The infant feeder, also known as a “baby food nurser,” isn’t something that most modern caregivers are familiar with. However, this was a very popular feeding product in the 1980s, 1990s, and even into the early 2000s. I speak to many grandmothers who fondly remember using them with children and grandchildren.
An infant feeder looks a lot like a bottle at first glance but has internal components that make it quite different.
<– Disassembled, all parts to an infant feeder
These devices are designed for feeding thickened liquids or semi-solids, like baby food. Historically, this is how a lot of babies were introduced to baby cereal or oatmeal.
At the top of the bottle, under the nipple and nipple ring that screws on, is a disk with holes in it which performs like a “strainer” – for lack of a better word. This strainer acts to filter semi-solid foods fed from the infant feeder. Any clumping that might be present is broken apart before it can enter babies mouth and cause choking.
<– Top strainer disk
The bottom of the infant feeder is hallowed. An air-tight disk that can be removed creates a vacuum seal to the sides of the feeder and this disk moves upward as baby sucks and the bottle begins to empty. This feature eliminates nearly all air from inside the infant feeder and therefore baby does not take in any air.
<– Air-tight disk bottom from top view
<– Air-tight disk bottom from bottom view
But, Lauren! Babies are only supposed to spoon feed solids …and not until they’re 4-6 months-old… and all that baby cereal and food is just empty, non-nutritional calories …ideally, you should baby-led wean …etc.!
You may not believe it given current trends, but babies CAN be introduced to cereals, semi-solids or complimentary foods in many different ways which sometimes deviate from traditional spoon feeding. Furthermore, sometimes the use of an infant feeder is not just out of preference, but out of need.
Infant feeders were widely used and easy to come by for decades. In fact, the pictures I’m sharing in this post are actually of an “old-style” infant feeder that I happen to own. This infant feeder was purchased probably around 2005 (?).
However, sometime around 2010 they became hard to find, then incredibly hard to find, and then impossible to find. They became so hard to purchase that USED infant feeders like the pink one pictured above were selling on eBay for well over $100 a piece (but I held tight to my few)! The ever-present demand was still there but the manufacturing had dried up.
But they’re back – and unfortunately NOT better than ever – but functional and back. It used to be that only the brand Sassy sold them, but I can now find them made by Nuby as well. Complaints with the modern version is that the air-tight disk sometimes sticks (read reviews).
So, what’s the point? When are these things useful?
- When you are needing to manually thicken formula feedings to manage symptoms related to reflux, GERD, lanyngomalacia (tracheomalacia and bronchomalacia), using an infant feeder instead of a baby bottle (which will require a higher nipple flow or modified nipple) can be more efficient and safer.
The nipples on infant feeders do not require modification. They are very firm nipples with a faster flow nipple just right for the passing of thickened liquids. The strainer feature also cuts back on the risk of choking from accidental failure to shake the bottle up enough before feeding.
NOTE: unlike typical bottle preparation, you do not put your water, powder, and cereal/oatmeal in the infant feeder and shake. Instead, you prepare the feeding ingredients in another bottle or cup altogether and then pour the prepared thickened liquid into the infant feeder for feeding.
- If you have a baby who is still on the younger end for starting solids but is readily consuming 28 to 30 oz of formula in 24 hours and is still unsatisfied, the infant feeder can act as a way to introduce additional nutrition (while maintaining formula as the primary source of nutrition).
It’s not overly common, but some babies will grow nutritionally unsatisfied with formula or breast milk early and find themselves still hungry despite a very large intake. It is not advised to feed more than 30 oz of formula within 24 hours, so if your baby is up to this intake level, adding to his diet may be of worth.
- Babies who have been tube fed or have oral aversions can benefit from using an infant feeder to introduce foods. For many of these babies, bottle feeding itself can be challenging and take months to achieve. By this time and age many are due to begin eating complimentary foods too… but the bottle struggle has just ended (or might still be ongoing) and there is no way a spoon is going to enter the equation.
Using the infant feeder to introduce new textures and tastes – but maintaining the normal-ness, predictability, and comfortability of bottle feeding – can help these babies achieve the nutritional gains they need and transfer to spoon and self-feeding faster and with more ease.
If you think this product might be beneficial for your baby, they can be readily purchased on Amazon. They no longer come as just the bottle version. Apparently, you now must buy them in a set wherein you get the bottle version but also a spoon version as well. A little annoying, but nonetheless you can now try your hand at this vintage revival feeding tool 😊