What’s the Deal with Nipples?

We get it. Nipples can be a confusing thing. There are wide ones and bent ones. Extra thin ones and ones that flow faster than others. No two nipples are made the same despite serving the same function!

Just as babies can experience nipple confusion, so can new parents! That’s why in this guide, we’ve broken down the basics of bottle feeding to talk about what nipples should be used during which stages and why there are so many kinds.

Show Me What They’re Made Of

Luckily, this is the easiest breakdown of them all. Nipples are made out of two materials: Latex and Silicone. We’re sure you’ve had a personal experience with both, so we don’t feel the need to explore this too intensely. Below we’ve highlighted some features and benefits of both.

  • Porous meaning smell and taste are absorbed easily
  • Need to be replaced more frequently
  • Softer and more flexible making them prone to breaking
  • Babies can develop allergies to latex, rendering them useless


  • Less porous
  • Does not need to be replaced as often
  • Firmer than latex, hold their shape well, meaning they are less prone to nipple collapse during feeding
  • Hypo-allergenic

Take Shape

Similarly to a mother’s breasts, there are several different shapes and sizes you will encounter when exploring bottle nipple options. As mentioned in our review guide of The Best Baby Bottles, no single nipple shape works for every baby. That’s why it’s important to read your baby’s feeding cues and remain flexible when finding the right bottle feeding system.

Standard, or traditional, nipples have either a dome or bell shape, similar to that of a pacifier.

Said to mimic the natural shape of a mother’s breast, these nipples have a wide base and a raised platform.

These nipples are designed with an air vent to help reduce air consumption during bottle feeding.

These nipples are designed with a bulb, which rests against the roof of the mouth, and a flat angled side, to rest against the tongue.

Go with the Flow

Now that we’ve talked about the two types of materials used to make bottle nipples as well as the different shapes available, let’s break down the six types of flows you may encounter when registering for (or purchasing) bottle feeding accessories.


These are the nipples which come standard on most 4oz bottle feeding systems. They are recommended for babies 0-3 months old.


If your baby is struggling with the slow flow nipple included with your bottle, it may be necessary to use a newborn or premie nipple. Some bottle systems, such as Dr. Brown’s, sometimes offer an Ultra Preemie bottle nipple.


This nipple is recommended for babies 3-6 months old or for babies who are frustrated when taking a slow flow nipple. They are normally included with the 8oz bottles.


Variable Flow (sometimes mistaken for or advertised as a Y Cut) is a medium to fast flow nipple able to accommodate thicker liquids. They typically have a Slit rather than a Y Cut. Philips Avent defines this as an adjusting slot which means your baby determines the flow of the liquids.


Generally recommended for babies 6 months an older. The faster flow is designed to accommodate some thicker liquids.


These nipples are a fast flow nipple and are designed to accommodate thicker liquids. This could include a thicker milk or formula. We also recommend using these nipples with the introduction of cereals to baby’s diet.

Rounding it Out

We know the transition (or straight leap) into bottle feeding can be an overwhelming one, but we hope with a little knowledge of bottle feeding basics you’ll be able to navigate the realm more confidently. Of course, we are always here to answer your questions about certain products, but please know it is always best to consult your pediatrician for your unique feeding situation.

If there’s anything you feel we missed, please feel free to contact us! We love hearing about your experiences and always value the extra input.

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