When should I change bottle nipples?

Some bottle-fed babies are perfectly happy with the first bottle-nipple you pop in their mouths, but others are a little bit pickier when it comes to their first set of utensils. And when you find one that works, it feels like a victory – and it is! That doesn’t mean it’s the last time you’ll be wrestling with bottle-nipple choices until it’s time to graduate them to sippy cups, though. There are two main reasons to switch bottle nipples – first is to replace nipples that need to be retired because of the wear and tear from Baby’s fearsome jaws, and second is to change the size of the opening on the bottle nipple to a faster flow as Baby grows.

All worn out

Both latex and silicone bottle nipples can wear out after several months of use, particularly if they’re cleaned roughly, or with a brush, or if Baby’s teeth are a little early coming in and they&;s not inclined to play nice with them. Most bottle manufacturers recommend checking nipples for signs of wear when they’ve been in use about 3 months, although they can certainly last longer. However, if you notice them wearing out earlier, there’s definitely no reason not to take them out of use sooner.

Obvious signs of wear on both latex and silicone nipples are discoloration, pieces coming off, and changes in the nipples’ shapes. Worn out silicone nipples also look like they have cracks in them. Any of these signs is a good reason to retire a nipple. The less obvious reason, change in flow from the nipple, is easy to test by filling two bottles with warm water, fitting one with the old nipple and one with a new one, and watching the two flows against each other.

Taking the next step

The problem with graduation from one flow-speed of nipple to the next is that there is no standardized level for what each type of nipple flow is. Instead, it changes between each brand, though each brand will give recommendations. Because every bottle brand’s nipple-flow is different and every baby is different, the guidelines for when to switch bottle nipples are almost completely arbitrary, and can only really be used as very rough guides.

The real thing that determines when Baby should move up to the next nipple-flow speed is of course Baby, and what they need. They might be ready for the next nipple grade if they are sucking hard enough to collapse their bottle nipple regularly, or seems frustrated by how slowly the milk from their bottle is coming out. If, on the other hand, you switch up to the next grade of nipple and Baby has a hard time swallowing all of the milk as it comes out, they might not be ready to make the switch. In the end, if they seem happy with the speed that their dinner is getting to them, there really is no reason to change nipple grades at all.

Learn more about bottle feeding

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