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Help! I’m so confused about what bottles and teats to use for my baby

It’s easy for parents to become confused about what bottles and teats to use when feeding their baby.  Not to mention sifting through advertiser’s claims that their feeding equipment is superior to others on the market. Essentially, all bottles and teats work in much the same way – the bottle holds the milk and the teat transfers the milk into the baby’s mouth.  Currently, most bottles are made from food safe plastic and teats from silicone.

I’m not fussy!

When a baby is hungry and used to feeding from a bottle, they’ll generally accept any bottle or teat. Most of the time it’s hunger which motivates a baby to suck and feed, not the way it’s delivered. Teat designs with ribs, in-built valves, and softer/more flexible designs are not necessarily better than the simplest ‘cone’ shape teats. Bottles and teats which are said to mimic the shape of the breast and nipple aren’t necessarily more enticing for a baby to suck on. 

Be patient and consistent if you’re keen to introduce your breastfed baby to a bottle. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding require different sucking actions and it can take time for babies to coordinate their suck/swallow patterns.

It can be helpful to choose teats according to a baby’s age. Teats for younger babies tend to have smaller and fewer holes, teats for older babies have larger holes. Some babies have preferences for specific teats. You may want to try a couple of different types of teats to see which design your baby prefers.

What to look for in a bottle

Young babies don’t have the stomach capacity to drink large volumes of milk at any one time. That’s one of the reasons why they need to feed on small amounts frequently. As they mature, they can manage to drink and digest larger amounts.

Most small bottles on the market hold around 120 mls, larger bottles 240 mls. Once a baby is a couple of months old, they need the larger volume bottles.

  • Try to have the same brand/design bottles and teats for your baby. Consistency can make a difference.
  • Choose bottles and teats you can afford. Price is not an indicator of superior design or quality.
  • Check the flow rates of teats – the more holes and the larger they are, the faster the flow of milk.
  • Throw away any bottles which are damaged, splintered or have ineligible markings. And toss any teats which are not intact.
  • Bottles which have a wide-open neck can be easier to clean. Using a bottle brush is the best way to clean inside bottles and remove all milk residue. Continue to sterilise your baby’s bottles and teats until they’re 12 months of age.
  • Buy bottles with teats already included, or make sure the bottle/teat combination fits together firmly. Most screw caps, teats and bottles are universal sizes.
  • Food Standards Australia advises using BPA (Bisphenol A) free bottles. You may prefer to use glass bottles but these can be unsafe.

5 bottle feeding tips

  1. Some babies are a little fussier than others about which teat they prefer to suck on.
  2. Price is not a predictor of better-quality bottles or a baby’s interest in feeding.
  3. It’s important for parents to be sensitive and responsive to their baby’s feeding cues.
  4. Breastfed babies can take a while to become used to sucking on a bottle. It can be helpful to offer expressed breast milk (EBM) until they are accustomed to bottle feeding.
  5. The flow of milk can be regulated by the screw cap on the top of the bottle. The more firmly the cap is screwed down, the slower the milk flow. The looser the screw cap, the faster the milk flow.

Written for Milton by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, August 2022.