Family Practice Physician Craig Brown, MD, who practices at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Sullivan and Shelbyville clinics, is THE Dr. Brown, inventor of Dr. Brown’s baby bottles— a product line widely considered to offer the best bottles on the market for babies with colic and gas. Pregnancy and childrearing experts often suggest buying Dr. Brown’s bottles for all babies, regardless of babies’ digestives issues, because they believe his bottles are the best bottles available-- period. That’s high praise for a product that was born out of desperation.
“Our second child literally screamed 20 hours a day. It wasn’t [typical] colic; it was a full-blown bloody scream,” Dr. Brown said. That was in 1988, when Dr. Brown was fresh out of residency and working as a family practice physician.
He and wife, Kristi, tried everything to soothe their son, including multiple doctor visits to eliminate medical issues, but to no avail. “That’s when the mad scientist in me came out,” Dr. Brown said. “What I noticed when I was feeding him led me to start drilling holes in his brother’s old baby bottles.”
Dr. Brown’s mission was to eliminate the air bubbles that were getting into the milk when he was feeding his son. “The first prototype was rather ugly, but when I first used it on him, he was halfway better the next day. He only screamed for half the day!” Dr. Brown said. “Then I fed him with the same bottle the next night, and he stopped screaming completely.”
Knowing that he was on to something, Dr. Brown’s wife started offering her husband’s homemade bottles to friends with colicky infants. “She kept passing them out and people kept asking for them, so I kept making them,” he said. Then, Dr. Brown and his wife started selling the bottles at various toy fairs.
In 1995, the Handi-Craft plant in his hometown of Bonne Terre, MO, was looking for a new product to develop, and it chose to license Dr. Brown’s design. Dr. Brown debuted the bottles at trade shows and, as sales grew, WalMart and the former Babies-R-Us became Dr. Brown’s first big customers. Buy Buy Baby and several major grocery store chains followed.
Dr. Brown’s bottles are different than others because they have an internal venting system that prevents air from coming in contact with the liquid. This helps to prevent colic, spit-up, burping and gas, since air bubbles do not enter babies’ stomachs.
The bottles also have a positive pressure design that mimics breastfeeding. “All other bottles have a negative pressure, which means the baby has to suck a vacuum and that’s the opposite of the way milk comes out of the breast. That negative pressure can go off in the baby’s ear-- which is like going up in an airplane– and another cause of colic,” he said.
Dr. Brown has also developed a specialty feeding system for premature and sick infants and those with feeding difficulties, such as cleft lip and palate. His bottles are used in hospitals around the world.
“We get the nicest, most passionate letters from parents who are grateful that someone is trying to figure out why their baby is having problems and trying to fix those problems,” Dr. Brown said. “I don’t care how many bottles we sell, really, or what we do as a company. If we can help kids get home from the hospital quicker or off feeding tubes, that’s my real passion – that’s what I live for.”
Working from home, Dr. Brown writes his own patents, and he designs his own molds using a 3D printer and food-grade silicone. He works with various production companies and innovators worldwide, and he creates educational literature for his products with the help of his wife. “It’s just a passion. We just want to help people-- and that goes for caring for people in the Sullivan and Shelbyville clinics too,” he said.
With more than 37 years’ experience in the medical field, Dr. Brown spent 20 years in family practice in Mt. Zion before devoting more of his time to research. In 2020, the couple moved to Shelbyville, his wife’s hometown, and Dr. Brown joined the medical team at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Sullivan Clinic in December and the SBL Shelbyville Clinic this spring. “The partnership has worked out beautifully. I love interacting with people, and medicine is so fascinating. It’s just fun, and my days are more efficient now because of technology,” he said.
For more information, or to make an appointment at the SBL Sullivan Clinic, call 217-728-8441, or the SBL Shelbyville Clinic, call 217 774-4305.