Calling colic “gas” is a bit like calling the Pacific ocean “wet.” While gas is a symptom of colic, there’s a little more to it than that!
You may have heard horror stories of moms losing weeks of sleep to a baby wracked with the pain of colic, or perhaps you’ve had the misfortune yourself. Though colic can feel like the end of the world to a new mom, it’s also a surprisingly easy problem to solve, once you know-how.
One of the most common causes of baby discomfort is indigestion and colic, and the main cause of that is almost always the way they’re feeding. The good news is that if you can find a comfortable way to feed your baby without introducing air into their milk, you’ll cut down on a huge amount of discomfort — for you both.
Bottles are now cleverly designed with systems to reduce colic in your baby. Here’s what you need to know about finding the perfect bottle to settle your baby’s tummy, along with a list of the best bottles for gas and colic that we’ve found.
- Unique internal venting system
- Preserves nutrients in milk
- Simple, classic design
- Clinically tested
- Firm nipple prevents collapsing
- Flexible, natural feeling
- Handles are available for self-feeding
- True slow-flow nipple
- Self-sterilizing design
- Dishwasher safe
- Very affordable
- Nipple mimics breastfeeding
- Simple design
- Includes low flow nipples
- Soft and skin-like nipple
- Comfortable to hold
- Regulated flow
- Flexible and forgiving nipple
- Ergonomic handle
- Portable sturdy lid
Do Anti-Colic Bottles Work?
Let’s face it: an unhappy baby equals unhappy parents. And if chronic gas plague a baby, then things are bound to be more than a little stressful for everyone in the house.
The primary culprit of infant gas is the baby swallowing air, causing it to become trapped in the digestive system (1). If the baby is not able to relieve the pressure through burping or passing gas, severe discomfort results, along with crying. Lots and lots of crying.
Since the main cause of gassiness is swallowed air, it makes sense to focus on the bottle you’re offering your baby. Finding a bottle design that works with your baby’s oral anatomy in a way to minimize air consumption while feeding can reduce gas bubbles in baby’s belly, helping to reduce tummy troubles.
Colic is a similar, but more serious condition. While the exact cause remains unknown, the hallmark of colic is extreme crying and fussiness with no discernible medical reason (2).
What’s worse, colicky babies tend to swallow air just with excessive screaming and crying (3), so you could find yourself in a vicious cycle. An immature digestive system is speculated to be a cause, which means that finding a bottle that’s extra-gentle on the tummy may help ease the pain and reduce their fussing.
How do Anti-Colic Bottles Work?
Finding the right bottle for your gassy or colicky baby may help improve symptoms by:
- Reducing air swallowed during feeding.
- Reducing gas bubbles in the belly.
- Slowing down food intake to prevent tummy upsets.
Choosing the Best Anti-Colic Baby Bottle
These days, most bottles come with different designs and features specifically designed to help relieve gas and colic symptoms, and it’s good to have options because every baby is different!
Here are some of the key features that bottle manufacturers use to try to eliminate the air entering your baby’s digestive system, and what you need to know about each of them:
The Nipple Flow
For gassy and colicky babies, slow flow is generally best. Just like when you eat quickly and your stomach gets distended, gassy, and uncomfortable, the same thing happens with babies.
On the other hand, if the baby is trying too hard to suck milk from the bottle, they can be consuming air instead (4). It can be tricky to find the sweet spot where the nipple flows fast enough to keep the baby from getting fussy and frustrated but slows down their food intake to the point it doesn’t upset their tummy.
Make sure the bottle you choose has plenty of nipple flow options — including a slow flow nipple — to help you find the right balance for your baby.
The Nipple Shape
Isn’t it funny how so many bottles advertise that their nipples are as close to breastfeeding as humanly possible, but they all have a slightly different shape?
That’s because everyone’s different, just like every baby is different. Some babies do well with a wide nipple; others prefer narrow. If you’re nursing as well as bottle feeding, pay attention to your child’s latch and see which shape might be closest to breastfeeding for them.
The nipple shape is important because, depending on your baby’s preference, one may cause them to consume more air than the other. Also, bottle nipples should be designed in a way that minimizes the possibility of air bubbles becoming trapped in the tip.
The Nipple Valve
When your baby sucks on a bottle, a vacuum is created and pressure builds. That pressure needs to be released for the flow of milk to continue. Many nipples have a built-in valve system that is designed to let air back out in a way that doesn’t create large bubbles in the milk that remain in the bottle (5).
The Bottle Shape
Bottles come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are straight, some are curved, and some are angled in the middle to help guide the flow of gas bubbles through the milk and back to the end of the bottle, keeping it away from the baby’s mouth.
When choosing the right bottle shape, you’ll need to consider your baby’s preferred feeding position.
Is your baby usually reclined while feeding? Then a traditional shape will probably work just fine for you.
Does your baby prefer to be held in a more upright, seated position for feeding? Then you might need to consider a bottle with more of a tilt to help direct the gas bubbles away from them more quickly.
Some bottles have a built-in valve that delivers the excess air directly back to the top of the bottle, without the need to travel through the milk and potentially cause even more bubbles to form (6). These can be great for the colicky baby, but be warned: the extra valve means that there’s more for you to clean.
Bottles with disposable liners can sometimes be a great option for a baby struggling with gas or colic. Because the liner is thin and flexible, it collapses on itself as the baby sucks, eats, and creates a vacuum in the bottle (7).
Unlike traditional bottles, this vacuum does not need to be released as it doesn’t disrupt the baby’s milk flow. This eliminates the need for air to flow back into the bottle, potentially creating gas bubbles and causing belly pain for baby.
The main drawback to this kind of bottle is that the liners are disposable, meaning that you will have the ongoing expense of purchasing new liners. It also might not be an attractive option for parents who prefer to be more eco-friendly and don’t like the idea of creating so much waste.
The Best Anti-Colic Bottles of 2020
Here are our top picks for the bottles that can help prevent colic:
1. Dr. Brown's Original Bottle
There are many specific ways that bottle manufacturers get around the gas problem, but one classic method is to use an internal vent, which looks a bit like a straw that connects to the screw top and hangs down into the bottle. A good internal vent bottle will have parts that can be put in the dishwasher or sterilizer along with the rest of the bottle.
The most notable feature of this Dr. Browns bottle is the internal venting system. Unlike other anti-colic bottles, the vent is not in the nipple, but in the nipple collar, which funnels the air through the vent and back out above the milk.
Not only does this reduce air bubbles within the milk, but it also prevents the oxidation of nutrients as well, which has been clinically shown to result in more vitamins C, A, and E being retained.
The other way the internal vent helps babies with colic is by eliminating the vacuum that’s created in other bottles. In this way, it more closely mimics natural breastfeeding — after all, there’s never a vacuum in the breast or any pressure that needs to be relieved.
This allows babies to feed at their own pace rather than at the pace dictated by the nipple they’re using.
- Unique internal venting system means no vacuum in the bottle.
- BPA free.
- Dishwasher safe.
- Preserves nutrients in milk.
- More pieces to assemble.
- Complicated to wash.
2. Philips Avent Anti-Colic Baby Bottles
Some anti-colic bottles are a little more streamlined in that the venting system is built into the nipple itself. If any air enters into the little holes at the base of the nipple and will get funneled out and away from your baby's mouth. An advantage of this kind of design over the straw-type vents is that you have one less thing to clean.
When you’re a new mom, sometimes simple is best. These anti-colic Avent bottles consist of only four pieces (the bottle, the nipple, the ring, and the cap) that are all dishwasher-safe.
They’re also fully compatible with the rest of the Avent line, so if you have other classic bottles, nipples, or toddler cups the parts will be interchangeable, and you may be able to use them for the full duration of your baby’s early feeding years. All bottles and nipples are BPA-free.
The main anti-gas feature is a unique vent in the nipple, which helps release air back into the top of the bottle and away from your baby. It’s one thing to hear about what a bottle is supposed to do, but another when it’s backed up by scientific evidence: these bottles were actually tested and shown to reduce infant nighttime fussiness by 60% over conventional bottles.
- Simple, classic design.
- Easy to clean and dishwasher safe.
- Firm nipple to prevent collapsing.
- Clinically tested.
- The lowest flow nipple has 2 holes, making it too fast for some babies.
- Some parents have complained of leakiness.
3. Comotomo Baby Bottles
You may be one of those moms who only noticed an increase in fussiness once you switched from breastfeeding to bottles. While breastfeeding is naturally one way to decrease colic, your little one may have a bit more trouble feeding smoothly from a bottle that's not as perfectly suited to them as your breast. If you have a baby who's struggling both with colic and nipple confusion, you'll want a bottle that has anti-colic features but also closely resembles breastfeeding.
These bottles are unique in that both the nipple and bottle are made of flexible silicone. Unlike traditional, rigid bottles, this allows a baby to continue to eat uninterrupted if the pressure of the vacuum is not released. Just as with a natural breast, the bottle can collapse if necessary.
An extra-wide neck makes it easy to clean, and the flexible shape lets you reach all parts of it without a bottle brush. But that’s not even necessary because you can just pop all parts in the dishwasher to get them clean.
The nipple contains dual anti-colic vents, allowing the air and pressure to be relieved gently back into the bottle instead of being swallowed by the baby and causing gas. These bottles are also available in green and pink, letting you choose your favorite color for your baby!
- All four pieces are dishwasher safe.
- Flexible, natural feeling.
- Compatible handles are available for self-feeding.
- True slow-flow nipple only has one hole.
- The flexible body may make it difficult for the baby to grasp.
- Difficult to see volume markers on the bottle.
4. MAM Anti-Colic Bottles
Keeping air out of the milk in a bottle is all about maintaining pressures and keeping the liquid from becoming aerated. Even if you don't see obvious bubbles in the milk, tiny ones may still be forming and accumulating in your poor baby's belly. A vented bottle base regulates the air pressure inside a bottle and stops your little one from gulping air..
This bottle has air vents at the bottom of the bottle, relieving pressure and keeping air bubbles out of your baby’s milk, reducing incidents of gas and colic. It also contains a silicone nipple that is tasteless, colorless and odorless, plus it’s soft and a little flattened, like a natural nipple.
For this reason, it could be a good choice for women who choose to both breast- and bottle-feed; this bottle could help make it easier for a small baby to switch between the two and reduce nipple confusion.
The vents on the bottom do mean that this bottle has more parts to wash, but the manufacturers responded to this by designing it to self-sterilized in the microwave in three minutes, which means you don’t have to buy a separate microwave steamer.
Studies showed that 94% of babies accept the MAM bottle, and 80% of parents reported reduced colic using one.
- Self-sterilizing design, so you can steam sterilize in the microwave directly.
- Switch easily between bottle and breast.
- Dishwasher safe.
- Very affordable.
- The additional pieces mean more to clean.
- Comes with medium-flow nipples, so you need to purchase slow-flow nipples separately.
5. Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottles
Swallowing air is possibly one of the culprits for colic and tummy trouble, but some babies experience a lot of discomforts simply because of the speed at which they drink. Bottle feeding has been known to encourage babies to guzzle, especially if the milk flows faster than it would from a breast. If this is an issue for your little one, try to find a bottle with a slower flow nipple.
This Tommee Tippee set comes standard with a low flow nipple, helping to keep your little one from feeding too fast and causing an upset tummy. In addition to the low flow speed, the Stage 1 nipples have a valve that allows the pressure to release.
It’s also designed with a wide base, allowing your baby to latch in the same way they would to the breast, reducing the chance of a shallow latch or swallowing air. The silicone tip flexes like the tip of a natural nipple to further mimic the natural breastfeeding experience.
Accurate volume markings on the side make it easy to see how much your baby is eating and prevent over-feeding, which may cause spit-up, belly pain, and gas. The wide-body shape makes cleaning easier and allows parents to be closer to their baby while feeding.
- The nipple valve allows for the release of air and pressure.
- Nipple flexes to mimic breastfeeding.
- Simple design with few pieces.
- Includes low flow nipples.
- Not dishwasher safe.
- The nipple may be too slow and actually cause more gas in the end.
6. Playtex Ventaire Baby Bottle
Gas and fussiness can be greatly reduced if you sit your baby in a more upright position during feeding times. This helps open their throats and discourage air swallowing and is recommended to prevent both indigestion and ear infections. If you find that upright feeding is best for your baby, you'll want a bottle that comfortably supports that position.
This Playtex bottle is angled in such a way that you can hold it quite comfortably while your baby sits upright.
Micro-channel vents funnel air up and away from the baby, where they escape from the base. You’ll keep symptoms of colic, gas, and indigestion at bay while not having to cramp up your hand trying to find a good position to feed in.
These bottles are BPA, phthalate, and PVC free, and they fit a range of different nipple shapes. While milk flow is one thing, your baby might do better with a particular nipple shape to fit the contours of their mouth. A good latch forms a tight seal, so no air is accidentally gulped in.
These bottles come in 6 or 9-ounce sizes, with sturdy caps to keep the nipples clean and hygienic. The design also means that this bottle is ideal for babies who are transitioning from breastfeeding or switching between breast and bottle.
- The nipple is soft and skin-like to avoid nipple confusion.
- Comfortable to hold.
- Regulated flow, great for babies who choke or gag occasionally.
- Range of compatible nipples.
- It can’t be used easily in a bottle warmer.
- The screw-top is a bit fiddly and could lead to leaks if not correctly attached.
7. Munchkin Latch Bottles and Transition Cup
Though it sometimes feels like forever, your baby will not be bottle feeding for all that long and soon enough they'll be moving onto sippy cups and solid food. If you have an older baby or simply like the idea of products that grow with your child, look for a bottle that can be adapted as your baby eases into using cups. Most babies grow out of colic and gas, but if yours is still bothered, look for transition cups with anti-colic valves.
Munchkin makes really high-quality baby bottles with an anti-colic valve at the base to prevent gas. Parents love how much the nipple stretches and moves, giving your child a more natural feeding experience so they can latch well and feed properly.
However, if you decide to go with Latch bottles and your baby gets used to them, you can later upgrade to the transition cup without too much disruption. This cup has a detachable handle that’s easy to grab in little hands and comes with the same anti-colic mechanism at the base.
As your little one learns to drink from a cup and masters their own feeding technique, you can still be sure they’re not gulping or taking in any air that will come back to haunt them later. Some moms have found that the cup handles can also be used on other cups and bottles.
- The nipple is very flexible and forgiving.
- Ergonomic handle on the trainer cup is removable.
- The sturdy lid makes them very portable.
- Range of compatible nipples.
- The flow on the transition cup may be frustratingly slow for some babies and toddlers.
- The transition cup nipple may be too large for some children.
Tips for Reducing Colic While Bottlefeeding
Choosing a bottle is only part of the battle against gas and colic. Using it properly is the next step!
Here are some things you should be doing:
- Keep your baby’s head above their belly: Choose a feeding position in which your child is not completely reclined. Make sure that their head is elevated above their tummy so gas bubbles can escape (8).
- Choose the proper bottle angle for your bottle and nipple: Make sure that air is not getting trapped in your bottle or the nipple while you’re feeding. Tilt the bottle to let the air escape, if necessary.
- Make sure your baby’s mouth is latched properly: A baby’s mouth should be open wide and attached firmly toward the base of the nipple, not just the tip (9). If they’re just sucking on the tip it’s harder to get a good strong latch, and this allows air into the mouth.
- Make sure you’re using the proper flow nipple: If your baby is sucking loudly and is very noisy when eating, it could be that they’re not getting enough food fast enough to satisfy them and need a higher flow nipple. However, if they’re coughing and spitting up milk, they may be getting too much too quickly, which can cause gas and tummy upsets. A slower flow nipple may help (10).
- Burp your baby regularly throughout feeding: Take a break to burp every few minutes (use a burp cloth to protect your clothes) instead of waiting until the feeding is finished. This helps alleviate gas buildup in your baby’s belly (11).
The Bottom Line
There are so many different bottles on the market these days, it can be overwhelming to choose one. But at the end of the day, my top pick as the best anti-colic bottle Dr. Brown’s.
The internal venting system eliminates the problematic vacuum, keeps air from touching and oxidizing the rest of the milk in the bottle, and even though it has more pieces to clean, they can all get tossed in the dishwasher, so it’s not too much of a problem.
Besides, when my baby was struggling with feeding, Dr. Brown’s were the bottles that the nurses turned to first. I figured if they were good enough to be recommended by professionals that work with newborns all day, they were good enough for me!