and weighted handles that chubby little hands can grip easily. Avoid spoons with rubber bowls; they taste bad.

Of course parents raised children for thousands of years without all of the cutting-edge baby equipment we have today. And while you may not need the most extravagant stroller, you will probably welcome all the help you can get in the first few months of your child's life. 

About the consultant:

Alvin Eden, M.D.:
Alvin Eden, M.D. serves as a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the Weil Medical College of Cornell University in New York, New York.  He is Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn.  Dr. Eden is also the author of a number of child care book, including Positive Parenting and  Growing Up Thin

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.