Can you imagine getting a drink of water from a fire hydrant? Me neither! This is such a good word picture of how baby’s might feel when they are trying to drink milk from a super fast flowing breast or bottle.
There are several ways to recognize if the milk at your breast is flowing too quickly for your baby to keep up. You might see milk spraying when your baby unlatches. Maybe you hear your baby sputter and choke at the beginning of a feeding. If your baby seems overwhelmed with the flow of your milk at the breast, check out this blog.
It can be harder to tell if a bottle flows too quickly. Bottle flow gets blamed for a whole host of bottle feeding problems. Flow is only ONE aspect to consider. You can recognize that a bottle flows too quickly if your baby has a nice latch on the nipple but quickly becomes overwhelmed after two or three swallows. Your baby may lean back, away from the bottle. Some babies purposefully let some milk drip out of their mouths to make the flow more tolerable. Most babies will frown when the flow is too fast.
Sadly, there is no industry standard for flow rate. A bottle nipple might be labeled slow, but flow 7 times faster than a different brand of nipple. Crazy, isn’t it?
We have studied bottle flow rates, testing most bottles you can find online or on a chain store shelf. We have included these results in Appendix B of our book Balancing Breast and Bottle.
So which flow is the best? That’s a trick question. It depends on how fast your breasts flow. Ideally, you will be able to hone in on a bottle that flows at a similar rate, as evidenced by your baby’s response to feeding. Your baby should have a similar suck/swallow pattern on the breast and bottle, and look comfortable feeding. Depending on your baby’s response, you will know to move up or down in flow rate. Appendix B lists flow rates from slowest to fastest, helping you know which direction to move if you need to change flows.