Inside: Find out all the signs you need to know when it’s time to change bottle nipple size! Read how to switch, increase or change your baby’s bottle nipple tear-free.
I gazed down at my daughter’s sweet little apple-red cheeks as she was struggling to drink her bottle.
After every 5 seconds, she would sway her head and push the nipple from her mouth…
Why wasn’t she drinking??
Then a thought hit me like a ton of bricks—maybe she was frustrated with the nipple!
Thankfully I had the next size bottle nipple stored away in my kitchen cabinet. I popped it on the bottle and voila…she drank the whole bottle fuss-free.
There are many signals your baby can begin to show you when it’s time to size up on their bottle nipple. I’ll show you all of the different tips, tricks, and signs you should know when it’s time to change your bottle nipple size.
If your baby is starting to struggle when drinking the bottle and she was normally doing great, here’s everything you need to know!
When to change bottle nipple size
Is your little one suddenly refusing the bottle or becoming fussy during a feeding?
I’ve noticed over the years that sometimes what “seems” like bottle refusal can really just be your baby telling you that the nipple flow is too slow.
If your baby is suddenly refusing the bottle or showing one of these signs then it’s time to increase the nipple size:
- Taking longer to finish a bottle
- Becomes irritated or fussy while eating (when baby was normally acting like himself/herself)
- Falls asleep toward the beginning of a feeding without eating much
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How do nipple sizes affect bottle refusal?
Bottle refusal is a very real thing. And many factors can be the cause of bottle refusal. Some reasons include:
- Taste of milk
- Need to change formula (digestive issues, etc.)
- Baby wanting to return back to nursing
- Time to change nipple size
(Always talk to your pediatrician if you are experiencing sudden bottle refusal.)
If you can rule out all of the other bottle refusal signs, then it’s most likely time to change the nipple size. Some babies will refuse the bottle when the flow is too slow. And some babies will refuse the bottle when the flow is too fast and they need a smaller nipple size.
Here are some signs when to know the flow is too fast and it’s time to decrease the nipple size…
5 signs when it’s time to decrease nipple size
If baby is consistently:
- Coughing/choking with milk
- Guzzling too hard
- Milk is pooling out of mouth during swallows
- Hard gulping with head movements
…then try to go back to using a slower nipple flow (smaller nipple size) to see if you see any feeding improvements.
If at any point you see your baby struggling to eat because the flow is too fast, don’t be afraid to change the nipple size back to a smaller one immediately. Even if that means mid-feeding.
(As always, talk to your pediatrician about your feeding concerns!)
Is your little one gassy? Find out the best bottle feeding tip and learn how to easily prevent and reduce gas here!
What is the difference between nipple flows?
In a nutshell, a smaller size nipple is a slower flow and a larger size nipple is a faster flow.
Nipple flows are based on baby’s age for most baby bottles.
Here is a sample breakdown for Dr.Brown’s bottle nipple sizes:
- Level 1- 0+ months
- Level 2- 3+ months
- Level 3- 6+ months
- Level 4- 9+ months
How to Change Bottle Nipple Size
Now that you *what to do*, it’s time to jump into *how*!
1. The first step to changing the bottle nipple size is to have the different nipple sizes on hand.
I always like to be prepared and have an extra nipple in the next size up on hand. This prevents the hassle of needing to scurry to the store in a pinch when my baby is struggling to eat.
2. The second step is choosing the easiest feeding of the day to make the transition.
For my oldest, the easiest bottle of the day was the morning feeding right after she woke up. For my youngest, her best feeding was right before bed.
3. If you are increasing your nipple size, you can begin feeding with the smaller nipple to see if the feeding struggles continue.
After 1-2 minutes, switch to the larger nipple size.
4. Place the bottle horizontal to the floor, with milk inside of the nipple tip but not completely filling the nipple.
This should help you regulate the flow of the milk and help your little one adjust to the faster flow without having too much milk pool in their mouth.
You should see an improvement in his/her feeding.
5. If you are decreasing your nipple size, you can switch to the smaller nipple first and see if the feeding improves.
You’ll want to make sure your baby is no longer coughing/pooling milk in their mouth for the whole feeding.
Bottle Nipple Differences
Not all bottle nipples are created equal. Some nipples are narrow and long, some are wide and short and some nipples are created to replicate breastfeeding.
If you find that changing the bottle nipple size is not helping the feeding issues then perhaps it’s time to try a different bottle and bottle nipple.
My daughter adamantly refused Tommee Tippee bottle nipples. And I have no idea why!
After troubleshooting nipples sizes, I found it was time to switch bottles altogether- and it worked!
Changing bottle styles might be the trick if you find yourself stuck in a bottle pickle. If you are sensing that there is another cause of your baby’s feeding issues, do not hesitate to contact your baby’s pediatrician.
Do I have to change bottle nipple sizes based on the chart?
No 2 babies are the same!
There is no “perfect age” to switch your baby’s nipple size so it’s always best to follow your baby’s feeding cues. Look for the signs that he/she would show when it’s time for a faster nipple flow and meet your baby’s needs accordingly.
My daughter didn’t move to a level 3 nipple until she was almost 8 months old. If I were to follow the chart I would have automatically sized up her nipple when she turned 6 months. But if I would have done that then the faster nipple would have disrupted her feedings and maybe even her whole day!
Always follow YOUR baby’s cues. Watch for their signs- you know your little one best!
On the other hand, if your baby is younger than the recommended age for a certain nipple level but your baby is showing signs that he/she needs a faster flow, feel free to try it! After a feeding or 2 then you will know if the nipple is just right or too fast.
Some babies are slow eaters and some babies are aggressive eaters. How your baby normally eats will directly affect their nipple size. Remember, you know your baby best!
Download a FREE Baby Feeding Tracker!
The best way to know when your baby is acting differently during a feeding is to consistently track their feedings! By tracking your baby’s feedings, you can easily see a pattern and notice their feeding cues.
Knowing your baby’s feeding cues can help you anticipate their needs and solve any feedings that may arise in the future.
Download a Baby Feeding Tracker inside my FREE Baby Schedule Collection.
Receive 3 instant downloads including a weekly feeding tracker, daily baby schedule, and overall baby tracker!
Use the form below to have the trackers sent straight to your email!
Recap: When to change bottle nipple size
Bottle feeding can seem overwhelming at times but remember, hope is not lost!
By following your baby’s cues, you can meet them where they are developmentally and anticipate their needs.
Here are some signs when it’s time to change bottle nipple size to a faster flow:
- Takes longer to finish a bottle
- Becoming irritated or fussy while eating (when baby was normally acting like himself/herself)
- Falling asleep toward the beginning of a feeding without eating much
Here are the signs when it’s time to change bottle nipple size to a slower flow:
- Choking with milk
- Milk is pooling out of mouth during swallows
- Hard gulping with head movements
Remember to follow your baby’s feeding cues (don’t forget to download the Free Baby Feeding Tracker inside my Baby Schedule Collection!)
You know your little one best!