Reviewed by: Tabitha Lynn, Certified Doula, Newborn Care Specialist
If you’re currently bottle-feeding your baby and wondering when to upgrade your baby’s bottle to a faster nipple flow, we are here to help.
Why is nipple flow important?
A breastfeeding woman’s milk flows from between 4 to 20 tiny holes (called milk duct orifices). Baby needs to work hard to drink their fill by latching and sucking. The sucking motion also stimulates the production of milk. Bottle feeding, on the other hand, requires less effort on the baby’s part. However if the milkflow is too fast, the baby will gag, splutter or dribble, and if it is too slow, the baby will get frustrated and fuss. Baby bottles are designed to accommodate different levels of flow. This reflects the different feeding needs of babies, which change with time.
How do I select a nipple flow rate?
Many bottle manufacturers follow this guideline:
Slow flow – recommended for babies at 0-3 months of age
Medium flow – 3-6 months
Fast flow – 6-12 months
Although age can help determine the right nipple flow rate, there are other signs to look out for. Talking may be far off, but your baby will find ways to tell you if feeding time isn’t working for them. These might be your baby’s telltale signs that it’s time to size up:
Getting frustrated (smacking or pushing the bottle away)
Taking longer than usual to feed
Eating less but more frequently
If you notice your baby gagging or dribbling, you may need to return to the original flow size. It is also easier to overfeed a baby with a bottle, so pay attention to any stomach discomfort immediately after eating.
Nipple flow rates for breastfed babies
Breastfed babies are used to working for their milk, so experts recommend using slow-flowing nipples when bottle feeding. Giving your breastfed baby a fast nipple flow right off the bat might cause your baby to get lazy during feeding and then refuse the breast altogether. (Who doesn’t like a free lunch?) This is called nipple confusion, or bottle preference, and it often becomes a barrier to successful ongoing breastfeeding. Usually there is no need to change the flow size for a breastfed baby, but if you know that you have a fast milk flow, you may need a flow size that reflects this.
Purchasing a baby bottle that is designed specifically for breastfed babies is ideal. These bottles are designed with a slow-flow approach to reduce the likelihood of nipple confusion. For example, the Emulait bottle has been designed to mimic the physiological milk flow rate of a real breast. The nipples have multiple holes on the tip and sides, and three flow rate controls to mimic a natural breast milk letdown. The nipples replicate the texture of stimulated areola glands, with interior fibers to mimic milk glands. Emulait has been designed to make the transition between bottle and breast seamless. We want to maintain a just-right feeding challenge for baby - not too easy and not too hard.
We hope that this article has helped you manage your baby’s changing feeding needs. At Emulait we want new parents and caregivers to feel supported in their decisions around bottle feeding, breastfeeding and transitioning from one to the other. We’ve got your back and welcome you into our online community. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and remember that you are doing your best for your baby. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you are experiencing feeding challenges or if your feeding journey is impacting your mental health.
Allnaturalmothering. (2019, February 7). When to change bottle nipple flow size? (& why you should). All Natural Mothering. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.allnaturalmothering.com/baby/when-to-change-nipple-flow/
Roth, M. (2021, November 17). When to switch nipple sizes on your baby's bottles. Mom Loves Best. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://momlovesbest.com/feeding/bottles/when-to-switch-nipple-sizes
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always consult a medical professional or healthcare provided for any medical advice, diagnoses, treatment, or health objectives.