Selecting a Bottle for Your Breastfed Baby

June 19, 2014
Selecting a Bottle for Your Breastfed Baby

At some point, nearly every mom has to plan to be away from their baby for some period of time. Especially if you’re getting ready to return to work, you might be wondering how to select and introduce a bottle to continue breastmilk feeding. There are many options out there – as well as alternative feeding methods that don’t require a bottle at all. The simple truth is that not all bottles are best for all babies, and it might take a bit of trial and error to find out what your baby prefers. We’ve compiled tips and information on the various types of bottles so you can choose what might be best for your little one. 

Selecting a Bottle

You may have heard that some babies will come to prefer bottles to breastfeeding and others will refuse to take a bottle at all. Nipple confusion, as well as adequate milk intake, are both common concerns for breastfeeding moms, but choosing a bottle designed with breastfed babies in mind can help you have a good experience toggling between breast and bottle feedings. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of bottles and nipples.

Bottle System Types

Bottles deliver milk in a variety of ways, but no bottle can deliver milk exactly like your breast. The type of bottle your baby may prefer really depends on their individual preferences. There are three basic types of bottle systems:

  1. Vented bottles that aim to decrease the amount of air moving into baby’s stomach.
  2. Bottles that create a vacuum when baby sucks.
  3. Drop-in bottles that allow for zero or positive pressure delivery.

Bottles also come in a variety of materials including glass, plastic, and even stainless steel. All plastic bottles on the market now are Bisphenol A (BPA) free. However, milk delivery depends on not only the type of bottle, but also the nipple that is used with it.

Nipple Types

Nipples affect both the flow of milk and how baby uses their tongue while feeding. Depending on the size, shape, and placement of the hole in the nipple, milk flow can be slow, medium, or fast. Some are slender from the tip to the base while others have wider bases with varying nipple lengths. Generally speaking, a nipple that is wide-based (to encourage wide-gape feeding) and has a soft nipple shaft is best for a breastfeeding baby. The shaft of the nipple must be long enough to be pulled deeply into baby’s mouth but short enough to prevent gagging. Most nipples do not allow baby to regulate the flow or pace the feeding in the same way that they are able to at the breast.

The bottom line is that every baby is different, and the choice of a bottle really depends on your baby’s needs. If your baby was born at full term and is otherwise healthy, you can probably use most of the products available on the market. However, some babies are pickier than others or have particular needs that can inform the type of bottle they may need.

The Calma Breastmilk Feeding Bottle works differently from other bottles and nipples and was developed specifically for breastfeeding babies as a result of research studies on infant feeding behavior. It allows baby to control the flow of the milk, similar to how babies feed at the breast. Milk flows when baby creates a vacuum, so milk will not simply pour into their mouth. This allows baby to take natural pauses between suckling bursts and reduces the chance of over-feeding.

Introducing a Bottle

Aside from bottle style, timing and technique are important factors to consider when introducing a bottle. Ideally, it’s best to hold off on introducing a bottle until breastfeeding is well established (usually about 3-4 weeks). If possible, start slowly – you might want to begin by offering small amounts (such as 1/2 oz.) of expressed breastmilk in a bottle once a day or every other day as a “snack” between regular feedings at the breast. This will help your baby ease into bottle-feeding and learn that your milk can come from a container other than your breast. Try not to completely replace breast feedings with bottle feedings during this training period. If you are planning to return to work, it might help to have someone other than you offer these bottles so your little one can get used to feeding when you’re not there.

Before introducing a bottle, you may wish to learn about pace bottle feeding, which is a method of feeding that seeks to mimic breastfeeding by allowing baby to naturally pause and draw in the nipple at their own pace. Learn more about pace feeding >>

Tips for offering a bottle:

  1. Position your baby somewhat upright in your arms.
  2. Tip the bottle just enough to fill the nipple with milk.
  3. Tickle baby’s lips with the nipple and wait for them to open wide (just like they would at the breast).
  4. Place the tip of the nipple into baby’s mouth and encourage them to draw it in deeply by themselves.
  5. Once baby has drawn the nipple into their mouth, their gums should be positioned over the widest point of the base of the nipple. Their lips should appear flanged outward, like a fish.
  6. Baby’s lips should create a good seal around the nipple. No milk should be seen dripping out of the sides of their mouth (but it may take some babies time to learn to create a seal).
  7. Watch for a similar suck/swallow pattern to what baby does at the breast – usually 1 or 2 sucks per swallow.
  8. Allow baby to eat at a comfortable pace (not chugging) and pause when they please. Pausing every now and then while feeding is part of normal, healthy feeding behavior.
  9. Try not to over-feed your baby. After a break, if they’re still hungry, they’ll draw the nipple back into their mouth for more milk.
  10. Be sure to offer an opportunity for a burp. Bottle-fed milk contains more air, which can mean more tummy pain and gas.

What was your experience with bottle-feeding your breastfed baby? Share your tips in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “Selecting a Bottle for Your Breastfed Baby

  1. Was so happy to find 8oz medela bottles that are not glass! These work great for my 7 month old. Very similar to the 5oz medela bottle. The nipples, nipple caps, and storage caps can be used on either the 5 or 8 oz bottles. But I have just a question, do Medela bottles have any anti-colic functions?

    • Hi Loretta,

      We’re happy to hear that you’re having a good experience with our Breastmilk Bottles. Medela bottles do not have any specific anti-colic functions. If you have further questions, please feel free to reach out to Customer Service, they’d be happy to help you: 1-800-435-8316

      Thanks for reaching out and sharing your feedback!

  2. Do you have any tips/recommendations for a baby that refuses to take a bottle at all? My baby is about 8 months and only plays a bit with the bottle nipple and will not suck. Then after a few minutes she cries and pushes the bottle away entirely. We have tried practically every combination of bottle/nipple. We have resorted to syringe feeding and cup feeding, but both are “messy.”

    • Hi Suzanne,

      Have you tried having someone else offer a bottle when you’re not home? Some babies respond better to a bottle when mom is not around. You can also learn more about feeding with a sippy cup or a straw here:

      If you have further questions, our Lactation Consultant would be happy to help:


  3. Will the medela nipples still work as the baby gets older and prefers a faster flow? My LO only likes these nipples and just want to make sure they will continue to work as he gets older.

    • Hi Kristen,

      With Calma, you only need one nipple size and shape for all stages of feeding. The flow, shape and length of Calma are designed to suit your baby’s needs as your baby grows. For our wide-base nipples, we do offer two different flow options: slow and medium.

      Let us know if you have any other questions. Thanks for reaching out!


  4. When my 4 day old new born baby feeds on medela carma bottle it makes a lot of air bubbles and he seems or is like he swallows a lot of air. And when I express milk in to it them there is air bubbles in at times. (Only drinks breast milk)

    • Hi Stacey – Sorry to hear about this. Please reach out to our customer service team so we can help figure out why this is happening: 1-877-633-3522. Thank you!

  5. Hi there. I have a fast let down so my milk comes out very fast and there is lots of it.My baby ( 1 month old) has adapted to this so drinks and swallows very quickly to keep up with the milk from my breast and feeds within 10 minutes. We introduced a bottle 2 weeks ago and used the medela calma. Baby took the bottle but seems he has to work a lot harder to get milk out than what he does with my breast and it takes a lot longer. Should I make the hole in the bottle’s nipple bigger? I’m worried my baby might reject the bottle because it’s harder work than feeding from my breast?

    • HI Antoinet – Your baby should adapt to the milk flow on both the bottle and your breast, but there are several ways to determine if your baby is getting enough breastmilk. Here’s a blog that can help determine if your little one is getting enough milk: If you’re still concerned about his intake, our Lactation Consultant would be happy to help: We hope this helps!

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