Baby bottle nipples are meant to imitate a mother's nipple. The human nipple is short, but very flexible and pliant. When choosing a baby bottle nipple, you want it to also be very flexible and pliant. Short bottle nipples may make it harder for your baby to latch on. A flexible baby bottle nipple will make it easier for your baby to latch on and feed.
Baby bottle nipples are made of latex, rubber, or silicone. Latex nipples are softer and more flexible. These may appeal to a newborn, but they are not as durable. Rubber nipples are soft and last longer, but not as flexible. Silicone nipples are firmer, hold their shape longer, and are not damaged by heat when boiled, but they do cost more than other nipples.
Most baby bottle nipples are a one-piece nipple and collar set, but they are also available in a variety of shapes. There are standard round tip, flat-topped orthodontic, nubbin nipples that elongate, and tri-cut nipples.
Standard nipples have a long rounded tip and are easy for your baby to use. Tri-cut nipples are longer than the standard nipple. The increased length releases milk farther back in the baby's mouth which makes it easier for your baby to swallow.
Nubbin nipples have short, flattened tips, designed to elongate during sucking if your baby's mouth is open wide enough and sucks hard enough to draw in the nipple. If you are breastfeeding your baby, it is best to avoid this nipple. It can teach your baby lazy latch-on habits. If you are breastfeeding and bottle-feeding your baby, use a nipple with a wide base.
Orthodontic nipples have a flat top, designed to accommodate your baby's palate and gums. Orthodontic nipples insert further into your baby's mouth, mimicking the shape and flexibility of the mother's nipple. This encourages a more natural milking movement. Babies suck on the wide flat part of this nipple with the flat side resting on the tongue.
Baby bottle nipples come with a variety of hole sizes to fit the age of the baby and control the flow speed. Newborn nipples are smaller and, typically, the fluid flows slower through the nipple. Toddler nipples are larger and the fluid flows faster through the nipple. Each nipple is different, so this may not always be the case.
If your baby gets a sudden mouthful of milk and almost chokes during a feeding, the nipple hole may be too large and the milk flow too fast. The nipple hole should allow liquid to drip steadily, not pour out like a stream.
If your baby seems to be working hard, takes breaks from sucking, or your baby's cheeks cave in because of a strong suction vacuum, the nipple hole may be too small and the milk flow too slow. To test the nipple drip, hold the bottle upside down without shaking it. The breast milk or baby formula should drip approximately 1 drop per second.
You may have to try a few different nipples to find the flow that your baby likes best and one that fits your baby's mouth the best. Don't give an infant a nipple meant for a toddler.
Check your baby bottle nipples periodically for signs of wear. If your nipples look discolored, thin, cracked, or worn, replace them. With repeated washing and sterilizing, nipples tend to crack and leak. Broken or crumbling nipples are a choking hazard.
It is always a good idea to buy more nipples than bottles as nipples wear faster than bottles. It can be a better value to buy nipples and bottles in starter sets. Keep in mind that you may want to try a variety of nipples first to determine which style your baby prefers.
New nipples smell and taste very rubbery. To lessen the rubbery taste, boil your bottle nipples for five minutes before first use. This will also sterilize your nipples. Always carefully follow the manufacturer's cautionary advice on the package. Nothing can truly imitate a mother's nipple, but you can find the perfect fit for your baby.
- I didn't know about these bottles when my daughter was younger, but I wish I had! There are only a couple of breast shaped bottles on the market, but the Breastbottle Nurser is the easiest to find. This soft, all silicone nurser is shaped like a breast and feels like a breast because of its collapsible walls. The soft, malleable nature of these bottles helps babies accept the bottle more readily. They really are only suitable for breast milk – the nipples have very small openings that can easily become plugged with formula. A great bottle for breastfeeding mothers and babies, but wouldn't it be fun to whip one of these out at dinner!