How fast should a nipple flow?

Bottle Nipples








Do you need to change nipples as the baby grows? Many manufacturers offer two or three nipples with different flow rates. Some label them “newborn”, “3 months”, “6 months”; others just “1”, “2” and “3”. If they make them, doesn’t that mean baby needs them?

If we are working from the basic concept that feeding from a bottle should be as close to the experience of feeding from mom as possible, the answer is usually no. Mom’s nipple pores don’t change size or increase in number as baby gets older.

One of the benefits of breastfeeding is the development of a baby’s orofacial musculature. Breastfeeding exercises tongue, jaw and facial’s a workout for a baby to feed.

Baby will get more efficient and stronger. His breastfeeding sessions will get shorter as time goes on as a result of that practice and exercise. But because he has accomplished something, does it mean we should then make the task easier? I think the task is easier because of his accomplishment.

On the other hand, as baby matures and masters the skill of getting milk from the breast, he can cope with a faster flow more easily. The baby has learned how to pace the suck-swallow-breathe rhythm; he’s not choking on milk when he needs to breathe, nor gulping lots of air because he can’t slow down enough to breathe.

Will most babies be able to cope with the flow of a nipple with a faster flow once they are 3 or 4 or 5 months old. Probably? Do they need it? Usually not.

Faster flow nipples: good or bad?

From a baby’s perspective a feeding is a balance of several things: how much energy does it take, what will satisfy the baby?

From a parent or caregivers’s perspective, there is also a balance: how much energy and time does it take?

Same questions...not always the same answers.

A feeding session with a faster flow nipple will usually take less time. Who benefits from this?

If your baby is frustrated with how long a feed is taking and would rather be off exploring his world, a faster feed can be a good thing.

If your care provider is wanting a feed to go faster, this may not be a good thing.

Sue Petracek, IBCLC