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Buying The Perfect Baby Bottle Nipple

The different types of baby bottle nipples

Baby bottle nipples aren’t all the same: they come in different shapes, sizes, and even materials. Each type addresses a baby’s readiness for different flows of milk, issues with gas, and comfort.

Nipples range from standard ones that are straight, tall, and dome-shaped with no bends, to bent nipples that aim to help reduce the chance of your baby swallowing air, thus cutting down on gas and fussiness. There are even orthodontic nipples that are specifically shaped to fit inside a baby’s mouth, with a wide tip and base and narrow middle. Nipples can be made of materials like latex, which is softer but can wear out more quickly, or silicone, which is sturdier, easier to clean, and longer lasting.

How are nipple sizes measured?

Baby bottle nipples are labeled in “levels” from 1 to 4, relating to the size of the opening from where milk flows. The smallest opening is on a level 1 nipple, which has a tiny hole that mimics the flow of breastfeeding. It is best used with babies from newborn up to about 6 months. Level 2, 3, and 4 nipples have increasingly larger holes for older babies, from 3 months and up for Level 2, 6 months and up for Level 3, and 9 months and up for Level 4. These ages can vary based on how individual babies progress in feeding.

There are additional sizes, too, such as nipples for premature babies (Level 1 nipples might suffice in these cases), as well as Y-Cut nipples that can be used for babies aged older than 9 months who are already drinking thicker milk, or milk mixed with cereals.

When to switch to a different nipple

Look for cues from your baby as to when it might be time to switch, such as if they are taking long to finish eating, get fussy or irritated while sucking, or fall asleep during feeding time. Any of these things could indicate that the flow of milk is not fast enough. Conversely, you might want to downgrade to a smaller nipple if the baby seems to be gulping a lot, hard swallowing, coughing, choking, has milk dripping from the sides of his mouth, or is just downright refusing the bottle.

How to buy baby bottle nipples

Trial and error is best. Start with a Level 1 nipple, and if you notice that your baby seems to want more than he’s getting, faster than he’s getting it, move up one level, and continue to do so incrementally. Nipples from various brands are designed differently, so while your baby might find that the flow from a Level 1 nipple is perfect from one brand, he might need a Level 2 from another. Try a few different ones until you find the size and type that best suits your baby.