The bottle warmer is one of those things that some parents never touch, and others rely on, and you might not know whether you’re former or the latter until after the baby arrives. The reason being, a bottle of formula or breast milk can be warmed in other, simpler ways than with a fancy contraption — namely, by putting it in a bowl of warmed water, or running warm tap water over its sides.
But some parents swear by their bottle warmers because some babies are more particular than others about having their meals at the right temperature. These devices make it easy to get things thoroughly and evenly warm quickly. Plus, there are no dishes to wash afterwards.
If you plan to breastfeed, be careful. Some bottle warmers may not be approved for breast milk, as they may change the properties of the milk. Others, like the Kiinde Kozii, were made for breast milk, but you might find you’re just fine going the warm-water route. (Never microwave breast milk!)
You don’t usually ever have to warm an infant’s milk or formula. It is more a personal preference than anything else. Some infants do just fine drinking formula at room temperature or even when it is a little cool. After all, once you switch to whole milk, you likely won’t be warming it up anymore and will offer it right out of the refrigerator.
If your baby is used to you warming her formula bottles, she might not appreciate your making the change later. If she is a very easy-going baby, she might not care, and you could probably give it a try if you like. Besides, not having to warm the bottles of the formula is much more convenient.
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Risks of Warming Bottles
When warming up infant formula, there are a few points to keep in mind.
Do not use a microwave. Because of the risk of scalding burns, remember not to use a microwave to warm your baby’s bottles of formula.1 A microwave heats things unevenly and can lead to superheated pockets of formula in the bottle which can scald your baby’s mouth. Although many parents do use a microwave to heat bottles, then vigorously shake the bottle and test the formula before giving it to their baby, it still isn’t a safe practice. It is safer to use a baby bottle warmer or some warmed tap water to warm the bottle.
Go BPA free. The type of bottle you use to feed your baby makes a big difference. BPA stands for bisphenol A, which is a chemical that has been used since the 1960s in manufacturing many hard plastic food containers, including baby bottles and sippy cups, in addition to the lining of metal cans used for liquid infant formula, according to the FDA (the U.S. food and drug administration).
When hot or boiling foods (including water, infant formula, or other foods and liquids) come in contact with containers made with BPA, then traces of BPA get transferred on to the food.
Since 2008, the use of BPA in baby bottles has dropped out of favour with manufacturers, since BPAs have been associated with leading to certain cancers, and disrupting brain development and the reproductive system (including early onset of puberty). In 2013, the FDA supported an end to the use of BPA-based epoxy resins in the lining of formula cans.
The FDA recommends boiling water in a BPA-free container. Then allow it to cool to lukewarm and mix with powdered infant formula.
Discard baby bottles, sippy cups, and other food containers that are scratched, since scratches in plastics can harbour germs and release small amounts of BPA (if they were used in the manufacturing of the container).
Check labels on bottles and containers for the recycle codes on the bottom—In general, plastics marked with recycling codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA. Some (but not all) plastics marked with recycling codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
There are very compelling reasons to include a baby bottle warmer on your baby registry – or to use one if your little one has already arrived! Here are the top 5:
- Babies like warm milk: Breastmilk is body temperature so if you switch to formula, she will probably prefer it warm too!
- It’s safer — Some Moms microwave milk to warm it up which can be dangerous and cause hot spots or uneven heating and burn your baby’s mouth. Using a bottle warmer is safer.
- It’s faster than other methods: Running hot water over the bottle or warming it in boiling water takes a lot more time (and effort if you’re holding the bottle under hot water) than using a warmer.
- Preserves nutrients. You should never heat breastmilk in the microwave. Doing so can affect the composition of the milk and destroy key nutrients.
- No extra pots or dishes to wash. If you go with a stovetop heating method or put the bottle in a bowl of warm water, you’ll have that many more items to wash.
Things you’d be wasting your money on A Bottle Warmer
In the ‘olden days’ bottles would be warmed by sitting in a pan of warming water. After a few minutes, the contents of the bottle is tested, usually on the wrist ( a very sensitive place where you’ll be acutely aware of the heat), and then given to the baby. In the 70s and 80s microwave ovens became increasingly common in homes. With them came both excitement at the prospect of fast heating and concern about the heating method; a polarity that continues today.
Why some people chose a Bottle Warmer
Some families have generalised concerns about the microwave. There are sometimes fears about radiation leakage, chemical leach from plastics, superheating, uneven heating, nutrient breakdown, and more. Several of these fears have little to no basis in science but can be hard to dispel. The introduction of bottle warmers to the market allowed anyone who worried about a microwave, but who didn’t want to heat water in a pan, to find what seemed like a middle ground; faster, safer heating. Talk of the chemical BPA is found in some plastics – a chemical which was shown to interfere with human hormones and which is activated by heat – seemed to solidify the argument for the bottle warmer.
How a Bottle Warmer Works
The electric bottle warmer works by agitating water molecules, causing them to heat up.
How a Microwave Works
A microwave works by agitating water molecules, causing them to heat up.
The only difference is that the microwave heats the water or formula inside the bottle directly, and the bottle warmer heats a reservoir of water outside the bottle which then transfers through the bottle into the contents inside.
Bottle-feeding Mistakes EVERY Mom Makes
Feed your baby every time he cries.
Contrary to some ideas, babies do not only cry because they are hungry.
If you just fed and burped your infant 30 minutes ago, there is most likely another reason causing the crying.
Check your baby’s diaper and remove your baby from over-stimulation such as loud sounds, bright lights and crowds of people.
Those two issues are common triggers for a fussy baby.
Consider other avenues of comfort before you give your baby a bottle at every whimper.
A baby can be overfed, and this can lead to health problems now and possibly in the future.
Water down the formula to save money.
Formula can wreak havoc on your family’s grocery budget, but don’t skimp in the area of your infant’s nutritional needs.
At this pertinent time of growth, the formula is providing 100% of your baby’s vitamins and minerals.
The directions on the label of your purchased formula should be followed when mixing the formula and water to get the correct constitution of liquid versus powder.
Researchers have studied the amounts of powder and liquid to provide the most nutritionally dense servings for your little one that is also safe and sensitive on babies delicate digestion systems.
Don’t sterilise the bottles.
All bottles, nipples and feeding supplies should be thoroughly sterilised before the first use.
After this, bottles can be washed with hot, soapy water.
Take time to clean the bottles immediately after each feeding thoroughly.
An easy cleaning tip is to place the bottles on the top rack of the dishwasher during your next load of dishes.
The high temperature will provide the sterilisation needed to thoroughly and effectively clean your little one’s feeding accessories.
Place nipples in a safe area to prevent melting from high temperatures.
For quick and easy preparation, heat the formula in the microwave.
Some things are more important than convenience, and your baby’s health and safety are two of them.
Microwaves have been known to kill important vitamins and minerals as well as heat foods to dangerous temperatures.
The heating formula in the microwave can also cause the milk to develop “hot spots” that you may not notice when testing the temperature of the milk.
A more safe and healthy approach is to slowly heat the milk on the stove in a pot of hot water.
Do not boil the milk.
After heating the bottle on the stove, shake vigorously to distribute the heat evenly.
A bottle can also be heated in a bowl of hot tap water while running additional hot water over the bottle.
Another convenient method is using a bottle warmer to heat the bottle.
For on-the-go convenience, prepare all your bottles before your outings.
Sure, it would be great to grab a warm bottle from your diaper bag and feed your baby, but the prepared formula is completely unsafe after two hours at room temperature.
Breastmilk is able to withstand a longer period of time at room temperature, but infant formula can become coagulated and vitamin deficient pretty quickly.
If you do want to prepare bottles ahead, travel with an ice pack like this one.
Using an ice pack will keep the prepared formula safe for consumption.
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Only burp the baby when it’s convenient.
Even if you’re in a hurry to run some errands or wash the dishes, take time to burp your little one properly.
Trapped gas can cause major discomfort in an infant.
Insufficient burping can also lead to spitting up.
Try several positions with patience as you wait for your bambino to deliver approximately 2-3 burps per feeding.
Let the baby fall asleep with a bottle.
Avoid letting your bottle-fed baby take the bottle to bed.
Juice or milk can harm a baby’s gums and teeth and cause cavities in early life.
An infant can experience other dangers from having a bottle in the bed without adult supervision.
Take precaution and only let your baby or infant drink his bottle with adult supervision.
Use plain tap or well water.
Though opinions may differ, the safest route with bottle preparation is to use boiled or sterilised drinking water when preparing a bottle.
In many areas, it isn’t easy to assess the safety of your tap water.
Purchasing previously sterilised water or sterilising your own will provide the peace of mind about the safety of the water your little one is consuming.
To sterilise water at home, boil water in a large saucepan for 15 minutes and then let it cool to room temperature before mixing with the powdered formula.
Reduce, reuse recycle.
Does your bambino keep leaving a few extra ounces in his bottle after his daily feedings?
Don’t try to be earth-friendly and recycle those left-overs.
Bacteria from your baby’s mouth could enter the milk and sit and become harmful to your baby’s health.
Always discard any prepared formula that has not been consumed in one feeding.
Just open a can of formula and start scooping!
Don’t ever trust your memory to ensure you’re purchased can of formula has not expired.
Always check the expiration date before preparing your baby’s bottle.
Canned and liquid formulas can lose their nutritional values quickly. Also, examine the formula’s container for dents and budges.
Containers with this kind of damage could be harmful to your baby’s health.
The arguments against the microwave
Despite the fact that the bottle warmer, the microwave (and water in a pan for that matter) all essentially heat in the same way, there are some concerns specific to the microwave.
The microwaves are harmful and could leak and irradiate us all. FALSE.
This is a classic case of fear of the unknown. Micro-waves (not the machine, the things you were worried about) are a kind of radiation akin to radio or infrared, Unless you fear your baby being near a radio, then any fear of the microwave is overblown.
Microwaving the formula or EBM causes it to lose nutritional value. FALSE.
All heating and cooling have an effect on the structure of our food and drink (sometimes beneficially, sometimes not) but microwaves have no more effective than any other method of heating. It may help many things retain their nutritional value as the heating time is less.
Things heated in a microwave do so unevenly, leaving super hot spots.
Now this one is true, but how this affects heating a baby bottle needs more explanation. The microwaves are agitating the water molecules. That’s why some food gets hot in some spots and cool in others; different amounts of water generating different amounts of heat. If you are heating a bottle of just water in the microwave, it is all heated at the same rate, without hot spots. If you heat EBM or formula, all that is needed is to shake or swirl the contents of the bottle thoroughly to distribute the heat evenly. You’ll be testing it for the correct temperature before offering it to your baby anyway.
Still not convinced about the microwave?
Never mind, it’s perfectly fine not to use the microwave and yet still not need to buy that bottle warmer. The bottle warmer is simply heating water around the outside of the bottle. That’s better than the water in the pan, how exactly? It’s no less work; put water in pan/bottle warmer, place bottle in pan/bottle warmer, turn on the heat under pan/turn on the bottle warmer, wait a few mins, test bottle for the correct temperature, give to baby. Or how about, run hot tap water around the outside of the bottle for a minute? Sit bottle in a jug of hot water? The only benefit is a timer, meaning you can forget about it and it will turn off. While this can be useful – is it worth the $50-$80 a warmer will cost you?
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Do you need to heat the milk at all?
The simple answer is No. Because breast milk is at body-temperature, one assumes that babies are used to drinking all their milk warm. But it doesn’t follow that they need it that way, or even that they would be unhappy with a different temperature. It won’t be long before they’re drinking room-temperature or cooled water, eating foods that are cold and hot, and drinking cow’s milk straight from the fridge. It’s not harmful or means to start getting your baby used to room-temperature bottles from very early on. They’ll find it easier to enjoy foods of different temperatures later, and transition to cold cow’s milk much easier. And it’s more convenient and flexible for you both at home and out and about.
Our recommendation? Register for a bottle warmer if you think you’ll use it. Look for one that also heats baby food, so you get double duty out of it, and make sure it fits all the bottles you plan to use. And save the receipt just in case it doesn’t make it out of the box.