Everything you need for baby and nothing you don't
Assuming you’ll use a bottle for breastmilk or formula, along with the actual bottles themselves (see: Bottles), it’s a good idea to score some of the basic bottle accessories before the baby comes.
The essential one is the bottle drying rack. I thought I wouldn’t need one of these: I figured, with our small apartment, the dishdrainer would work just as well as it does for all our dishes and who needs to take up more limited counter space with a one-use-only deal like a bottle drying mat or rack? Me, that’s who.
I knew we’d use bottles and I’d need to wash them (or put them in the dishwasher), but I had no idea what the volume was going to be like. It’s a lot. Add in the little parts from your breast pump that also need to be washed and it’s more than a lot. Sifting through your pots and knives in your dishdrainer to find a vent for the baby bottle is annoying. And even if you run them through the dishwasher, as with your Tupperware, the drying cycle doesn’t actually get a lot of the plastic pieces dry, so you’ll need somewhere to dump all the semi-wet pieces to fully dry.
Get a drying rack.
I liked the SkipHop Splash because it’s pretty compact and has a little tunnel in the middle for the bottle brush (which you will also 100% absolutely need), so that’s taken care of too. I also liked the Boon Grass mat because it was cool looking but it held less (’cause it’s flat) and there was no brush storage, so, you know, back to the SkipHop.
(A note on brushes: you’ll figure out what you like, but I think you’ll definitely need both a bottle brush and a little brush or sponge to clean inside the nipples of the bottles and pacifiers. The bottle brush tips are too big to get in there and that’s what’s actually in your kiddo’s mouth, so grab an extra set while you’re at Babies R Us if your bottle rack choice doesn’t come with both.)
Since they were only $5, I snagged a dishwasher basket for bottle parts too but, since we didn’t buy very many bottles and we needed them all the time, I ended up handwashing them more often than not and the dishwasher basket went mostly unused. (We don’t run the dishwasher very often because I won’t run cookware, bakeware or knives through it for some reason. I know: it’s crazy. I’m not even a cook, so what’s up with the overly protective of my kitchen stuff vibe? Yeah, I don’t get it either.) If you do plan to run your bottles through the dishwasher though, the basket is a really good idea: all the vents and nipples and so on won’t fare well on their own out in the open dishwasher. If you get one and don’t use it, hand it off to the baby: Astrid loved opening and closing hers and trapping things inside it.
Next up: the bottle warmer. A friend of mine lent us hers, and I never used it. Again: another piece of equipment on the small counter. We just ran super hot water into a big mug and let the bottle warm up in there. It worked fine. I guess the warmer would have brought the temperature up more accurately, but whatever. To my mind, the warmer is not essential. I’d say get your other essentials first and if, after a few weeks of bottle warming, you’re super irritated with the process, run out and get one. They’re only $15-$25, so it won’t break the bank if you don’t get it off your registry.
An even bigger counterspace taker-upper: the bottle sterilizer. Here’s the thing: among my many OCD traits is not “germaphobe.” It’s just not. I’m in the camp that thinks that protecting kids from every little bit of dirt makes their immune systems weaker not stronger and since my doctor friends agree with me, I’m just fine up here on my somewhat dirty high horse, thank you very much.
I sterilized all the bottles and pacifiers when they first came out of the package and regularly but only periodically thereafter, most especially after they’d been out with us on the road or when Astrid had a cold. (I boiled them in a big pot on the stovetop, as God intended!) However, we are lucky that, after a premature start and being small for a little while, Astrid has been pretty healthy (knock on wood), so we didn’t have any special needs around allergies or illness that would have dictated frequent or daily sterilization. If, on the other hand, you either a.) do have those needs, or b.) are the kind of person who washes bananas after you peel them, you should probably get a sterilizer because boiling all your bottles and bits regularly will drive you around the bend.
(There are microwave sterilizer bags available too, which I tried once or twice for my breast pump’s parts but they are a huge pain in the ass, so again, unless you are really super concerned – like, you just 100% have to sterilize on the road – I’d skip those too.)
And finally, the bottle insulator. I don’t think you need this, now or later. A lot of diaper bags have insulated bottle pockets, which is nice, but let’s be honest: a warm or cold bottle will not stay that way much beyond an hour or so in the pocket or not. You might get an extra 30 minutes with the insulated pocket. In my opinion, room temperature is fine – only really cold milk or formula startled Astrid. (Of course, if you warm milk, always test it before giving it to the baby.)
I didn’t have to actually bring the fluids up to the exact temperature they’d be if she were getting them directly from me. Breastmilk and formula only stay unspoiled at room temperature for six hours (some say four) though, so if you’ll be on a plane or away from home longer than that, take an insulated pack with an ice brick to store the sustenance. Just an insulated pocket won’t do the trick. When Elmo is a toddler, you’ll keep his it-has-to-be-cold-Mommy! drinks in a Thermos sippy cup, so you won’t use the insulator then either. Skip it.
(My Medela pump came with a great little square, insulated, zippered box that held four 8-ounce breast milk storage bottles and a contoured hard ice pack, also included. Fantastic for packing enough milk for a plane trip or a long day out. If your chosen pump doesn’t come with the handy accessory pack, you can’t get the Medela ones separately, but you have other options, no problem.)