How to Choose the Right Bottle Nipple Size for Your Baby

How to Choose the Right Nipple Size for Your Baby's Bottle

When bottle-feeding your baby, if you notice your little one getting frustrated or not being able to suck milk properly, you’re likely to wonder what’s wrong with your baby. Instead of trying to gauge your baby’s mood and feeding pattern, perhaps, you should take a look at his bottle. The bottle must be clean and sterilised, but the fault could be in the nipple of the bottle. If your little one is getting fussy while drinking milk from the bottle, maybe it’s time to move up the size of the nipple. Picking the perfect nipple size will make feeding sessions comfortable for your baby and for you.

Why Is It Important to Select the Right Nipple size for Your Baby’s Feeding Bottle?

Whether you’re breastfeeding your baby or bottle-feeding or both, it should be a comfortable and enjoyable experience for him. In case of breastfeeding, your body will understand your growing baby’s demand and up the milk supply but the same won’t happen when you bottle feed your baby. Nipples in baby bottles wear out over time and the baby’s need also change/increase. As your baby grows, he will be able to drink much faster and a nipple with a slow flow rate will prohibit him from drinking at a pace he is comfortable with.

When this happens, you will clearly be able to notice the baby getting frustrated every time during feeding sessions and the situation will become more stressful. Nipples with a very slow flow rate will make the infant work much harder to drink milk, leaving him irritated and making him cry more often.

When to Change the Nipple Size of the Baby’s Feeding Bottle

Although age is a factor that helps parents determine if they should increase the size of their baby’s feeding bottles, it is not the most important factor for changing the nipple size of the bottles. When you take a closer look at the baby, you will be able to know when they are ready to switch to the next size. Some signs include:

1. The Nipple Starts Collapsing

If your baby is sucking too hard on the nipple to get a better quantity of milk and it collapses, it is a sign that you need to switch to the next size.

2. The Baby Pushes the Bottle Away

If your baby is not comfortable with the size or shape of the bottle’s nipples, then he is more likely to push it away during feeding sessions.

A baby pushing the feeding bottle away

3. The Baby Gets Frustrated

When the nipple size of your baby’s bottle becomes small for your baby, he may experience difficulty in sucking the milk and express his frustration by crying or being fussy. This is a sign that you need to change the nipple size of your baby’s feeding bottle.

4. Your Baby Gets Hungry Soon After a Feeding Session

If the flow from the nipple of the baby’s bottle is slow, then your baby will not have consumed enough milk and will show signs of hunger soon after a feeding session.

5. Your Baby’s Feeding Sessions Last for More Than 30 Minutes

When your baby takes a very long time for one feeding, then it may be a sign to up the nipple size since fast flow can help him drink faster.

If your baby does not show any of these signs, then it means that he is okay with the current nipple size of the bottle. If you are not sure about what the baby wants, then you can move to the next nipple size. If they do not seem to like it, then use the same size as before.

Size of the Nipple as Per Baby’s Age and Requirement

The size of the bottle nipple you get will depend on whether the babies are breastfed or formula-fed, along with their readiness and age.

For a Formula-Fed Baby

To help you find the most suitable size for a baby that is formula-fed, you can check the flow and age the bottle brand suggests. You will be able to find guides on each brand showing suggested ages to change the nipple sizes of the bottle. However, follow the baby’s individual attitude and cues while eating since that is the most important factor.

Babies that are formula-fed should begin with a nipple that has slow flow during the first few weeks. The slow flow nipple size is perfect for very young babies who cannot consume much in a single sitting and when their swallowing is still developing and not coordinated enough to work for faster flow.

For a Breastfed Baby

Breastfed babies have a different drinking rate when compared to bottle-fed babies. You could pick a size that you think will provide the same experience as breastfeeding. Since breasts release milk at a very slow rate, breastfed babies are used to working harder for their milk.

You can start with the slowest flow nipple that your favourite brand offers if your baby is used to being breastfed. Most breastfed infants do not move to the next size since breast milk is way thinner when compared to formula. It can flow through the nipple at a much faster rate.

When moving a breastfed baby to a nipple size that provides a faster flow, it can cause the little one to become impatient while being breastfed. Some babies even refuse the breast if they get used to the nipple size with faster flow. Therefore, breastfeeding mothers will have to be very careful when choosing a nipple size.

If you really think you should move up the nipple size, check if your baby only takes about 10 minutes at your breasts but begins getting frustrated with the bottle. When being bottle-fed, if he takes more time to finish, then moving up to the next nipple size would be the right choice.

A baby breasfeeding

Preemie Nipples

This nipple size is meant for premature babies and babies with a much slower feeding preference. If your baby is breastfed, then the slow flow nipple is perfect for switching between breast and bottle since is it closely related to the slower flow of breastfeeding.

Let’s understand the different types of nipple size in baby bottles:

Level 1 Nipples

This is considered to be a great starting point for a lot of babies. This nipple size is the ideal choice for children that are feeding properly and are not showing any signs of feeding challenges.

Level 2 Nipples

When the baby’s demand for milk increases and he starts taking a lot of time to finish milk, then you could go for the level 2 nipple size. Level 2 is ideal for babies that are over 3 months of age (medium flow nipple age is 3-6 months) and have started accepting semi-solid and early solid foods. This will also be the ideal size if the paediatrician has suggested thickening their milk.

Level 3 Nipples

For children above 6 months of age, level 3 nipples can be used. If the baby takes longer to drink using the level 2 nipples, then it may be time to switch to level 3. You could consider level 3 if your baby is eating solid foods or is able to sit up.

Level 4 Nipples

Level 4 nipples are mostly used by babies above 9 months of age. When you think that level 3 is not providing enough speed for your child’s feeding, switch to level 4. When they start eating finger foods and start drinking from a sippy cup, then level 4 would be the best choice.

Y-Cut Nipples

If your doctor has recommended thickening the milk of the baby, then you should use the Y-cut nipple. The Y-cut nipple is perfect for feeding cereals and thicker liquids.

For Exclusive Breastfeeding

If your baby is being breastfed exclusively and you are planning to introduce a bottle for the first time, then choose a nipple that provides a very slow flow rate. Even if you are exclusively pumping, then use a newborn or slow flow nipples since breast milk gets digested easily and you could end up overfeeding the little one through the bottle. Bottle feed the baby only when he needs it and make sure you follow paced bottle feeding methods. Nursing sessions typically last only around 15-20 minutes, so expect the bottle feeding sessions to also take the same amount of time. However, do not rush through feeding and give him time to drink from the bottle.

Classification of Bottle Nipples Other Than Size

Bottle nipples are of many styles and you can select one for your baby based on the shape and materials that you think would be best for him:

As Per Material

The two general materials used to make bottles are:

1. Latex

Latex is much softer but it holds the odour of the milk. Bottles made out of latex wear out much faster.

2. Silicone

Silicone bottles are sturdier and can be cleaned easily. Another advantage of silicone is that it can last up to a year.

As Per Shape

Standard nipples are dome-shaped and tall since they are designed to resemble the shape of a breast. Most babies prefer being fed from the standard nipple bottle, and most brands sell these types of nipples.

Orthodontic nipples are shaped in a specific way to fit the mouth of the baby. They are full at the base and tip, while the middle portion is a bit narrow.

Baby bottle nipples

How to Change the Nipple of the Bottle

Changing the bottle nipple to the next size is pretty straightforward.

  • Begin by unscrewing the bottle’s top part.
  • From the ring, remove the old nipple.
  • Place the new nipple into the ring and screw the top back onto the container.

However, note that based on the brand you use, extra attachments may be present. Each brand will provide directions to assemble correctly and change nipple sizes.

Risks of Changing Bottle Nipple Size

When changing a nipple size, you are going to a faster flow nipple than before. This can have a few side effects on the baby. A faster flow:

  • Can pose a choking hazard.
  • Can negatively impact digestion.
  • May make him swallow too much air due to the struggle.
  • May lead to gas and painful gut issues later.

If your baby is not comfortable with the flow speed of the bottle, he may show the following signs:

  • Choking on the milk.
  • Gagging on milk.
  • Struggling to keep up with the flow speed.
  • Milk dribbling from the mouth.
  • Gassy after feeding.
  • Finishing the feeding session very quickly (within 5 minutes).

If your baby shows the above signs, then it is better to switch to the smaller bottle nipple level.

The right nipple size of your baby’s feeding bottles will make it easier for you to feed your baby. Your little one will also enjoy the feeding session and won’t throw a fit. Change the nipple size of your baby’s bottles if he is getting frustrated. However, make sure the baby feels comfortable with the increased bottle nipple size you have chosen and assess which one works best for him.

Also Read:

Nipple Confusion in Infants
Bottle-Feeding Mistakes You Must Avoid
How to Bond With Your Bottle Fed Baby