How Many Baby Bottles Do I Need?

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Congratulations! You have received the amazing news that you are expecting a baby! It is such an exciting time for parents, full of wonder and speculation about who this little person will be. It is also a time of many questions, as you navigate this new world of parenting. One thing that most parents find quite overwhelming is trying to discern what baby products are necessary, what brands are best, and how many of each item we need. Depending on what your plans are for breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination of both, you might be wondering ‘how many baby bottles do I need?’ Here at Smart Parent Advice, we can help to shed some light on this tricky question.
feeding baby with bottle

How Many Bottles Do I Need?

There are many variables that can make it challenging to determine a set number for how many baby bottles you will need, such as whether you will be at home with your baby or if you will be returning to work, and whether you are planning to breastfeed or formula feed. It also depends on how often you want to wash and sterilize your bottles each day. If you would prefer to only have to clean your daily bottles once each day, then you will need enough bottles to get you through the day (plus one or two extra just in case).

On average, if you are at home with your baby and breastfeeding exclusively, then you wouldn’t need more than 2-3 bottles. These would be primarily for times when you need to go out or your partner wants to help with feeding.

If you are formula feeding your baby, then you will need more bottles. It is not recommended to save unused formula for future feedings, so you will need a new bottle each time your baby eats. Depending on how often you want to be washing bottles throughout the day, you will likely need between 4-6 bottles. Aim for 6-7 bottles if you prefer to not have to rewash bottles throughout the day.

If you are a working mom, and your baby will be attending daycare, then you will need more bottles. Whether they are full of expressed breast milk or formula, you will probably need at least 5 or more bottles. A good rule of thumb is to plan for your baby requiring a bottle every two hours while at daycare, plus a few extra bottles just in case. So, if your baby is going to be at daycare for 8 hours each day, then plan to send at least 4 bottles to daycare, and have one or two bottles at home for morning and evening feeds.


Types of Baby Bottles to Consider

Years ago, bottles were bottles, and there weren’t many kinds to choose from. Today, we have the luxury of selecting the perfect bottle for our baby and our lifestyle. Perhaps your baby struggles with digestive issues and is rather gassy; there are bottles that can help with this issue. Or, maybe you’ve been blessed with an early arrival, and you need a bottle that would be suitable for a premature baby; there are bottles that would be great for that situation. Whatever your needs and preferences, likely there are bottles out there that can meet those needs.

In general, there are four different kinds of baby bottles – plastic, glass, silicone, and stainless steel. Plastic and glass tend to be the most popular, although silicone is rapidly gaining in popularity due to its durability, ease of use, and resistance to bacteria.

Plastic bottles are convenient and easy to use, and there are many different styles and brands to choose from. They are lightweight and durable, and they can be dropped or thrown (we’ve all had those moments with an upset baby!) without breaking. While baby product companies are now manufacturing plastic products that are free from harmful chemicals such as BPA, some parents still prefer to avoid plastic when possible. 

Glass bottles are increasingly popular among eco-conscious families as a safe option for their baby. Glass bottles have been used for many years, and parents trust their durability and the fact that there is no risk of chemicals getting into their baby’s system. Most glass bottles today are manufactured with tempered glass or shockproof designs to prevent breaking, and many of them come with silicone sleeves that can help to protect the glass.

Silicone bottles are becoming more popular due to their ability to mimic breastfeeding, reducing baby’s confusion and resistance when introducing bottle feeding. The soft material is similar to the breast, and the silicone nipple makes it easy for little mouths to latch on. Because silicone is malleable, you are able to squeeze the bottle to help your baby latch on if they are having difficulty.  

Stainless steel baby bottles are also gaining in popularity, because many parents are wanting to reduce their plastic use. Stainless steel bottles are incredibly durable and easy to clean, and many of them offer a double wall of insulation, ensuring your baby’s formula stays fresh for longer. Many stainless steel bottles can also transition into sippy cups by simply switching out the lids as your baby gets older.

There is no right answer when it comes to what kind of bottle you choose to purchase for your baby. Go with the type that works best for your little one and your lifestyle.

mom feeding baby with bottle

Wait Until Baby Arrives Before Purchasing Bottles

I know, this goes against every nesting instinct you probably have going on right now, but hear me out. While you might want to have a couple of bottles on hand for when the baby arrives, you really want to wait to stock up until you know what life will be like with your baby. 

Are you planning on breastfeeding? Perhaps that plan doesn’t pan out, as it didn’t in my case. I had full intention of nursing our son, but due to some pregnancy complications including gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, he was born jaundiced and with low blood sugar. The nurses didn’t have time to wait for my milk to come in, as they needed to get his sugars up. So, he was given a bottle right away, and from then on, preferred bottle to breast, despite my most valiant efforts to breastfeed. I hadn’t stocked up on bottles because I had planned to nurse, but when that changed, I was able to purchase the bottles that worked best for our son. 

Are you planning on bottle feeding? Maybe you know already that you will be either pumping breast milk or formula feeding, either method requiring bottles. But, perhaps your little one makes an early appearance, and you are in need of some preemie bottles. Or, maybe your baby is colicky and you require a special brand of bottle to soothe their tummy. You won’t know these variables until your baby arrives, so hold off on buying a bunch of bottles before your baby is born. Have a few on hand just in case, but that’s it.

mom with baby

How to Introduce a Bottle to a Breastfeeding Baby

There are so many different reasons for introducing a bottle to a breastfeeding baby. It doesn’t necessarily mean you are no longer planning to nurse, but that other factors are involved in your decision of how to feed your child. Friends of ours made the decision to primarily feed their baby expressed breastmilk in a bottle, so that the father could have an equal role in feeding their child. Other friends nursed part-time and bottle fed part-time, so that they had more flexibility in their daily lives and did not have to plan around when the mother was needed for feeding. Many moms have to return to work before they are finished breastfeeding, making bottles essential throughout the day. Whatever your reason may be, it could be that you will need to introduce your baby to a bottle sooner rather than later. 

It is ideal if you are able to establish breastfeeding with your baby before introducing a bottle. This allows them time to get used to nursing and to latch on confidently. Without this skill in place, your baby could start to prefer the bottle over the breast because it’s easier to feed from. La Leche League International recommends waiting for breastfeeding to be established, usually around four weeks or so, before introducing a bottle.

If you are planning to feed expressed breast milk from a bottle, then begin pumping after your baby has fed, when your breasts still feel slightly full. You won’t get a whole lot, as your baby will have already consumed most of your milk. But, this signals your body to produce more milk, which will allow you to pump larger quantities later on. If you are feeding formula in the bottle, then you won’t need to worry about this step. 

It is recommended that someone other than you be the one to introduce the bottle. Your baby knows you and your scent, and they will expect to nurse if you are there. Instead, have your partner or other support person introduce the bottle to them. Choose a feeding time when your baby is usually in a good mood, not at the end of the day when they are tired and cranky.

Once seated in a comfortable, upright position for your partner and your baby, they should tickle the baby’s mouth with the bottle nipple in order to encourage them to take the nipple in their mouth. It is better to allow your baby to take the nipple themselves, rather than pushing it into their mouth, as they will be able to control the feeding as they would when nursing.

Final Thoughts 

There is no right or wrong answer when deciding how many bottles to buy for your baby, what type of bottle to buy, or whether to breastfeed or formula feed. It is your baby, so it is your decision. These are approximate guidelines to hopefully help in deciding how many bottles to start with. Happy feeding!

Sarah Poirier is an elementary school teacher, freelance writer, and busy mom who is seeking a simpler lifestyle away from the everyday "rat race". Having recently completed a cross-country move, she now lives on her rural oceanfront paradise with her husband and two beautiful, energetic children. As a writer, she is passionate about finding ways to live a healthier and more holistic lifestyle, and she loves sharing helpful tips and tricks she's learned along the way on this parenting adventure!