Product Type: Avent kids equipment
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An Avent Triumph of Style Over Substance
Avent Bottle Warmer
Member Name: Hishyeness
Avent Bottle Warmer
Advantages: Looks good. Does what it says on the tin.
Disadvantages: Not practical. Missing too many essential features.
In the excited first flush of parenthood, you are bombarded by a large number of products which, on the face of it, look like a brilliant idea. These range from various slings and carriers, sterilising systems, infant seats, scientifically engineered bottles and various other essential looking paraphernalia. The difficulty is, without guidance, they all look good and its hard to discern what will be useful in the long run and what will otherwise gather dust.
Fortunately, having managed to get our daughter through her first four years, we were able to apply some of the valuable lessons we learned to our new born son, and one item we decided we could do without was the Avent Express Babyfood and Bottle Warmer. It's not that the product is a bad idea, its just that it is limited in its application and not very well thought through.
WHAT IS IT?
Simply put, at its heart, it's a white mains powered open "kettle" with a heating element which allows you to gradually warm food and milk. The receptacle accepts most brands and makes of baby bottle, but it is specifically engineered to be compatible with the Avent range. The product comes with an orange "on" light, a three position silver dial (to adjust the heat), pictorial instructions and a heating guide in the form of a sticker on the side of the unit.
The 80cm cable is adequate enough for most kitchens (or bedrooms). Excess cord can be tucked under the unit. Rubber feet would have been a useful addition, but the unit just sits on its wide plastic base, which to be fair is quite stable. The turquoise plastic sleeve insert is removable and washable, as is the trivet at the bottom of the unit.
The product is available at most purveyors of baby products for around £20.00 (£19.59 on Amazon with free delivery) and comes with a complimentary 125ml baby food storage container and feeding spoon.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
You fill the unit about a third of the way (depending on the size of the bottle or container) with water, turn it on to the desired setting and let it warm away. The water can get quite hot, but gets nowhere near boiling point, and will warm the contents (depending on setting and volume) anywhere between 4 minutes (high temperature, small bottle) to 9 minutes (gradual warming and large bottle).
DOES IT WORK?
The short answer is that it does what is expected as advertised. Gradual warming is probably safer for baby than zapping a bottle in the microwave as it prevents uneven heating and possible destruction of vitamins, but that said, there are various issues with the features (or, to be more specific, the lack of them) which detract from its general usefulness:
(a) It has no timer, which, in my view, is essential. As anyone with small children and/or a baby will know, as a parent you can get easily distracted and it's very easy to lose track of time. A timer with a buzzer would have been a thoughtful addition;
(b) there is no automatic shut-off mechanism, so the unit can (and will) warm itself dry - ultimately damaging the heating element and posing a small fire risk. That seems a glaring oversight;
(c) there is no on/off switch. The unit has to be disconnected from the mains, or turned off at the plug; and
(d) Like anything with a heating element, it is prone to limescale in hard water areas - on both the element and the inserts, especially if - like us - you tend not to empty the water out after every use.
The last point - and this is a more practical matter than a technical one - is that its easier and quicker to boil a kettle and immerse a baby bottle in a large mug than to use this device. Of course, that does not factor in the inconvenience of the bleary-eyed trip downstairs to the kitchen in the early hours, but then again, the sterilised bottles (and, in our case, expressed breast milk) are likely to be stored in the kitchen fridge anyway.
On the plus side, it is arguably more energy efficient than boiling a kettle as it uses a relatively small amount of water, but for us, this small benefit was outweighed by the practical issues. If I am being cynical, I would say that Avent saved the best features (such as the ones missing from this basic version) for its top end "IQ" bottle warmer, which retails at £39.99 (currently £29.99 on Amazon).
The Avent Bottle Warmer seemed like a great idea at the time, but our actual experience differed markedly from our expectations. It was not nearly as useful as we anticipated for the reasons stated above, and as such, it definitely fit into the category of "dust collector" rather than a genuine must have.
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: A luxury buy that has little practical use.