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Everyone imagines that their baby will be born healthy and without complication, but that’s not always the case. It is important that you are prepared for the unexpected, including early delivery. Since these little babies require a bit of special care, you need a list of the best teats for premature babies.
Let’s Talk about Premature Babies
What is Considered Premature?
Babies are considered premature when they are born before 37 weeks of gestation (full term is 40 weeks). These babies are tiny and often require a lot of medical attention due to their underdeveloped systems and organs.
There are certain factors that can increase your risk for preterm labor and delivery, including preeclampsia, vaginal bleeding in early pregnancy, or if you are carrying multiples (i.e. twins).
Thankfully, with modern technology, doctors can interfere to a degree and possibly stop preterm contractions for a short time to help strengthen your baby before delivery.
Hospitals are also equipped with state of the art NICU’s (neonatal intensive care units) that will monitor and feed your baby as well as help them grow until they are ready to go home.
Why do I Need Special Teats for a Premature Baby?
Due to their size and underdeveloped reflexes, premature babies often struggle with breastfeeding or drinking from regular bottles. The teats are too large to maintain a good latch and the flow is often too fast.
Bottle nipples made specifically for preemies are smaller and have a slower flow, allowing them to feed from a bottle and receive the same nutrients they would get from breastfeeding (if you are breast pumping).
Further read: 5 Best Bottles to Reduce Gas
Can I Breastfeed My Premature Baby?
It is not entirely impossible to breastfeed a premature baby, but it does come with several challenges.
Most premature babies will need to start on a feeding tube before they are able to take a breast or bottle.
Until a baby is 32 weeks old (gestation age), they cannot coordinate sucking, swallowing, and breathing, and babies born before 37 weeks (i.e. premature) aren’t strong enough to take in food by the mouth.
Oftentimes, mothers are discharged from the hospital before their preemie babies. This also creates a challenge as the mother is not always present to feed the baby, whether it’s from the breast of the bottle.
This is why most mothers who wish to breastfeed their premature babies will start by pumping.
As soon as the baby is born, these mothers will begin breastfeeding. This establishes a supply even though the baby isn’t nursing directly from the breast and it gives the mother hospital support to pump properly and often.
Once the baby reaches the age that they can coordinate their sucking, swallowing, and breathing, they can start on a bottle to get used to the motion of feeding and the taste of breastmilk.
This will help tremendously when it is time to take the baby home and switch feedings over completely to the breast.
Further reading: How to make breastmilk fattier? 8 easy method to do it.
How to Choose the Best Teat for Your Premature Baby
Obviously, premature babies have very small mouths, so standard bottle teats are often too wide or long.
The right preemie bottle nipple should be small enough to fit while maintaining a good latch.
Premature babies are also not very strong. Some bottle teats are designed very well in order to simulate breastfeeding. However, these are often too rigid for little preemie mouths. Look for something that is soft and flexible.
Even though preemie bottle teats are smaller and softer than the standard ones, you still want it to be as breast-like as possible. You do not want to create a bad latch or bad feeding habits that will transfer over when you start breastfeeding.
Another problem with standard bottle teats is the milk flow.
Even slow flow nipples tend to be too fast for little preemies to keep up with. Special preemie teats often come in an extra slow flow, which is easier for them to drink from.
Due to their underdeveloped digestive system, premature babies may be more prone to gas buildup.
A bottle nipple with the right ventilation can keep your baby from swallowing too much air and prevent excess gas and spit-up, and reduce colic.
As with any purchase, you need to consider the cost of your investment.
Preemie bottle nipples won’t be used for long, but you will still need quite a few due to the frequency of feeding.
Calculate how much you will be spending per teat before making a decision.
Best Teats for Premature Babies
Dr. Brown’s Original
[amazon box=”B015XBYDE4″ /]
The favorite bottle of pediatricians and parents alike – Dr. Brown’s Original – also sells their nipple separately, and they even have preemie and ultra preemie sizes.When paired with Dr. Brown’s bottle, the internal vent system prevents colic, spit-up, burping, and gas.
It is recommended that you only use these teats with Dr. Brown’s bottle since they don’t work well without the ventilation system and are known to leak. The teats are made with 100% silicone that is soft and flexible, and the flow of the preemie and ultra preemie sizes is just right for a premature baby (ultra preemie is 35% slower). These nipples are also affordable at roughly $1.00 per preemie nipple and $1.80 per ultra preemie.
- Come in preemie and ultra preemie size
- checkUltra preemie is 35% slower flow
- Cost efficient
- Only works well with Dr. Brown’s bottles
- Known to leak
Playtex Baby Petite
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Playtex is a well-known distributor of baby bottles and nipples.
Their teats, such as the Playtex Baby Petite (specially designed for preemies) are especially effective against colic and spit-up when paired with Playtex drop-in liners.
The wide base and nipple shape make these nipples easy to clean and there is no collapse when feeding.
However, even though they are advertised as slow flow nipples, they are known to leak due to variable flow rates.
- Petite size for preemies
- checkEasy to clean
- Reduce colic and spit-up
- Flow rate varies
- Known to leak
Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature
[amazon box=”B07856V1CS” /]
Tommee Tippee’s Closer to Nature nipples are revolutionary in their design.
They are by far one of the most breast-like bottle teats on the market, and thanks to their extra slow flow option, they are suitable for premature babies as well.The Easi-Vent valve on the nipple base helps to eliminate extra airflow and reduce gas buildup and discomfort.
The wide base and breast-shaped nipple create a great latch and promote proper breastfeeding when the times comes to transition.Made with super soft silicone, these teats are so soft and flexible, perfect for little mouths.
However, this also means that the nipples can be easily damaged by sharp objects and teeth and they collapse easily while feeding.
- Extra slow flow for preemies
- checkMost breast-like nipple
- Soft and flexible
- Easily damaged by sharp objects
- Collapse while feeding
Joovy Boob Naturally Nood
[amazon box=”B010U51GD4″ /]
A slightly less well known (but not lacking in quality) nipple and bottle combo is the Joovy Boob Naturally Nood.
They are a little more expensive, running about $3.50 per teat, but they do have a special size 0, extra slow flow for preemies.The softness of the silicone feels like a mother’s skin and the nipple stretches to position for a proper latch and simulate real breastfeeding.
There are also inner bumps and outer wrinkles that mimic a mother’s breast.Unfortunately, some have said that the length and amount of stretch of these nipples make them difficult to use with little mouths, even though they are specially designed for premature babies.In addition, if you are using formula rather than breast milk, these bottle teats have been known to clog and cause frustration for both baby and parent.
- Comes in size 0
- checkExtra slow flow for preemies
- Soft and stretchy
- checkFeels like the real thing
- A bit more expensive
- Clogs with formula
- May be too long for little mouths
Philips AVENT Natural
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Another great bottle company is Philips, known for their AVENT bottles.
The AVENT Natural nipples are available in First Flow size, which is ideal for preemies and newborns.However, some say that the flow is still too fast for some babies, particularly preemies.The wide base with comfort petals and the breast-like spiral tip, which makes the nipple softer and more flexible for an easier latch, help to simulate breastfeeding and make the transition to breast easier.
There is also anti-colic vent technology built into the nipple to reduce gas buildup and spit-up.These nipples are easy to clean due to their wide base and the fact that they are dishwasher-safe.The biggest downside to these teats is their lack of versatility.
They can only be used with Philips AVENT Natural bottles (not even regular AVENT bottles) due to their unique design and wide shape.
- Come in First Flow size for preemies
- checkSoft and flexible silicone
- Built-in anti-colic vent
- Still flows too fast for some babies
- Can only be used with Philips AVENT Natural bottles
In my opinion, I would have to say that Dr. Brown’s Originals are the best teats for a premature baby.
They are cost-efficient even if you include the bottles, which is the best way to use them to prevent gas buildup and leaks.
They also come in two preemie sizes which have a significantly slower flow and smaller size to fit little mouths.
What do you think? Do you have another recommendation for bottle teats? Let us know!