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Selecting the Ideal Bottle Teat for Breastfeeding Babies: Importance of Size and Flow Rate

Size (and flow rate) really matters

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to provide your baby with all the necessary nutrients and antibodies they need to grow and develop. However, there may be times when you need to supplement with formula or express milk for various reasons, and that’s okay! Fed is always best. 

When it comes to bottle feeding, choosing the right teat size and flow rate is crucial for your baby’s feeding experience and overall health, especially if you want to continue successful breastfeeding in combination with bottle feeding.

Understanding the importance of teat size & flow rate

It’s important to understand that teat size and flow rate play a significant role in your baby’s feeding experience. Using a teat that is too small or a flow rate that is too slow in comparison to your own milk flow rate can lead to frustration and difficulty in feeding. You might be surprised to know that the best bottle teats for breastfeeding babies are those that mimic the natural sucking motion and latch of breastfeeding. That means using a slow flow rate and a teat that forces your baby to work to draw milk out with suction – as they would at the breast, rather than a fast flow rate that allows the milk to flow too easily.

If you can hold a bottle upside down, and milk pours out, the flow rate is too fast for a breastfeeding baby. This is because babies who are exclusively breastfed are used to a slower flow rate and have to work harder to get milk out of the breast. When babies are fed with a fast flow rate, they may consume more milk than they need, which can lead to overfeeding and digestive issues. Plus, when milk flows too easily, babies can become lazy and stop exercising their sucking reflex, which is crucial for their oral development and continued breastfeeding success.

If you’re not sure what teat size and flow rate to use, don’t worry. Professionals such as those found at Johannesburg’s own Children’s Therapy Centre or your lactation consultant are equipped to provide you with guidance and support. These team of experts understand that each baby is unique, and their feeding needs may vary and therefore provide individualized care and support to help you make the best choices for your baby.

Tips to combine bottle and breastfeeding:

If seeking out help from a professional like those mentioned above is not an option, here are some helpful tips to combine bottle and breastfeeding:

Bottle feeding:

  • Wait until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a bottle.
  • Choose a slow-flow teat that mimics breastfeeding to prevent overfeeding and ensure that your baby continues to exercise their sucking reflex.
  • Hold your baby in an upright position during feeds to prevent choking or ear infections.
  • Offer the bottle when your baby is going to be more willing to try new things – this is a calm time in the day where they are hungry but not too hungry to prevent frustration and difficulty latching. Try after bath time and even offer a small feed to curb any irrational hunger which may make them resistant to try a bottle.
  • Pay attention to your baby’s cues and allow them to control the pace of the feed.
  • Clean and sterilise the bottle and teat after each use to prevent infection.

Combining Bottle & Breastfeeding:

Follow the guidelines above for both breastfeeding and bottle feeding:
  • Avoid offering a bottle when your baby is too hungry or too full.
  • Use the bottle as a supplement to breastfeeding, rather than a replacement.
  • Ensure that your baby continues to breastfeed often to maintain your milk supply and ensure effective milk transfer.
  • Seek advice from a medical professional if you have concerns about your baby’s feeding habits.

Fed is Best Top Tip for maintaining milk supply when introducing a bottle

NB! Remember, if you want to maintain your milk supply when bottle feeding you must pump around the same time your baby has their bottle to maintain your supply. For example, if you are returning to work and your baby is being fed expressed breast milk by a caretaker, ensure you make time to pump during your workday to replace these feeds. Read our blog about breastfeeding in the workplace for more information on this.

Remember, breastfed babies should never have to move up a flow rate or teat size unless advised by a medical professional. If you have any concerns about your baby’s feeding habits, it’s crucial to seek advice from a medical professional. They may recommend a different type of bottle or teat that is more appropriate for your baby’s needs.

In conclusion, choosing the right teat size and flow rate is essential for your baby’s feeding experience and overall health. Always seek advice from professionals, to help you make the best choices for your baby. By using the right teat size and flow rate, you can make feeding easier and more comfortable for your baby, while also ensuring that they receive the right amount of milk.

Quick bottle feeding reference guide

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