When and How to Switch Baby Bottle Nipple Flow

When and how to switch baby bottle nipple flow is not as easy as it sounds – experienced mothers and caregivers can relate. As a first time mother, you will be surprised how something as relatively small as a nipple flow can cause so much headaches.

I know switching your baby from your breast nipple to bottle nipple was one hell of a battle on its own. You didn’t know that you had an even tougher battle finding the right size and switching the nipple flow – did you? Well, welcome to the club!

Like many first time mothers, I didn’t even know nipples had sizes or that we need to choose between sizes until I went shopping for my baby supplies as an expecting mother.

When I got to the section for feeding bottles, I was amazed. Small, extra small, anti-colic, natural flow, etc., there were so many different types of nipple sizes and varieties.

If you are anything as confused as I was that day, put your heart to rest because, after this article, you will know all there is to know about Nipple flow, the sizes, and how to transition between them. Let’s begin.


What is Nipple Flow Size?

The question is not just what nipple flow size is! In reality, the question is ‘what is nipple flow size and why the heck are there different sizes of nipple flow.

Nipple flow size refers to the size of the nipple flow and/or the size of the holes (and the number) on the tip of the nipple flow itself.

Generally, the number of holes on the tip of the nipple flow and the shape of the nipple flow are used in determining the size. Then to answer your other question (albeit under toned), there is a need for nipple flow size because babies have different preferences – what one likes may be a taboo for the other.

Also, you may have a small nipple – and the child may opt for a nipple flow with a wide opening. So, no, your breast size doesn’t always determine the nipple flow size your baby will opt for.


Factors to Consider when Choosing a Bottle Nipple Flow Size for a Baby

It is impossible to state one factor as the ultimate rule to follow when you want to switch your nipple flow size because there are many factors that determine this depending on baby to baby.

Also, babies under a breastfeeding routine have a different demand for nipple flow size, from babies who were placed on a formula feed. But as they all grow older, the need for a switch in nipple size flow is inevitable.

Below, we have highlighted some factors that signal the need for a change in the nipple flow size for your baby.

1. The Age of the Baby

You can pick a nipple flow size due to the age of your baby. Many brands have made it easier by having different nipple flow size suggestions for babies who are 0-3 months, 4-6 months, and 7-9 months.

As you would notice when you take a closer look at the different nipple flow sizes designed for the different ages, the ones for the younger babies have very tiny holes – which gets wider as the age variation increases.

For babies who are nine months and over, you will notice that their nipple flow has large holes to enable thicker meals like smoothies to pass through.

2. If the Baby is a Breastfed Baby

Now, here is the catch – and something I have so much experience with! Breastfed babies are a pain in the neck when it comes to switching from breasts to bottle nipples – and when they do, they are very selective of the nipple flow size.

However, the interesting thing is that once they accept the bottle and notice that the milk flows out easier than is experienced when sucking from the breasts, they love it!

Babies do not have to suck too hard on a bottle like they do when feeding on breasts, and they like this. Get a nipple flow that is designed for breastfed babies and start with the one with a small or medium sized hole and experiment your way up. This may even be easier than you originally envisioned.


3. If the Baby is a Formula Fed Baby

Breast milk is naturally lighter than formula, so if you are planning to employ an extensive formula feed for your baby, start with the slowest nipple flow size.

This will give your newborn the time to digest the thick meal without having more food rushing into their mouth or system.

In a situation when you are introducing the baby to a formula after you have breastfed them for some months, it is best to go with a nipple flow size that tallies with their age; then, as I said earlier, experiment your way up – or down.

Another critical point of note is that you should go for a nipple flow that is anti-colic.


When to Switch Baby Bottle Nipple Sizes

If you have read this post to this extent, then it means you have gotten a robust idea of what nipple sizes are and how to switch. But I know you may have one fundamental question on when to switch bottle nipple sizes.

You need to be alert to the signs to look out for so that you do not miss the moment and put your baby under stress and threat. Yes, you expose your baby to grave danger if you feed them with the wrong bottle nipple sizes.

Using the wrong bottle nipple size, you could be forcing more food than is needed into his mouth per time, restricting him/her from breathing well. You also risk the possibility of sending food down his windpipe.

Also, if you are using a bottle nipple size that is too small for the baby, you could overtire the baby with sucking too hard, which could see the baby give up on the feed before he is full.

Sometimes, your baby will exhibit some signs to indicate to you that you are using the wrong bottle nipple size for them. Some of the signs they will display in this situation include:

5 Signs That Indicate When to Switch Bottle Nipple Sizes

1. The Baby is Sucking Too Hard

When you notice that the baby is sucking too hard, it is a sign that the bottle’s nipple size is too small, and the baby is finding it hard to get enough feed from the opening.

Unlike your breasts which will naturally react to this demand and supply more flow, the bottle will remain intact, and the baby will find this frustrating. When you notice this, know it is time to get him a bigger size.

2. Using His/Her Tongue or Lips to Flatten the Bottle Nipple

Anytime you notice that the baby is using his tongue or lips to flatten the bottle, it means that the baby is trying to restrict the feed flow.

The bottle nipple size is too large, and the baby is having a hard time trying to reduce the flow by switching nipple flow.

3. Showing Signs of Frustration during Feeding

When you see your baby kicking or hitting the bottle during a feed, it means the baby is frustrated at the flow. This is a general sign that the bottle nipple size is too small or too large – although, in this instance, it is often the former.

This is a sign that it is time to switch the nipple flow by switching the bottle nipple size.

4. The Time Spent on Feeding

If you notice that your baby is spending too much time on a bottle or emptying a bottle faster than he/she should, it is a sign that the bottle nipple size is either too small or too big.

When you notice this, you may want to check it out for yourself to determine what the issue is.

5. Chocking on the Feed

When you notice that your baby appears to be choking on the feed or you see the meal coming out from the corners of the baby’s mouth during the feed, it means that the bottle nipple size is too large for the baby.

More meal that can be controlled is entering the baby’s mouth, and this is very dangerous.


Final Words

As you would have guessed, one reason why I seem to understand your plight so well is as a result of the fact that my kids gave me a tough time also – from the oldest to the youngest. Switching nipple flow was never an easy task, but you should be glad because now I can advise you as an expert (SMILES).

I bet you didn’t know choosing a nipple flow size for your baby would be this demanding. You may have thought to yourself, ‘Oh, this is easier than I thought! I’ll just stick to the nipple flow designed for my baby’s age range!’ 

Well, although many mothers and caregivers make this choice, the truth is that it is not advisable – at least, I won’t advise it. Babies are peculiar, and like always say – what works for one may not work for the other.

Switch between as many nipple flow sizes if you have to, but make sure to get the one that is a perfect fit for your baby.