Product Type: Tommee Tippee kids equipment
Newest Review: ... from asda in their baby event for £10, a really reasonably price for something we use on an almost daily basis. Its also widely available... more
A Bottle Warmer That Leaves Me Cold
Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Travel Bottle Warmer
Member Name: Hishyeness
Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Travel Bottle Warmer
Advantages: A useful solution for warming baby food and milk on the go
Disadvantages: Heavy, bulky, one or two safety concerns.
Every now and again a brilliant new product comes along that revolutionises the way we do things. Inevitably, we take one look at it and wonder why no one had ever thought of it before, and how it is, that throughout the millennia of human existence, some bright spark has not previously invented it.
This isn't that product.
The market for parenting accessories is chock full of bright ideas that are either badly executed, try to re-invent the wheel, are too clever for their own good, are just plain unnecessary or are poorly thought through.
This is more like one of those.
WHAT IS IT?
Infants require feeding on a regular basis - in fact they need feeding more or less all the time. Most babies will start out either being breastfed or drinking formula milk, either way, the precious little darlings like their feeds at a nice warm temperature - the same temperature it would be if it was coming out of mummy.
Even if a mother is breastfeeding, at times it will not be practical for baby to feed that way (whether because of the social situation or environment, because her nipples need a break, or because she's fed up of being woken every two hours each night and wants daddy to share the joys of sleep deprivation).
It's easy enough to express milk, or take formula milk with you in a bottle if you are on the go - we have a cool bag which keeps it drinkable for a fair bit of time - the problem is how on earth you get it back up to drinking temperature. The exotically named "Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Travel Bottle and Food Warmer" purports to provide the solution - "purports" being the operative word here.
It is essentially a glorified Thermos with a hard plastic sheath that fits over the top of it, and for the rest of this review, that is exactly what I intend to call it - a Thermos (as a football fan, I still refuse to call a linesman an "assistant referee" for the very good reason that changing the name of something does not change its function - a bin man is a bin man, and is not, and never will be a "waste disposal technician".)
HOW DOES IT WORK?
You pour hot water into the Thermos, seal it, put the plastic sheath over it and put it in your baby bag for use on the go. When you need to warm a feed - whether it is food or milk - you pour the hot water into the hardened plastic sheath, pop in the bottle or feeding container and wait a few minutes for it to come up to temperature. Then, once you have finished, you either chuck the water somewhere, or pour it back into the Thermos.
It sounds simple - in fact - it sounds quite handy, but there are a number of reasons why this product is not entirely suitable for everyone - and chief amongst these is the fact that it's weight can make it impractical.
DOES IT WORK?
In a word - yes. Of course it does. But that misses the point. It reminds me of the first mobile phones that needed a suitcase to carry the battery around in and were mobile in name only.
Any parent who has had the joy of lugging around a baby bag - chock full of nappies, wipes, bottles, change of clothes, various balms and ointments, soothers, dummy savers, small bottle of anti-bac etc. (apologies - this is turning into "What's in Your Bag" - but bear with me....) knows that you need a full time Sherpa just to carry it around (in most families, Sherpa = Dad).
Now, add to that a Thermos full of water, weighing in at just over a kilo when full, and you can see where this starts getting impractical. However, it does have its uses. The sheath is quite deep and wide and Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottles fit very easily into it (they are the widest on the market).
The alternative to this product is to hope to find a café or restaurant in the vicinity that can either let you use their microwave (unlikely due to perceived health and safety risks) or provide you with a bowl or mug full of hot water (more likely). As such, it is useful to have in the car, and won't present the same weight problem if it can be stowed under a pram or pushchair.
From a build and design point of view, its actually quite well thought out and robust. The sheath screws onto the plastic base of the Thermos to keep it secure. To pour out the water, you can either unscrew the top of the Thermos (which can only be done two handed) or push a button (one handed) on top of the cap, which allows you to pour out the desired quantity into the plastic sheath. Pressing the button again seals the Thermos back up. The sheath has a wide base and is quite stable when full.
The fluid capacity is 500ml, which can easily accommodate two feeds if you have somewhere to dispose of the water you have used. The Thermos keeps the contents hot for up to six hours, which will cover most expeditions out of the house.
However, there are two features - from a safety point of view, which the product does not - but should - have. Firstly, the pop top does not have an open/closed indicator. We have already had one accident where we got it wrong, and after the sheath had been replaced and screwed on, the cavity between the sheath and the Thermos filled with scalding hot water.
Secondly, there is no way of knowing: (a) how hot the water is when you pour it; and therefore (b) how long you should leave the food/milk to warm before removing it. As such, it becomes a process of trial and error - something that's difficult (and potentially dangerous) to do unless someone else is holding the baby.
As it happens, the proprietary anti-colic Tommee Tippee bottles we use have a temperature indicator in the bottle, so this is less of a problem - but that's not the case with most bottles on the market and, as such, is worth bearing in mind when considering this as a purchase.
There are some obvious warnings on the bottom of the unit. Sleep deprivation does make parents lose their marbles every now and again, but even the most tired amongst us will know not to microwave it (the body is made of stainless steel), that it presents a scalding hazard, that it's not for use by children and should only be used by adults. Incidentally, the plastic sheath is dishwasher safe, but the Thermos itself is not.
AVAILABILITY & COST
If the product turns out to be impractical or not useful for you, the good news is that it's not a particularly expensive mistake to make. We bought ours for £9.99 (with free delivery) from Amazon and is also available at the same price on-line from Toys R Us, Tesco and Waitrose (Ocado).
Throughout the review, I have slightly facetiously called it a gloried Thermos, but given that's exactly what it is, the worst you will have done is found a useful way to keep your tea and coffee warm - albeit without the built-in cup that most Thermos' have.
Whether this product is suitable for you will depend on whether the advantages of using it (portable food and milk warming) outweigh the disadvantages (weight and safety issues). My wife quite likes it - but then again, she's not the one who has to carry it! This is therefore one for you - the reader - to make your own mind up about.
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: It has its uses, but on balance, the weight and bulk counts against it.
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