How to Choose the Best Bottle for Your Breastfed Baby

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Wondering what bottle you should choose for your breastfed baby? Maybe you’re going back to work, or just need someone else to be able to feed baby once in a while. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best bottle for breastfed babies.

If you need (or want) someone to be able to feed your breastfed baby, you’ll most likely use a bottle. While there are other feeding devices out there, bottles are straightforward and accessible, and there are plenty to choose from. 

The problem is, which one should you choose??

Different bottles types and brands in a line
Can you tell which of these bottles will be best for a breastfed baby? If not, read on!

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

Just about every bottle manufacturer guarantees that their bottle is the best bottle for your breastfed baby:

Now your baby can transition from breast to bottle in a natural way with the NUK® Simply Natural™ Bottles. Designed to mimic the fit, flow, and movement of mom as closely as possible, this is the only bottle with up to 9 nipple holes, just like mom.

-Nuk, Simply Natural Bottle

Calma is an innovative feeding solution created for breastfed babies. It is designed to not interfere with breastfeeding, to let your baby feed the way they learned at the breast. This is the only bottle with up to 9 nipple holes, just like mom.

-Medela, Calma Bottle

Boob-like and brilliant, our Tommee Tippee baby bottles are loved by both babies and parents alike. They’re shaped like a breast and feel like a breast, because babies prefer it that way!

-Tommee Tippee Bottle

…Our bottle is designed to mimic breastfeeding to help babies easily transition back and forth from nursing to bottle feeding. It’s rescued so many families dealing with ‘nipple confusion’ and ‘bottle rejection’ that our Comotomo mama’s coined the term “Breastfeeding in a Bottle!

-Comotomo Bottle

So is it true that selecting the right bottle will allow you to mimic breastfeeding? And why is it that some babies experience “nipple confusion” and have such a problem transitioning from bottle to breast and back again? And when bottle feeding is so common, why does it even matter? 

Let’s dig deeper and find out.

How to choose the best bottle for your breastfed baby

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT NIPPLE CONFUSION?

First of all, I hate the term nipple confusion! The truth is, babies are smart, and your baby isn’t confused. Your baby knows the cold silicone that leaks milk isn’t you. A better term to use would instead be “bottle preference.”

Your baby is a little person with preferences, and many babies begin to prefer the fast, easy milk flow bottles provide. In contrast, milk flows from the breast more slowly, and more facial and jaw muscles are required to extract it. The breast requires baby to have a deep latch with a wide open mouth or else milk removal is difficult. Bottles nipples don’t require a good latch, since they have a hole that continuously leaks milk regardless of how well baby is latched on (you can see more differences between bottles and breasts here).

In the end, it doesn’t matter if the bottle is shaped like a breast, the same color as a breast, or designed to feel or look like a breast. Bottles aren’t breasts, and feeding from one is a very different experience from breastfeeding, no matter what the marketing claims say.

Bottles that look like breasts don't do much to prevent bottle preference.
By themselves, bottles like these do very little to prevent bottle preference.

BUT DOES BOTTLE PREFERENCE EVEN MATTER MUCH?

There is nothing inherently wrong with bottle feeding. (Read that sentence again if needed). It’s different from breastfeeding, but that doesn’t necessarily mean better or worse! Many breastfeeding parents rely on bottle feeding so they can go back to work or have flexibility in who feeds baby, and of course there is nothing wrong with that

But we care about “nipple confusion” or “bottle preference” because many parents would like to be able to use bottles and continue to breastfeed. And if a baby develops a strong preference for a bottle, he or she may begin to reject the breast entirely. 

In a world where bottle feeding is commonplace, that might not seem like that big of a deal. But if your goal is to provide breastmilk, switching to exclusive bottle feeding means switching to exclusive pumping, which many breastfeeding parents find requires a lot of time, effort and dedication. In addition to taking the time to pump and wash/sterilize bottles and pump parts, exclusively pumping parents need to carefully schedule pumping sessions to protect milk supply, and some may feel they have less flexibility on-the-go since they’ll need to start packing milk and storing it. 

Tired mom feeding a bottle
Parents who would like to continue providing breastmilk may find pumping and bottle feeding less convenient.

Let’s face it: Popping out a boob on cue when baby is hungry, or being able to feed baby lying down, can be pretty darn convenient! And while bottle-feeding parents are just as capable of bonding with their babies, some parents find they miss the close physical connection of breastfeeding when their babies start to prefer bottles. 

Having your breastfeeding journey end suddenly and before you expected can be devastating. So ideally, we would like to be able to bottle feed and continue breastfeeding when desired. 

So how do you make that happen? Which bottle do you choose?? Here’s what you need to know:

HOW THE BOTTLE IS FED IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN BOTTLE BRAND OR TYPE

The best way to prevent bottle preference (and especially accidental overfeeding, which can sometimes have health consequences) is something called “paced bottle feeding.” Paced bottle feeding is a special way of feeding a bottle designed to mimic, as best we can, the feeding rate and flow of breastfeeding. 

The truth is, how you feed a bottle is ultimately more important than the brand of bottle you choose! In fact, it’s so important, that I’ve devoted an entire blog post dedicated to paced feeding and how to do it. Be sure to give it a read!

Paced bottle feeding a breastfed baby
Paced bottle feeding can help prevent accidental overfeeding and perceived low milk supply!

SELECT A BOTTLE WITH A SLOW FLOW RATE

A key element of paced feeding is using a “slow flow” nipple to help slow down milk flow rate and make it more difficult for baby to get milk out of the bottle if they’re not actively sucking. So regardless of whatever bottle brand you wind up choosing, use the slowest flow nipple that manufacturer offers. This typically means using a “size 0” or “preemie” nipple.

You do NOT need to increase the nipple flow rate as baby ages. Many breastfed babies are able to use a preemie nipple until they are weaned from bottles! The only time you might consider increasing nipple flow rate is if baby is collapsing the nipple, if baby refuses to eat because the flow rate is too slow, or if it is taking longer than about 20 minutes to finish 3oz of milk. 

Nipple flow rate may be too fast if milk is leaking from the bottle
If milk is leaking from baby’s mouth, the nipple flow rate may be too fast.

AIM FOR A GOOD LATCH ON THE BOTTLE

While how the bottle is fed is most important, it is also a good idea to choose a bottle brand with a nipple shape that encourages a good latch.

Here’s what we don’t want to see:

Bottle fed baby latched on to a bottle shallowly

We don’t want to see baby’s jaw just slightly open with the lips pursed around the nipple tip. If we were to transpose this latch onto the breast, it would be shallow and painful! We don’t want this.

Instead, we want to see this:

Bottle fed baby with a nice, deep latch
Notice how much wider this baby’s mouth is on the bottle.

A good latch on a bottle looks a lot like a good latch on the breast: Baby’s jaw is open wide at an angle greater than 90 degrees, and baby has a big mouthful of breast tissue (or in this case, bottle nipple). If we transposed a latch like this onto the breast, it would be effective and comfortable.

So how can we encourage a nice deep latch like this when using a bottle? Choosing the right bottle nipple can help.

CONSIDER THE SLOPE OF THE BOTTLE NIPPLE

Many bottle nipples are shaped in a way that tends to encourage babies to suck on the tip like a straw. We don’t want this!

Baby sucking on the tip of a bottle nipple
This latch could be corrected by encouraging baby to place his or her lips around the nipple closer to the white O-ring plastic collar.

Bottle nipples that abruptly change shape from a narrow tip to a suddenly wider base are likely to do this. Here are a few examples of nipple shapes that tend to encourage baby to suck on the tip:

Wide base nipples sometimes encourage poor latch onto the bottle
Bottles shown here are Comotomo (top left), Avent wide base (top right), Avent Classic (bottom left) and Medela Calma (bottom right).

“Wide base” nipples in particular (in the photo above, the two nipples on top and the yellow nipple on bottom are nipples with wider bases) can also be problematic because some babies will try to fit the wide base in their mouths and wind up with air pockets where the nipple tip meets the base:

Baby drinking a bottle with a wide base nipple
With wide base nipples, there is a risk of air pockets forming here if baby tries to fit the base of the nipple in his or her mouth.

Instead, try a nipple that has a gradual slope, like one of these:

Bottle nipples with a gradual slope
The best bottle for your breastfed baby is a pace fed bottle with a nipple that allows your baby to comfortably get a deep latch.

This more sloped nipple shape minimizes the risk of air pockets in baby’s mouth and makes it harder to suck on just the tip of the nipple. The nipples shown above are made by Evenflo, Lansinoh, Chicco, and Dr. Brown’s. Remember that “slow” flow means different things for different manufacturers; the Lansinoh “slow” flow nipple is comparatively fast, so the Pigeon slow flow nipple (which is almost identical in shape) may be a better choice.

Lastly, I recommend avoiding any nipple that comes in a shape that we wouldn’t want our actual nipples to be in. While admittedly I don’t have specific research to back up this recommendation, it just makes intuitive sense to me.

When a baby has a shallow latch (or a tongue tie), their hard palate compresses the nipple, often leaving it looking flattened on one side like a fresh tube of lipstick when a baby unlatches. This is painful and a classic sign of a shallow latch. So I’m not a fan of nipples shaped like this:

Avoid bottle nipples that look like painful human nipples
The breastfeeding parent on the left was dealing with a shallow latch from a tongue-tied baby. Her nipples were flattened on one side like a fresh tube of lipstick. Notice how similar this looks to the bottle nipple on the right!

LASTLY, THERE’S NO NEED TO BUY LARGE BOTTLES

From the ages of 1-6+ months, breastfed babies only consume an average of 3-4 ounces per feed (This is based on research demonstrating that 1-6+ month old babies drink 25-30 oz. of breastmilk a day and nurse roughly 8-12+ times in 24 hours).

This amount does not increase as babies get older, so there is no need to buy large bottles that hold more milk than baby needs in one feed. Sometimes offering larger bottles can inadvertently encourage caregivers to overfeed baby.

Normal bottle size is only 3-4 ounces for a feed
Breastfed babies ages 1 month and beyond only take in around 3-4 ounces per feed. There’s no need for 8+ oz bottles!

SO What bottle should you try first?

You don’t need to buy one of every kind of bottle the store offers! Instead, do this:

  • Start with just a couple bottle brands that will fit one of the recommended nipples above. The Dr. Brown’s preemie bottle nipple is a good place to start before trying an Evenflo or Lansinoh bottle with a slow flow nipple.
  • Don’t worry about marketing claims like “just like the breast!” or “best for breastfed babies!” or “prevents colic!” There’s not a lot of evidence that these claims are much more than good marketing.
  • Make sure that every bottle baby gets is pace fed. Even the slowest flow nipple can result in accidental overfeeding and bottle preference. So paced bottle feeding in addition to using a slow flow nipple is very important. Remember that ultimately, paced bottle feeding is more important than bottle brand.
  • Sometimes babies refuse to take a bottle due to reasons other than bottle type or nipple shape! Stay tuned for a post on how to successfully introduce a bottle to breastfed babies.

What They Don't Tell You About Breastfeeding

This is what they don’t tell you in the hospital. Our FREE guide will give you 12 breastfeeding secrets that will help you avoid common problems down the road. 

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out our digital library of helpful resources that quickly teach how to avoid common breastfeeding problems and give you the peace of mind and confidence you need to meet your breastfeeding goals.