Does your baby scream and cry when you put a bottle near them? Do they favor your breast over drinking from a bottle and you’re worried you may never be able to leave their side for a feeding?
Have you been trying a ton of different baby bottles, but your infant is still refusing it? Are you wasting too much money purchasing loads of different brands of bottles, but your baby still doesn’t want anything to do with them?
The answer may not be switching to a new brand of bottles, but rather just changing out the nipples.
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Changing the Nipple Flow
When you buy a pack of bottles (or even just a single bottle), they all come with the slowest flow (level 1) nipple. This is because most of the time you will be using a new bottle with a newborn baby.
However, many parents are unaware that you will have to change that nipple every couple months or as needed by your baby. The different nipples will change the amount and how fast the milk or formula comes out.
Did you know that each brand of bottles has at least 3-5 different levels of nipples. They vary by the amount of milk that will come out by the intensity of your babies suck.
The lower the number or level, the slower the flow. So typically the slowest flow of milk will be used for a newborn because they can’t consume a ton of milk in their tiny little mouths at once.
They work up to a higher flow nipple typically as they grow. Once they get bigger, a baby usually wants his milk to come out stronger and faster.
I often hear of moms first changing the entire brand of bottle, thinking that is the problem. However, once your baby gets used to a certain type of bottle, they are usually fine with the first one you put in their mouths.
So if you’re having bottle refusal, there’s a good chance it’s the flow of the milk coming out that is not satisfying your baby.
How do I know when to switch the nipples?
The higher number or flow will usually be used as your baby gets older. For example, once your baby is around 3 months, they may have to suck too hard on a level 1 nipple in order to get a larger amount of milk out. If they start fussing at their bottle, you may want to increase the nipple to a Level 2.
Once your baby is around 6 months old, his milk needs will increase again and he will want to drink more milk and for it to come out even faster. That’s when you would increase the bottle nipple to a Level 3.
See below for links to several bottle nipples and various flow levels.
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Don’t always follow the age ranges
The indicator months on the nipples are merely guidelines. Don’t always think that you should go up levels. Your baby may be getting too much milk and would benefit from going down a level.
For example, I could tell that my baby was getting upset that the milk wasn’t coming out as fast as he wanted to take it. I switched him to a level 3 nipple at 3 months old. That nipple is typically indicated for 6+ months. He did perfectly fine!
So be aware to try different levels of nipples regardless of age. Your baby may just have a stronger or softer suck or a greater or lesser desire to take in a lot of milk at one time.
Even if you are at a level 1 nipple, there is still room to go down from there. Most brands offer a slower flow or ‘Premie’ nipple. This allows the least amount of milk to come out at the slowest pace.
There are also variable flow nipples that adjust the flow of milk based on your baby’s preference. It determines that by how hard or soft your baby is sucking, how much milk it will expel, and at what speed.
This way, your baby has more control over their milk flow. They can suck faster or slower to adjust the rate of milk and they may enjoy this better.
Look into the brand website of the specific brand of your bottles to see what options they offer.
Determining what change your baby needs
You may just recognize that your baby is refusing to take a bottle from you, but there can be many different reasons behind why. Since your baby can’t communicate efficiently to give us a specific reason, we need to be a good investigator in finding out what the actual problem is.
Looking for signs of whether they need a faster or slower flow can help you to determine what will be the best fit for your baby. However, it’s really going to just be trial and error to see which one they take the best.
Does your baby gag and choke when drinking? Do they spit up a lot after a feeding? Does it seem like their mouth fills up too fast with milk? Then they may need a slower flow nipple.
In this case, the milk is coming out too fast for them to handle. You want to slow down the flow of milk. If you’re using the nipples that came with the bottle, go down to a premie flow. If you’ve already gone up to the next level, go back to the old nipples.
Does your baby seem so excited when he sees the bottle and sucks really fast? Are they still sucking on it so har but getting upset and mad when trying to suck? This may mean they would possibly need a faster flow nipple.
In this case, the milk is not coming out quickly enough for them to get as much as they need. You want to increase the flow and rate of milk coming out. If you’re using the original nipples, go up to a medium flow first, then work your way up to a fast flow if you need to keep going up.
They may have to get used to the change to figure out if they actually like it better. Therefore, don’t write it off if it doesn’t work on the first try. Give it a few times before you decide if it will fix the problem or not.
Breastfeeding and Supplementing
If you are going back and forth between the bottle and breastfeeding, that may cause some confusion for your baby. Although you may not know exactly if the milk comes out of your breast as a slow flow or fast flow, your baby may be the most used to what he’s getting from you.
For example, if you produce a lot of milk and your let down is quick, your milk may pour out of your nipple so easily for your baby. Then, when you give your baby a bottle with a slow flow (level 1) nipple, it may take them a lot of work to only get out a little it of milk. This is where the discrepancy comes in and what makes your baby frustrated.
The same goes for the opposite situation. If you don’t produce a lot of milk or your milk doesn’t come out quite as fast, your baby is probably used to the slower flow of milk.
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I hope that this will be the solution you are looking for. Play with the different nipple flows and it should make a difference for your baby.
Remember, they also may have to get used to the change. So don’t write it off if it doesn’t work for your baby on the first try. Give it a few times before you decide if it will be a good fix or not.
Links for popular brands of baby bottles:
Nuk Simply Natural: Medium Flow (3-6 months)