When are you supposed to switch to a faster flow nipple? What is the difference between a level 1 nipple and a level 2 nipple? Is it okay to keep baby on a newborn flow nipple even at 6, 9, or 12 months?
It’s so overwhelming walking down the baby bottle aisle at the store. There are so many options! How do you choose what’s best for your baby? Shopping online isn’t any easier since there are even more options.
I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be so complicated! Changing bottle nipples is not something you ever have to do! There may be times you will want to try a faster flow nipple and that’s okay too! We will talk about the reasons why you may want to consider a change, keep reading! But this is not something you have to do.
I actually recommend not making any changes, unless there is an issue with the current nipple baby is using.
What’s the Difference Between Bottle Nipple Sizes?
Different level nipples within a single brand have different flow rates. Each brand labels them a little different, but essentially the nipples with a low number are slower than those with a higher number. So a level 2 nipple is slower than a level 3 nipple.
Other bottle brands label bottle nipples by age. They may have a newborn option as well as a 0-3 month nipple, followed by a 3-6 month nipple. The nipples for younger babies are slower than those designed for older babies.
Why Are There So Many Bottle Nipple Options?
Why do you think? Let’s face it, bottle companies aren’t creating products out of the goodness of their hearts. They want to make a profit! What a great way to keep making money after a customer has bought your bottle. If parents think they have to upgrade the nipple every 3 months, that’s a built-in customer for a full year or more!
Not to say there aren’t also very valid reasons why a variety of flow rates exist! I have used everything from an Ultra Preemie nipple to a Level 4 or Y-cut nipple for my patients and for good reason.
Some babies have a tongue tie or a high vaulted palate that makes suction difficult and they may need a faster flow. Others have low muscle tone or neurologic conditions that cause a poor latch. There are times when babies may be on a high calorie or thickened diet and they may not be able to easily get milk out of a slow nipple.
There are many other reasons why a baby may benefit from a faster flow. But in all of these cases, the underlying issues also need to be addressed! The solution should not be to switch to a fast flow nipple and move on.
It is actually rare that a faster flow solves the problem. A lot of times, a faster flow makes things worse because it makes coordination of sucking, swallowing, and breathing more challenging. A faster flow often leads to more spillage and what is the point of giving baby more at once, if it just ends up all over their bib?
For other less serious reasons to change the nipple on the bottle, keep reading!
When Should You Change the Nipple on Baby’s Bottle?
Reasons to switch to a faster flow nipple include 1) baby getting frustrated that the flow is too slow, 2) they’re sucking so hard the nipple is flattened/collapsed or 3) feeding is taking too long.
If baby pulls off the nipple often and seems frustrated that they are not getting as much as they want, you may want to try a faster nipple. Some babies also have such a strong suck that they compress the nipple too much, making it hard for the milk to flow. If you notice the nipple is flat, first try loosening the nipple ring slightly. Tighter=Slower Flow. If baby continues to collapse the nipple, trying going up on the flow rate.
As babies get older, many of them will start to take larger volumes at one time and space out feedings more. This isn’t necessarily always the case and that’s also okay. But if your baby is wanting to take 6-8 ounces at one time and it is taking them a long time to finish their bottle, you may want to consider a faster flow.
Bottle feedings should take no more than 30 minutes, regardless of how much is in the bottle. If baby takes longer than 30 minutes to feed, they are burning a lot of energy and calories and feeding is now counterproductive.
If baby is taking a long time to feed due to issues with strength or endurance, a feeding evaluation would be a good idea. As they move on to solid foods, these issues will likely continue to affect them. Their growth can also be affected if feeding takes a lot of their energy.
Is It Okay to Keep Baby on a Slow Flow Nipple?
Yes!!! Slow flow nipples are ideal. A slow nipple ensures that baby is actively sucking to feed and not just passively swallowing what is dripping from the bottle. To have a rough idea of a bottle nipple’s flow rate, hold the bottle upside down to see how fast it drips. Almost every nipple will drip easily with gravity’s assistance.
Babies were designed to have to work to feed. If you have ever breastfed a baby, you probably know this. Breastfeeding is work for a baby and babies were designed to work for their food! If we make it too easy for them, their oral structures won’t learn to function and strengthen the way they were designed to. This can lead to future issues with feeding and other oral motor skills down the road.
Even Dr. Brown’s, one of the largest bottle companies in the world, states that their Level 1 newborn flow nipple is ideal for all babies unless there is an issue. That’s a powerful statement from a company that makes more money when parents buy more nipples!
If you are breastfeeding in addition to bottle feeding, it’s often a good idea to stick with a slow flow nipple throughout baby’s bottle feeding life. If they get too used to the ease a fast bottle nipple, they may be less inclined to breastfeed.
To summarize, if baby is feeding the volume they need to within a reasonable amount of time (20-30 minutes max!), then there is no reason to make a change. Save your money and buy baby one of the many other things they need!