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How to Figure Out When to Change Nipple Flow On Bottles?

Being a new mom can be tough and confusing at times. There are so many decisions to make, and it feels like making the wrong decision could lead to disaster.

For instance, have you ever looked at a baby feeding system and wondered which size nipple to use?

There are usually several sizes of nipples included in the box, and you want to choose the right one.

After you have been feeding your baby for a while, you may wonder when to change nipple flow on bottles.

Here are some tips to help you figure out whether the nipple flow you are using is right for your baby and when it may be a good time to change the flow.


Why Should I Increase the Nipple Flow During Feedings?

Feeding your baby is an opportunity to bond, and it should be an enjoyable time for both of you.

Unfortunately, baby bottle nipples wear out or your infant’s needs can change over time.

When this happens, you are likely to notice that your baby experiences frustration during their feedings that can heighten the stress levels for both of you.

Nipples that are too slow force your baby to work harder to get their milk or formula. This can lead to increased crying when they are not able to satisfy their hunger fast enough.

If the problem is severe, your baby could even stop eating or refuse the bottle completely.

Eventually, this can lead to problems such as your baby showing signs of poor weight gain or failure to thrive.

If your baby routinely does not finish their bottles yet is hungry between feedings, then this is a sign that helps you know when to change nipple flow on bottles.

In addition to the frustration, your baby may try to gulp or chew on the nipples in an effort to get the milk out.

This gulping motion can cause your baby to take in air that eventually settles in their intestines as gas.

Additionally, the strong sucking motions required to get milk out of nipples that are too small causes your baby to experience other symptoms such as soreness of the muscles around their mouth and jaw.

Since they can’t talk yet, your baby will express these symptoms through increased crying and general fussiness.

Nipple Flow Levels

While there is no standard nipple flow that works across different brands, you will likely see packaging with labels like slow, 0, 0m+, 1m+, 3m+, and 6m+.

Avent nipples flow rates photoIf you’re wondering when to change nipple flow on bottles, many pediatricians suggest trying a new nipple size every three months.

Just watch your baby carefully to make sure that they are adjusting well to the flow of the new nipple. It may take a few feedings for them to get used to the nipple.

Going back to the nipple flow that you were using before might be necessary if your baby hasn’t adjusted to the new flow after a couple of days.

On the other hand, many moms never change the flow of their baby’s nipple. If your baby is eating well, it may not be necessary to change the flow of their nipple at all.

Some babies always use slow flow nipples, while others get frustrated if the flow of milk is too slow when they are a couple of months old.

What works for one baby may not work for another, even if the babies are from the same family.

  • The general rule is that babies who are under 3 months old should use slow flow nipples.
  • Babies who are between three and six months old often need medium-flow nipples on their bottles.
  • Fast-flow nipples aren’t usually recommended for babies under six months, although they may be necessary if you are mixing the formula with cereal to help your baby’s reflux.

When to Change Nipple Flow On Bottles

First, watch this video of Dr. Natasha Burgert talking about when to transition to faster flow bottle nipples.

If you are an Avent bottle user and you need the right nipple flow for your baby, go and check this table, it gonna helps you understand which bottle nipple your baby needs!

When you’re choosing a nipple for your baby’s bottle, remember that a size one nipple in one brand may not be the same flow as a size one in another brand.

For example, Avent nipple flow will likely be different than the Dr. Brown nipple levels flow or any other brands.

Some moms avoid this issue by always using the same brand of nipple, while others may try several nipples until they find the right flow.

Don’t feel like you have to start with size one just because your baby is young. A nipple in size two may work better for your baby.

It’s good to remember that your baby should finish a bottle in around 15 minutes. This usually means that a nipple with a faster flow is needed when your baby starts drinking more ounces per bottle.

You may need to get a nipple with a slower flow if your baby is drinking their bottles too fast, especially if they often get fussy after eating.

Watch your baby while they are drinking their bottle to make sure that they are not sputtering, gagging, or leaking milk out of their mouth. These are signs that you should use a nipple with a slower flow of milk.

You want your baby to eat comfortably, but not drink too fast or swallow a lot of air while they are drinking.

Just as you’re likely to get frustrated if you’re having trouble getting your drink through your straw, your baby may get frustrated and upset if they are having trouble getting milk out of their bottle.

If your baby is getting bored or angry during feedings, that’s when to change nipple flow on bottles. Try a nipple with a faster flow so that it’s easier for your baby to get his or her milk out of the bottle efficiently.

It’s best to only go up one nipple flow at a time so that your baby isn’t overwhelmed by a big change in flow.

How Do I Switch Nipple Flow to a Faster Level?

Once you have identified when to change nipple flow on bottles, your next step is to choose your preferred method.

As with any new thing that you introduce to your baby, make sure to start off slowly.

For some moms, it is easier to change to a new nipple mid-feeding when their baby is not gulping so hard.

For others, it is better to use the new nipple when the baby is at their hungriest since they are more likely to accept anything to get to the milk.

You know your baby best, so feel free to offer the new nipple size when you think it is right.

Observe for Signs of Your Baby’s Comfort

Bottle nipples come with age recommendations that you can use as a guide for transitioning to each new size.

However, some babies need bigger nipples faster than others, and it all depends upon multiple factors such as your baby’s size, appetite and ability to get milk out of the bottle.

For this reason, you will want to watch carefully as your baby eats with the new nipple size to make sure that it works better than the old one.

Babies who are able to get the right nipple flow should be seen rhythmically sucking and swallowing as they work their way through the bottle.

If your baby gags, pushes the bottle away or has milk dripping out of the corner of their mouth, then these are signs that your baby is struggling with the new size.

Keep in mind that most babies will experience a few minor issues as they get used to the new nipple.

However, major problems with feeding such as choking or spitting up the majority of their bottle after finishing are signs that your baby may be stuck between the two different levels.

In this case, you will need to do some experimenting to find the ideal nipple flow for your child.

What Do I Do When My Baby Seems Stuck Between Two Levels?

Parenting is always full of new challenges, and some babies manage to get stuck somewhere between two levels of nipple flow.

Naturally, it’s frustrating to discover that size 1 nipples are too slow and cause your baby to take longer than 30 minutes to eat

yet size 2 nipples cause so much dribbling that your baby barely gets a drop.

Fortunately, there are several options that you can use to find the ideal nipple flow when our baby is stuck between the two levels.

Just remember to be patient and give your baby time to try each method before moving on to the next one.

Change to a New Nipple

The first thing you need to check is if your old nipples are showing signs of wear.

Over time, constant washing and sterilizing can cause the material that the nipple is made from to expand or even get a gummy texture.

This can cause the hole to swell up to the point that the flow slows down.

If the nipples are old, then try changing to a brand new set to see if this solves the problem.

Try a Different Type

Your baby’s needs can change as they grow.

Your baby may need a new style of nipple if they have transitioned from breast to formula milk or if they need other things added to their milk such as rice cereal to address digestive challenges.

In these types of instances, you may need to look for specialized nipples.

For instance, some have a differently shaped hole that is designed for thickened milk to flow through.

Alternatively, your baby may be responding to the shape of the nipple rather than the flow.

If it is time to move up to a bigger bottle, then this is a great time to try out a new style that comes with a slightly different nipple flow.

Widen the Hole on an Existing Nipple

Another way to figure out how to switch nipple flow is to try widening the existing hole on the ones that you already own.

Some moms have found success widening the hole by using a sterilized needle to poke at it until it becomes bigger.

Keep in mind that this must be done with caution since altering the nipple can increase the risk of pieces breaking off during a feeding.

With any of the methods that you choose, remember that the goal is to help your baby get the right amount of flow going to satisfy their appetite without causing them to guzzle their bottle too fast.

Be willing to keep trying new things until you find that perfect nipple flow that makes feeding times blissful again.

Other Tips for Bottle Feeding Your Baby

If your baby is losing interest in eating, the flow of milk from their bottle may not be to blame.

Try to limit distractions while you’re feeding the baby. Their eyesight is developing rapidly and the world is getting more exciting, so it may be best to feed your baby in a private room whenever possible.

A dark room is best for night feedings because it keeps distractions to a minimum and may help your baby fall asleep faster.

If your baby is having trouble latching and sucking from one type of nipple, it may be best to change the type of nipple, rather than the rate of milk flow.

Some are pretty flat, while others have more of an angle. There are also many types of air vents in the bottles and the nipples.

It may take several tries with different nipples and/or different bottles before you find the right combination that allows you to feed your baby efficiently, without them getting overly gassy or gagging from drinking too fast.

You know your baby best, so keep trying until it feels right.

Additional information:

Video credits: KCKidsDoc Burgert.

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Kadie Bui

Sunday 9th of February 2020

My son is 9weeks old. He’s breastfed and used bottle at the same time. My husband wants me to change the Nipple from slow flow to medium flow. I’m afraid that if I change the nipple he won’t take my breast anymore.

Clara Johnson

Wednesday 12th of February 2020

What’s the reason for wanting to change? Is he taking a long time to drink a bottle with the slow flow? We changed our son’s around the same age, largely because he was fussing so much at the bottle and would only take the breast. I have low supply so he’s always had some formula, so no bottle was not a real option. Turned out he was fussing at the bottle because he was having to work so hard at the slow flow and was more efficient at the breast. Once we switched and he got used to it feeding became way less stressful (until now of course where he’s teething and sick and has no appetite and hates his bottle again).

There’s no need to rush changing it out, but if it seems like your babe is having to do a lot of work at the bottle, it might be a good time. I don’t think you need to worry about it causing breast neglect.

Brandon Garner

Friday 9th of November 2018

My baby takes about 30 minutes to 40 minutes to finish a bottle on the first flow and she's one month old. there is milk present on her lips but none of it is actually going down her neck unless we try to reposition her or she moves. Does this seem like it might be time to experiment with a number 2 nipple just to see?

Clara Johnson

Saturday 17th of November 2018

Hi Brandon, Has she been evaluated for tongue and lip ties? Ties can slow a baby’s ability to drink from a bottle. It could be a nipple size issue too or it could be that she's not experienced enough to drink faster yet. My friend's 4 month old will finish nursing in about 5 minutes now, but at 1 month he took way longer (20-30 minutes). You can see if the next size up makes a difference, but they're usually not very strong suckers yet by 1 month.


Thursday 17th of May 2018

My baby is 5 months and 3 months corrected age. She arches back, gets really fussy and cranky after 20 to 40 ml of milk intake, using level 1 nipple. We have to wait until she’s sleepy to give her the rest, sometimes takes up to one hour to finish 80 to 120ml. We tried to switch to level two dr brown, she choked a few times when she’s sleepy, not as fussy, but she also vomited both times when we try th level 2. What should I do? Thank you.

Ashley Tobyansen

Thursday 5th of December 2019

Hi there! Has baby always been fussy during bottle feedings as well as spit up? I ask this because our son used to take a long time to feed as well and he would get extremely cranky and fussy at the bottle to where he would scream at it. It took us 3 different bottles, a ton of formulas, and finally a diagnoses of reflux; which in turn, ended up not even being reflux but more so a milk protein allergy. Not sure if that’s the case for your baby but if your little one has always fussed, vomited, and seemed angry while feeding it may be something to look into which would have nothing to do with the size nipple. Hope you’re little one enjoys their feeds soon as do you! :)

Clara Johnson

Thursday 17th of May 2018

Hi Meisi There really is no right or wrong time to change your baby’s nipple level. Every baby is different; some babies will be perfectly content using level one throughout their bottle feeding days, while others are more aggressive eaters and need to advance to the next level. Your baby will let you know if and when the time comes to change levels. Below are some signs to look for from your baby, when you notice any of these signs, it usually means that the baby is not getting a fast enough flow and it is time to move up a level. Please remember, if these signs never occur then there is no need to change anything.

1. Baby is taking longer to finish eating 2. Baby becomes fussy or irritated while eating 3. Baby falls asleep during the feeding

It is generally recommended that baby be in an upright position to feed and that the bottle be at a 45 degree angle. I do not recommend shaking the bottles due to the fact that baby can re-ingest those tiny bubble which will lead to further spit-up, burping and gas.


Friday 9th of March 2018

My baby is 12 weeks old. We have been using the slow flow Playtex nipples with the Ventaire bottles. It takes him 45 minutes to drink 6 ounces. I tried using a medium flow nipple about a week ago and it was like he was drowning...I could hear him gulping air, then gagging, so I changed back to the slow flow after a couple ounces. Is it normal for him to take so long to eat? He falls asleep about halfway through the bottle, then wakes up after about 10 minutes and drinks the rest. If we feed anything less, he flips out!

Blog Admin

Sunday 11th of March 2018

One thing I did for my daughter to transition to faster flow was use a paper clip to make the hole in the bottle nipple just a tad bigger on the slow flow nipple. I only did it on one so I didn’t ruin all of them...but that helped us transition to faster flow!

Clara Johnson

Sunday 11th of March 2018

Hi Mary First, try feeding him when he isn't so sleepy.. babies aren't supposed to fall asleep eating. It may suck that it takes forever, but you’ll know a baby is ready do go to the next nipple size when they start to get frustrated or upset while feeding. If they’re not upset, I’d leave it be and just budget the time in.


Monday 22nd of January 2018

Have you been able to fix this for your baby? I am having the same issue with my little, she takes forever to finish 3ozs from a Dr Brown bottle. Would love to see if you found something that worked for you!

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