A: This is usually a case of trial and error. Bottle-feeding takes practice and many babies need time to get used to latching on and controlling the flow of milk through the nipple. Don't worry about your baby going hungry while you experiment -- a ravenous baby will likely drink from any nipple that's offered (it just may not be the most comfortable feeding of his life).
Bottle nipples are first categorized by your baby's age (generally preemie, newborn, 3-6 months, 6+ months, depending on the brand). Nipples meant for older babies allow a faster flow because they eat more at every feeding. If you see a lot of milk or formula spilling out the sides of your baby's mouth during feedings or he's gagging and spitting up, he might need a smaller, slower, firmer preemie nipple at first. As your baby gets older and better at controlling the flow of milk, you can change to larger, heavier-flow nipples to make feeding easier and faster.
Other things to consider are nipple shape and texture -- some are angled, some are flatter, and all have different venting systems (which is fancy-speak for how many holes the nipple has to let air pass through). You may have to try different nipples until your baby has a developed a good latch. A good latch will keep as little air as possible from getting into his stomach, which could make him extra gassy.
Remember that there's more to feeding that just the type of bottle and nipple you use. The setting and mood make a difference as well -- so if your baby suddenly becomes a difficult feeder (many infants go through these phases) don't automatically blame your equipment. For example, as a baby's eyesight develops and he can see things farther away, he may get distracted and lose focus during feedings -- and moving your rocking chair away from the window or to a more serene location may help him concentrate better on the task at hand.
Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.