For parents who choose to bottle-feed, either exclusively or alongside breastfeeding, selecting the right bottle can be an overwhelming decision with so many products on the market. There is rarely a right or wrong choice, its more about finding the one that works best for YOUR baby and helps them maintain a good relationship with both bottle and breast if you are nursing. Finding the right bottle for your baby will ensure a smooth and comfortable transition. Here are our top 5 tips for choosing a bottle.
One of the most critical aspects of choosing a bottle is the shape of the bottle nipple, or teat.. Newborns have different preferences, so while most people think it's essential to find a nipple shape that mimics the natural breast there are actually other criteria that we think are much more important. Baby should be able to get their entire mouth to open up and around the base of the teat/nipple and create a seal with their lips flanged outward so we should be looking for a bottle with a narrow neck (like the Dr Brown narrow, Even Flow Balance standard, Pigeon, etc) rather than all those bottles with a wide bottle opening (like Tommy tippy, Avent, etc.). We also want to look for a nipple that is gently sloped with a soft "shoulder" rather than a harsh angle or with overly firm material. We also want the bottle nipple/teat to be round like a human nipple and not flattened or squashed. We have seen many babies using flattened bottle nipples (like the Mam) end up causing flattening of the breast nipple which is something we definitely want to prevent!
Another criteria is to look for bottles with a flow rate that allows your baby to suck and swallow at a slow, coordinated, rhythmic pace, similar to breastfeeding. When babies eat too fast on a bottle, they often get frustrated at a slower flow at breast. When it comes to nipple flow, generally we keep babies on level 1 if they are also nursing for some of their feeds. Increasing to level 2 nipples generally isn't necessary unless it is taking baby 10minutes per ounce to feed the bottle. Also important to remember is that there is no universal flow rate. A level 1 in one brand will flow faster or slower than a level 1 in another brand. We have seen level ones flow faster than level 3 in some instances! The worst culprits are those disposable hospital slow flow nipples! They are anything BUT slow flow!
Many bottles on the market come with anti-colic features to reduce the intake of air during feeding. Most of this is hype and completely not necessary. Instead, look to ensure your baby takes the bottle at a rate of about 5-7 minutes per ounce. If they feed much faster they will take in too much air causing digestive distress. And sometimes all that air swallowing fills them up and they end up not taking enough in the feed and need to feed again shortly thereafter.
Ease of Cleaning
As a new parent, you'll appreciate anything that simplifies your daily routine. Choose bottles with fewer parts for easy assembly and cleaning. Extra parts that are marketed for anti-colic are usually not necessary, see above. Opt for bottles that are dishwasher-safe for added convenience during those busy days (aren't they all busy days?!?).
Size Doesn't Matter
Newborns have tiny stomachs, so you can start with smaller-sized bottles to avoid overwhelming your baby during feedings but it really doesn't matter. You can just as easily put one ounce in a 4ounce bottle or an 8 ounce bottle! You just want to feed the bottle slowly as mentioned above. Most exclusive breastmilk fed babies will rarely take more than approximately 5 ounces per feed so having huge bottles isn't necessary unless your baby will eventually be taking full formula feeds.
As you can see, there are a number of things to consider when choosing bottles for your little one. If you see your baby leaking milk from the corners of their mouth, not able to take 3-5ounces per feed by a month of age, not able to take enough to gain weight appropriately or coughing, choking or sputtering, please slow down the flow and reach out to a provider at Milkwell for a bottle feeding evaluation. We would love to help!