Bottle Nipples: How's a Breastfeeding Parent to Know?
Many breastfeeding mothers also bottle-feed. You may be transitioning your baby from bottle to breast. Or, you may be supplementing breastfeeding with bottle-feeding. Your baby may also be receiving bottles when you are at work or school. One key to bottle-feeding in a way that reinforces breastfeeding (rather than sabotages breastfeeding, i.e. the dreaded nipple confusion) is to start with an appropriate bottle nipple. Many bottle manufacturers advertise that their bottles/nipples are the best for breastfeeding mamas:
- "Mimics natural feeding behavior: your baby can feed, pause and breathe, similar to breastfeeding." (Calma bottle by Medela)
- "The innovative nipple design replicates a mother's breast creating a natural feeding experience." (Mimijumi)
- "We’ve designed the unique, easy-latch-on nipple shape with breastfeeding experts to mimic the natural flex, stretch and movement of mom’s breast." (Tommee Tippee)
Wow, don't these all sound great? Thank goodness we have modern technology (and large pocketbooks) so that we can successfully combine breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. Not.
First, I want to emphasize that these statements are made not to support you, the breastfeeding mother. They are made to sell products and make money for the manufacturer. In fact, statements like these actually sabotage breastfeeding success. That is why the World Health Organization published its International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes which prohibits any marketing of breastmilk substitutes, which include bottles and bottle nipples.
So what really is the best choice for bottle-feeding a breastfed baby (or a baby you are transitioning to breastfeeding)? In most cases, they are:
- The bottle nipples that are not specifically marketed for breastfeeding mothers.
- The bottle nipples that don't look like a breast at rest: bottle nipples with a wide base, especially those that dramatically transition from the teat to the wide base.
- The bottle nipples that don't strain your wallet.
This is what is usually see with the wide-based bottle nipple: the baby just latches onto the narrow teat because the base is too wide for her little mouth. Many babies won't even be able to latch onto the breast if they open their mouth as wide as the baby in this second photo. And, if she can latch onto the breast like this baby is bottle-feeding, (1) she won't get much (if any) milk and (2) OUCH - it will probably really hurt.
Always use the slow-flow nipple, designed for newborns. The flow from the breast does not change as baby grows and so shouldn't the flow from the bottle. If your baby is accustomed to a faster flow nipple, as always, transition gradually to the slow flow.
For more information, see Chapter 8 in Breastfeeding Without Birthing or check out Balancing Breast and Bottle.