Dealing with breast milk or formula can be complicated and, frankly, sometimes really annoying. You make that perfect bottle for your baby, and within 15 minutes it's no longer warm and your little one refuses to drink! So you pop the bottle in the microwave, but then it's too hot and you fear having plastic chemicals leaching into the milk. Since the 1990's there has been a great solution for all of this: the baby bottle warmer.
Types of Bottle Warmers: There are three main types of bottle warmers. First, there is the typical home bottle warmer system that sits on your kitchen counter and uses steam to warm up your baby bottle. Second, there is the home bottle warmer system that involves heating a pot of water that your bottle sits in. Third, there is the travel bottle warmer that either plugs into your vehicle or relies on a thermos that you fill with hot water in the morning. Most parents buy the second and third options, to have the flexibility of a home bottle warmer and travel bottle warmer.
What to Look For: There are some very typical complaints about many bottle warmers. First, many of the bottle warmers that use steam have a reservoir that you fill with water (like a Keurig), and parents report that those tend to get pretty disgusting and slimy/moldy if they are not cleaned every few days. We suggest using the type that involves placing water into a little pot and then placing the bottle in with it; then you have no reservoir and tubes to get all gunked up. Second, heating a bottle full of milk is a tricky problem, because you want the bottle to be just a bit higher than the baby's body temperature (about 98.5 degrees fahrenheit, or 37 degrees celsius). Many warmers will over-heat the milk and then you have to wait again for it to cool down. This happens a lot when you're warming a bottle that is filled to a level that doesn't fit the warmer's settings (usually they have a couple options, like 4oz or 8oz). No matter which bottle warming technique you're using, to reduce the risk of burns always check the temperature of the warmed milk (we like to drip some on our forearm/underside of wrist) before feeding your baby. Finally, many bottle warmers tend to cater to the tall and narrow style of bottle. For instance, you can have a hard time fitting wide bottles (like a Tommee Tippee) into a Goloho bottle warmer, because the heating pot on the Goloho is just too narrow. So we suggest getting a warmer that will fit a variety of bottle dimensions; you will find that sometimes it takes trying several baby bottles and nipples before finding the best one (see our list of the best ones here), so you want to have flexibility in which ones will fit your new bottle warmer.
To make our best bottle warmer list, we ended up testing the 8 most popular bottle warmers on the market right now. Only five made it to the list, all of which show a good compromise between functionality, reliability, and price.
Here are the best baby bottle warmers of 2016!
1. The First Years Night Cravings Bottle Warmer and Cooler. This is the best overall bottle warmer of the year, with some great features, high reliability, and a nice price point around $25. This system couples a bottle warmer on the front that heats and steams a little pot of water that you lower the bottle into, with a little cooler on the back that can fit 2 bottles. For the bottle warming aspect, we think this does the best job overall. Because it uses a little water pot rather than a complicated reservoir-based steaming system, it doesn't have the issue of slimy and gunky tubes and reservoirs to take care of. It heats up the water that surrounds the bottle. You use one of the little vials hanging on the side to add some tap water into the pot: you add water up to the lower or upper fill line depending on whether you're heating a bottle with 4 ounces or 8 ounces of milk. The vials are a nice touch because you can fill them before the night, then you won't be stumbling in the dark trying to fill to the proper line. Once you add the water and rest the bottle inside, just press the button on the front. The button has a light that will turn off when the bottle is ready. In our tests, when taking a plastic bottle of 4 ounces of mixed formula from our refrigerator and placing it in the warmer, when it was finished it came out at around 99.7 degrees Fahrenheit, which was pretty good. That temperature did vary a bit though, depending on whether we used glass bottles (those came out hotter), or thicker or thinner plastic bottles. So the bottle warming aspect worked like a champ, and we love the simplicity of the concept and not having to clean any steam reservoirs or tubes. We also loved how all of our bottles, both narrow and wide, fit nicely into this bottle warmer. We tested it with Comotomo, Tommee Tippee, and Dr. Brown's bottles. With this system, you also get an insert for warming baby food, which we never used, and a little cooler on the back. There is basically an ice pack that you can cool in your freezer then place in the cooler unit. Then you can put in 2 bottles and close it up, and maybe bring it with you on errands? We found the best use for this was at night: in the evening, place one or two bottles in the cooler with the frozen ice pack, and then when you get up in the middle of the night for a feeding they are ready to go right next to the warmer. A bit easier than having to open the refrigerator and find the bottle in the middle of the night. At first we didn't really see the added utility of the cooler on the back, but over time we got used to it and actually thought it was handy for night-time feeding. Overall, this is an excellent bottle warmer with the added feature of the cooler on the back, which you may or may not end up using.
2. Goloho Baby Bottle and Baby Food Warmer. This is a very similar concept to the First Years bottle warmer, but it does not include the cooler capability on the back. Like the First Years, it uses a little pot for warming up the bottle, rather than using steam, making it much easier to clean and maintain. In our tests, the pot worked really well for warming up bottles of formula or breast milk, and we never had any issues of the milk being too cool or hot after warming. Also like the First Years system, this uses fill lines inside to correspond to smaller (4 ounce) or larger (8 ounce) bottles of milk. It also has a couple additional features, like three warming settings: one for warming a baby bottle, one for warming food, and one that we used for sterilizing a couple pacifiers. To warm an 8 ounce bottle of breast milk from refrigerator temperature, it took about 6-7 minutes, and the milk (after stirred) was just over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We liked the extra warming settings, though we never used the food one. The hottest setting was convenient, as we were able to stick 3 pacifiers into the reservoir, and it boiled them clean over the course of about 10 minutes. The biggest con that we found, however, was that we couldn't fit some of the more popular wide-neck bottles into the pot. It did very well fitting Dr. Brown's bottles (which are our best rated ones), and the Philips AVENT, but did not fit the Tommee Tippee or Comotomo bottles. That's the biggest downfall of this particular option. Otherwise, it's a great bottle warmer, at a great price around $20.
3. Kiinde Kozii Baby Bottle Warmer. This (relatively expensive) bottle warmer is unique in comparison to the other ones on our list, as it uses a different filling and heating technique. For this system, you fill up a reservoir underneath the warming pot, and then when you turn it on, the water level rises up to surround the bottle. This is an interesting setup because it doesn't require filling a reservoir on the side and relying on tubes and other mechanisms to store and move the water, so there is less risk of things getting disgusting over the course of a few days. However, we wouldn't leave that water sitting down in the reservoir without using it for over 24 hours, as it's likely to get a little funky down there. To be fair, the water never comes in contact with the formula or breast milk, only the side of the bottle, so maybe we're just being paranoid. In any event, this system uses a knob with multiple time settings ranging from 1 to 15. To figure out how many minutes you actually need to heat your bottle for, they include a handy little chart (which we copied below). Basically, you're looking at 5-8 minutes to warm a 4-8 ounce bottle, which is right on par with the other systems on this list. We made a big mistake when using this system, however, that we want you to avoid! We made the mistake of pulling a bottle out after a couple of minutes to check its temperature. What happens when you pull it out early is that the system thinks the water level is too low and starts to pump more water into the pot. Then, when you put the bottle back in, the entire systems over-flows onto the counter. That was annoying and a little dangerous given that it's really hot water, nevermind it's also an electrical device. Overall, this is a pretty great bottle warmer, save for some little issues. We still prefer a system that requires adding a bit of water each time, rather than a system using any type of reservoir.
4. Tommee Tippee Travel Bottle and Food Warmer. This bottle warmer uses an entirely difference concept than the other ones on our list, and it is specifically designed for travel. You don't need to plug it in, and it's highly portable, fitting nicely into a diaper bag or large purse without any issues. When we first received it, we thought it seemed really complicated, but then realized it's actually very simple. The system comes with three parts: a stainless steel thermos, a thermos cap, and a opaque plastic water reservoir. Here's how you use it: you fill the thermos with boiling water and close the lid. Then, you slide the plastic reservoir over the top of the thermos and screw it on. Pop it into your diaper bag or car, and go about your day's adventure. When you're ready to feed your baby, dump the thermos into the plastic reservoir to make a pot of hot water. Take your Tommee Tippee bottle (or your bottle brand of choice, it is wide enough for basically anything!) of breast milk or formula and stick it into the pot of hot water. Wait about 3-4 minutes and you will find that your bottle of milk is at a very nice temperature for feeding. We tried it out after a couple of hours, and then we tried it after about 11 hours of the water being in the thermos... it was still quite hot, and still worked like a charm. A couple downfalls: first, you need to bring a bottle of milk separately wherever you're going, probably in a cooler pouch. Second, it's bigger than we thought it would be, and doesn't fit in the car cup-holder (too wide). Third, any time you're dealing with very hot water there is a risk of burns, so be careful! Note that the plastic reservoir that you put the hot water into when you're ready to warm the bottle gets very hot, so have a flat surface to put it on without needing to hold it up. Overall, this is a great travel option with some small limitations. Cheap too, coming in usually around $15 or so.
5. The First Years Quick Serve Bottle Warmer. This basically a cheaper and simpler version of our #1 rated bottle warmer. Coming in at only around $15, this does the job when you want a quick and easy bottle warmer. Like the #1 version, it uses the measuring vials to add the right amount of water to the pot, includes a baby food warming attachment, and uses a one-button operation. It also fits most bottles, both wide and tall, but we did manage to get a short/wide Tommee Tippee bottle stuck down in it, which was a little challenging to get out. In contrast, an excessively thin and tall bottle will cause the steam to escape a lot from the sides, making it difficult to reach in to touch-test or swirl your bottle without getting your hand into hot steam. Note quite as reliable or consistent as the bottle warmer on the #1 version of the First Years warmer. For about the same money, we suggest going for the Goloho.