As parents, we have a lot of decisions to make about how to best care for our babies. With feeding being vital to your child's health and growth, you spend a lot of time pouring over the choices: best breast pump to use, breastmilk versus formula, which formula, anti-colic bottle or not, and the list goes on. Something else to consider is a bottle warmer. Though it isn't required, we all want to make our babies as comfortable as possible, and babies naturally want their milk warm. Recently we reviewed the best bottle warmers of 2020 as well as the best portable bottle warmers of 2020. Today we're providing an ultimate buyer's guide to baby bottle warmers. Used in conjunction with those lists, you'll be able to find exactly what you need for warming your baby's milk.
Let’s begin by determining if a bottle warmer is really something you need among all that baby gear.
Why Your Baby Needs Warm Milk
Your initial question might be if you have to warm your baby's milk at all. The truth is that there is nothing wrong with giving your baby room temperature, or even cold, milk. That is, if they will take it.
Though room temperature is possible for the most flexible of babies, milk straight from the fridge is a different story. Most babies will spit it right back out and then you have yourself a frustrated and hungry little baby. Babies are used to warmth and comfort. They were also born wanting body temperature breastmilk, which is much warmer than room temperature. Even formula-fed babies usually desire warm milk. Ultimately, no matter how much you tell yourself you can skip the warmer for your bottle-fed baby, you're likely going to realize she does need one, after all.
So we’ve determined that it’s highly likely that your baby is going to be hoping for (no, demanding) warm milk. But there is a right and a wrong way to go about getting your baby’s milk to the temperature they desire.
How to Safely Warm Your Baby's Milk
Safety should be your number one priority when making decisions about how to care for your baby, and that includes warming their milk.
Let's talk about the 3 safe ways to warm your baby's bottle:
- You can run the bottle under the tap using warm water (it should not be hot).
- Another method is to put warm water into a bowl and wait until the bottle comes to the same temperature as the water. Again, warm is the keyword here - hot is not safe.
- Lastly, you can use a bottle warmer.
(This might be the part where you wonder why didn’t mention the microwave. Though someone might try to tell you otherwise, the microwave is NEVER a safe option, and neither is putting the bottle in boiling water. This is how hot spots occur that could burn your baby’s mouth and throat.)
It's clear that two of the safe options we listed utilize nothing else than what you already have in your home, and that is totally fine! It just takes a bit longer. You may not realize it before your baby comes, but bottle warmers are a convenience you're probably going to want to get on board with. Especially during the newborn stage when you’re feeding your baby 8 -12 times per day.
What makes a bottle warmer so helpful?
Unlike running a bottle under the tap, or sitting it in a bowl of water, bottle warmers make it much easier to control the temperature of your baby's milk, are less messy, AND are almost always faster. These 3 reasons make the purchase of a bottle warmer completely worth it and I think any new parent who has used one would agree.
What to Look for in a Baby Bottle Warmer
Now that we've established how useful bottle warmers can be, let's look into what characteristics you'll want to consider when making this purchase.
Safety - Of course, your baby's safety is always number one. You should never warm your baby's formula past 113 degrees Fahrenheit in order to avoid burns. And breastmilk, in order to preserve its immunological components, should not be warmed past body temperature (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Warming Effectiveness - There's nothing worse than buying a product that doesn't do what it says it's going to. You'll want to read reviews to find out for sure that whatever warmer you choose will be effective at warming your baby's bottle to the temperature you (and he) desire.
Clean and Easy - Some more involved warmers can do some pretty cool things, but sometimes those gadgets aren't the easiest to use. Consider how much cleaning time will go into maintaining your warmer as well as how easy it is to use.
Portability - Most warmers are electrical and need to be plugged in to work. That's great for at home but won't help you when you need a warm bottle for your baby on the go. Or what about travel? Portable bottle warmers are your best bet for being able to take baby out and about without having to worry about hurrying back home to get a warm bottle. Something like the Baby's Brew portable bottle warmer is what we're talking about.
Considerations for Warming Breastmilk Versus Formula
Though most bottle warmers are marketed toward all parents with babies (because they all drink milk, right?!?) you actually need to be careful about which one you choose if your baby drinks breastmilk. If you've ever breastfed, then you know how you cherish every drop. Your body works hard for that "liquid gold"! This is not to say that formula isn't as important as breastmilk - it absolutely is!
The problem is that breastmilk, when heated to high of a temperature, will lose some of its nutritional components. Could you imagine pumping all that milk only to realize you've heated away the valuable nutrition? Formula, on the other hand, can be safely heated to a higher temperature without these negative effects.
Breastfeeding moms will want to look for a bottle warmer that can promise a temperature of about 100 degrees F or less - ideally 98.6 degrees. Your breastfed baby will be used to drinking breastmilk that’s at body temperature. It's ok if the bottle warmer you have has an option to go to a higher temperature, but you need to know you can count on a lower and safe temperature for preserving breastmilk nutrients.
So, how do you know you can count on a bottle warmer to come to the correct temperature?
If you'll be warming breastmilk, you're going to want to look for a bottle warmer that promotes its ability to safely warm breastmilk. Most of these will use a water bath mechanism to heat the bottle. (As opposed to steam heat which would be better suited for formula bottles).
Also, look for bottle warmers in which you can specify the exact temperature you need. The Baby's Brew, for example, has 4 different temperature settings. Just push the button for body temperature, and you'll have the precise temperature for a breastmilk bottle (the other temperatures are perfect for formula). It utilizes slow-heat technology to warm your little one's bottle in 5-10 minutes while preserving nutrients. It even maintains a charge for up to 12 hours, so the warmer will be ready to use when your baby gets hungry (even on long outings).
If you're curious about which bottle warmers are best for breast milk, check out this article.
What to Look For in a Baby Bottle Warmer
Earlier we discussed what you'll want to look for in a bottle warmer. Here are some of the features you'll see in different bottle warmers that ensure things like safety, warming effectiveness, ease of use, and portability:
Automatic shut-off feature - This means that once the bottle is warmed or taken out, the warmer won't stay on. This is for safety and peace of mind.
Slow-heat technology - A water bath or slow-heat technology are the safest options for warming breastmilk. It's also the best way to avoid hot spots which can burn your baby’s mouth.
Timer with audible beep - This is a convenient feature to let you know when the bottle is ready.
Consistency in temperature - Bottle warmers that allow you to choose the temperature setting are the best bet for this.
Reliability – Does it actually do what it says it’s going to do every single time? There’s nothing worse than having a cool gadget that doesn’t work when you need it to – especially where your baby is concerned.
- Fewer parts - You want something with the fewest parts possible to warm your baby's bottle effectively so there’s less to keep track of and clean.
- Portability – Bottle warmers for home use almost always require an electrical outlet to operate. Though these are usually pretty reliable, they don’t help you in situations when you need to be out and about. Additionally, is usually sits in one place in your house. Ideally, you’d want a bottle warmer that you can use both at home and on the go. The Baby’s Brew is perfect for both! Many moms love that they can use it in the kitchen during the day, take it to their bedside for middle-of-the-night feedings, and for excursions outside the home.
- Battery-operated - we've found that as far as portability goes, battery-operated is the best option. This is because the mechanisms that other portable bottle warmers use are not as reliable, are messy, or take too long to heat up. The Baby's Brew is the only bottle warmer that is battery-operated. You can take it anywhere!
Getting Through the Bottle Warmer Buying Process in 2020
New parents have numerous choices to make when it comes to baby gear and it can be time consuming deciding on what you need and which choice is best. As far as bottle warmers go, we hope we’ve made the process easier on you through the information we’ve outlined in this guide. Our goal is to make sure you have a happy, content, and well-fed baby no matter where mealtime happens!