Most bottle manufacturers include multiple bottle nipples in infant “feeding systems.” But, they do not include much instruction on how to choose which bottle nipple is right for your baby.
The good news is that the “level” of bottle nipple you use is rather arbitrary. Bottle nipples of various flow-rates are simply tools to make your baby’s feeding experience enjoyable, and efficient.
Don’t feel that you must move from a level one (slowest flow) nipple to a faster flow nipple. As long as your baby seems happy and comfortable, the nipple flow rate is perfect… regardless of the level number.
However, some bottle feeding difficulties can be improved by simply changing the nipple flow rate.
Here are some tips to determine if your baby’s bottle nipple “level” is best:
- On average, most babies will finish a bottle in about 15 minutes. As the volume of your baby’s bottle increases, a faster flow nipple is typically needed to allow this feeding length to be consistent.
- There is no “standard” flow rate for bottle nipples. Each bottle brand has a unique rating system. In other words, a slow-flow nipple from one bottle brand may have a very different flow rate than a different manufacturer’s slow-flow nipple. In my experience, Playtex Drop-Ins, Adiri, and NUK brand bottles have the slowest level one nipples available. Dr. Brown’s and Tommie Tippy have rather fast level one nipples. Few brands have a “preemie” nipple available if an even slower flow is needed.*
- For infants who are overfeeding, or having reflux-like episodes; slowing the feeding down with a slower nipple level can often decrease gas and fussiness.
- If your baby seems to be gagging, sputtering, or leaking milk when drinking; use a slower flow bottle nipple.
- Fast-flow nipples often need to be used with bottles of milk that has been mixed with thickening agents, and bottles of some anti-reflux formulas. If a slow flow nipple is used, the milk can get “stuck” in the nipple and baby may have to suck too hard to get the milk.
- If your baby is losing interest in the bottle before the milk is finished, or seems to be talking too long to finish; time for a faster nipple.
Click on this link for more information on bottle feeding basics from healthychildren.org.
For tips about buying baby bottles, here is a recent article from ConsumerReports.org.
Add your experience with different infant feeding systems in the comments below.
*I have no vested interest in any baby bottle manufacturing company.