Which teat to use when bottle feeding
The type of teat you use is one of the most important decisions you will make about your baby's bottle. Find out why below.
Bottle fed baby

When choosing a teat, do you know what you're looking for? What features are important and what are just gimmicks?

The type of teat you choose will have a big impact on how well your baby feeds, so find out more about the differences below:

Length

The length of the teat will affect your baby’s ability to feed comfortably. If it is too short it will require more effort for her to feed effectively and she may lose suction while feeding. If it is too long it could cause her to gag. Most teats tend to be short (or too short) rather than too long.

Shape

Teats come in many shapes and sizes, such as:

  • Narrow-based. These have a bell shape. An advantage of this shape is that the teat is usually a suitable length. 
  • Broad-based. These have domed appearance. The length is generally short, and may be too short for some babies. 
  • Orthodontic. These were designed to fill the baby’s mouth like a mother’s nipple would while feeding.

Material

Most teats on the market today are made from silicone. These were traditionally clear, but you can now buy brightly coloured ones. Others are made from latex; these are brown in colour. Silicone teats last longer than those made from latex, but they are stiff in comparison. Latex teats perish quickly (in weeks or months) when using sterilisation techniques that involve heat. Latex is softer and more flexible than silicone and more suitable for some babies, especially newborns.

Cut

The cut is the opening that the milk flows through, so will affect the rate that your baby gets milk. Most teats have a single hole at the tip, or slightly back from the tip in the case of orthodontic teats. X and Y cut teats are used for thickened feeds. Variable flow teats allow you to adjust the flow rate by simply turning the bottle.

The flow rate is very important. If the flow rate is too fast, your baby might cough and splutter. She could feed too quickly increasing the risk of overfeeding. If the flow rate is too slow, your baby might become frustrated or fall asleep before she has had enough.

Additional features

Some companies claim that their “uniquely designed” teat is the same shape as a mother’s nipple, or that it provides flexibility of movement that is similar to breastfeeding, or the teat comes with an “anti-colic” valve. However, none of these have shown to offer any advantage over regular teats. Based on my experience, I would agree.

My recommendations

Most healthy, bottle-fed babies will feed fine using a traditional bell-shaped, narrow-based teat. Some babies will develop a preference for other shapes because this is what they get used to. All that really matters is that your baby feeds comfortably, enjoys feeding and gains healthy amounts of weight. Once you find a suitable teat, use the same type for all feeds.

Fussy feeding behaviour or bottle refusal occurs for various reasons, most of which have nothing to do with the teat. In the small percentage that occurs for this reason, I find it’s usually because the flow rate is too fast or too slow, or the length is too short for the baby.

This article was written by Rowena Bennett and adapted for Kidspot, New Zealand's favourite parenting resource for Early Life Nutrition.
 
Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breast milk. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health care professional for advice about feeding your baby. This post is part of the Early Life Nutrition story.

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