Selecting a Bottle for Your Breastfed Baby

June 19, 2014

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 breast milk 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 Breast Milk 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 breast milk 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.

17 thoughts on “Selecting a Bottle for Your Breastfed Baby

  1. We have been using the narrow medium flow teats with our 4 month old but he can take awhile to feed. Would using wide base teats mean that he could drink the milk quicker?

  2. Cecilia Marquette says:

    I am interested in the Calma nipple but would like to use glass bottles. Could this be an option for the Calma system to work properly?

    • Hi Cecilia – Calma has only been tested with Medela bottles, so unfortunately we are not sure if Calma nipples will work with glass bottles. Calma is compatible with all Medela bottles.

  3. Hi ..
    I have this Calma medela bottle but it doesn’t tell me the age group on the bottle how do I know if I can use it for my 4 month old son. I was gifted the bottle henc not sure My son refuse to take bottle he use to before can you please confirm so I can unpack and use it and see if it does the magic.

    • Hi – Calma is suitable for all ages, as the baby controls the flow of milk through vacuum. The baby will apply more or less vacuum to Calma as its need for milk changes throughout breastfeeding duration. We hope this does the trick!

  4. Hi, I bought Calma Bottle and attempted to feed my son with it. He is 3 month old and had been breastfed since day one. It seemed he is not interested to suck the teat at all. We have tried for several day with no success. Can you advise how to introduce Calma bottle to my son?

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