When you are pregnant and filling out your registry you’ll likely see a million different bottle choices and be very overwhelmed with all of them. Even if you plan on breastfeeding directly from your breast, there are plenty of reasons that you may need to pump and feed your baby a bottle and we want to make this as easy as possible.
Reasons a baby may need to take a bottle:
- Issues latching so while working on latching, your baby may also be fed by a bottle while you’re pumping. (check out this post about pumping while bottle feeding).
- You will be away from your baby for a few hours so you will pump and have someone feed a bottle.
- You may not be producing enough milk to feed your baby solely from your breasts so you may need to combo feed (combination of directly latching, formula feeding, and/or feeding pumped milk).
- Going back to work: pumping milk at work and feeding that pumped milk to your baby. I have an incredible resource about going back to work and breastfeeding here.
Whatever the reason, if you are going back and forth between nursing your baby and using a bottle, we want it to be a smooth transition. Let’s find the best bottles to help your baby be able to go between the two seamlessly.
Studies about bottle feeding vs. breastfeeding:
There are studies, like this one, that show that the mechanics of breastfeeding and bottle feeding are completely different (go over the differences).
According to this study, breastfed babies and bottle fed babies use different patterns of sucking, so just like breastfeeding, babies also have to learn how to bottle feed and it should be ideally led by the baby (pace feeding) so they don’t tend to prefer the fast pace and flow of the bottle then get more frustrated at the breast.
Steps to know before choosing a bottle:
First: make sure you are using a slow flow nipple. The slowest flow the company makes. For example, Dr. Browns has a preemie nipple which is even slower than a level 1 nipple (usually level 1 is the slowest). And there are a few other companies that make preemie nipples as well.
Second, we need to be pace feeding. I went over this last week, so you can read about it here.
Lastly, let’s choose the right bottle. If you are already bottle feeding and it’s going well, then keep doing what you’re doing!
Different Types of Bottles:
I will first say, there are so many bottles that are marketed to be “like a breast”, whether that’s color, shape, look, or feel of a breast, there is just no bottle that is like a breast. And a lot of those bottles may not be the best bottle nipples to be going back and forth between bottle and breast.
All of these bottles (Como Tomo, Avent, and Tommee Tippee) above have a narrow nipple tip and a wide base, and the Avent bottle has a flattened nipple. These are usually the bottles that are marketed to “look like a breast”. So a lot of parents (myself included!) may buy this bottle for that reason alone.
However, many times, a baby will not be able to get a deep latch on those bottles because the base is so wide and will just suck on the top of the narrow nipple. They will just end up chomping down on that part and getting milk out that way with a shallow latch, this can also lead to sucking in more air and milk leaking out because they can’t get a good latch and/or suction on the bottle base because it’s too wide.
These bottles above (Baby Buddha and Spectra) also have a narrow tip and abrupt wide base making it difficult for baby to get a good deep latch on the bottle nipple.
What type of bottle is best?
So then what type of bottles should we look for to make it easiest for baby to go back and forth between breast and bottle?
- Slow flow nipple, or a flow that is similar to the rate from your breasts. Some women do have fast flows and fast letdowns so feedings are shorter and milk flow is faster, so if this is the case, then maybe you could start with level 1 nipple and not a preemie/level 0 nipple. However, many babies will benefit from slower flow nipples. Basically the flow of the nipple is just how big the hole is (or how many holes) in the top of the nipple.
- Nipple shape: one that is similar to the breast that is a gradually widening nipple.
- One that they can get a good latch onto the bottle like they would a breast.
What kind of nipple shape do we want? A nipple that gradually widens towards the base.
Gradually Widening Nipple:
This shape more closely resembles an actual breast and nipple. This optimizes a baby’s latch and allows a deeper latch, lips to be flanged out, and they can get a good seal and suction on these nipples.
Lansinoh NaturalWave Nipple: This nipple is amazing for breastfed babies because it mimics the actual shape of a real nipple; it has a gradually sloping nipple so baby is able to get a good deep latch. If you use a wide neck pumping system (Ex: Spectra), you can just use the Spectra collection bottles and put this nipple into the Spectra bottle collar and then feed it to your baby! This is a great trick because you don’t have to transfer your breastmilk into another bottle (risk of spilling) and you also save yourself from cleaning another bottle!
If you use a narrow neck pumping system (Ex: Medela), you can use an adapter piece to attach to your flange neck to pump into wide neck collection bottles. This is the attachment piece to pump from narrow neck into a wide neck bottle:
Bottle adapter: This will also depend on what type of pump you have and what bottle you’re pumping into. JUST A HEADS UP: The Lansinoh bottle does not connect with Spectra parts!! So if you have Spectra collection bottles, just get the nipple and attach it to your spectra bottle collar.
If you want to just use the whole Lansinoh bottle and nipple, here is the link for that bottle.
Another great option for a gradually sloping nipple is the Pigeon Nipple. You can also place this in your wide neck bottle system!
Another great option is The Evenflo Balance Plus Bottle. The nipple shape is also very similar to that of a breast with a gradually widening slope.
If you just want the nipple to place into your wide neck bottle and bottle collar that you’re already pumping into, here is the Evenflo Balance Plus nipple.
These can work well for breastfed babies, especially for small or premature babies.
Dr. Brown’s Narrow Neck Bottle:
The idea is for the baby to take in the whole nipple in their mouth and have a good suction and seal down at the bottom (at the bottle collar). These can also be a good option for babies with lip/tongue ties.
The other great thing about this bottle is that they sell a preemie nipple (a very slow flow nipple) which is great for breastfed babies.
I hope this was helpful in explaining why we want to look for certain bottle nipple shapes when going back and forth between nursing and bottle feeding. Of course, if your baby is already taking a bottle well and is transitioning back from bottle and breast smoothly, stick with it!!
If you have any questions, of course don’t hesitate to reach out. Another reason you may be looking into bottles for your breastfed baby is that you’re going back to work and want to continue your breastfeeding journey. If that’s the case, I have an incredible resource that you can check out here.