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Buyer's guide to feeding teats

Although most people simply opt for a teat that matches the brand of bottle they use, there are different shapes and textures of teat, which can help avoid ‘nipple confusion’ and make feeds more comfortable for babies of all ages and stages.

Whether you are only feeding formula, switching from breastfeeding to formula feeds, or you are using bottles to give expressed breastmilk, it is good to use teats which get as close as possible to the nipple experience: soft and easy to feed from, and designed to offer the correct flow of milk for the stage your baby is at.

• Silicone or latex

Most babies have no problem with the more common silicone teat style, but if you find your baby does not take to this, you may find a softer latex option is closer to the feel of a nipple (though latex teats can be more expensive and might need to be replaced more often).

• Shape

Tommee Tippee’s ‘Closer to Nature easi-vent’ teat is designed to react to your baby’s sucking in such a way that switching between breast and bottle is easy. NUK’s teat is also shaped to give a more natural feel that may suit new babies who are finding it hard to feed or older babies who until now have only been used to breastfeeding.

• Flow

Teats are labelled by age as younger babies will need a slower flow of milk than an older baby. Slow flow teats allow milk to come through just one hole, but gradually the teats are graded with more and more holes. Do not use a fast flow teat for a small baby as this could cause choking, but also do not use a slow flow teat for an older baby as this will demand excessive sucking and your baby might not feed enough before becoming too tired. Use your instinct to gauge when your baby is ready to move on to a faster-flow teat.

• Cleaning

When cleaning teats you need to use a small brush to get right into the top. However, cleaning like this, and teething babies biting as they feed, can both cause damage. Make sure you regularly check that any teats with broken tops are thrown away to ensure that the flow is always correct. (Read more on bottle hygiene.)

• Design extras

Avent’s soft, silicone teat has a cut slot which can provide an extra fast flow and accommodates thicker liquids. The flow can vary by turning the bottle to align the I, II or III markings on the teat. Also, while some models have vents inside the bottle such as Born Free  to prevent a vacuum build-up, an Avent teat is designed to flex and thus allow air to get into the bottle, helping reduce the chance of the gas building up inside your baby’s tummy. NUK teats feature an air vent which is also designed to reduce the likelihood of your baby swallowing air.

• Y-cut teats

Born Free's Y-cut teats cater for faster-flow needs and for ‘thicker formula’ feeds. However, always follow the instructions on your formula milk packaging to mix feeds correctly, and do not use a bottle to give any liquids or thin foods other than breast or formula milk.

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