breastfeeding, supplementing

Paced Bottle Feeding

What is Paced Bottle Feeding?
Paced Bottle Feeding is a method of bottle feeding that allows the infant to be more in control of the pace of the feeding. This method slows down the flow of milk, allowing the baby to eat more slowly and take breaks. Paced feeding reduces the risk of overfeeding that may result in discomfort to the baby. This feeding method is recommended for any baby that receives bottles.

Many parents are worried about baby swallowing air or getting gassy with bottle feeding. The old-school way of bottle feeding often increases gas and air swallowing because the flow is simply too fast! Baby doesn’t have time to follow their suck-swallow-breath pattern and ends up accidentally swallowing air.

Just like you and I take breaks when we are drinking, baby needs them, too. Using a slower paced feeding method also teaches parents to recognize baby’s communication cues. Overall, the feeding is a lot more pleasant for everyone!

Caretakers and grandparents may need a refresher on how to give bottles in a way that respects baby’s needs. There are lots of videos on YouTube, Vimeo, etc which show how to do paced feeding. They all vary a little but this is how I teach it:

Paced Bottle Feeding Steps:
1. Choose a small, 4 oz. bottle and a slow flow nipple. Pick something baby can latch onto deeply, with fully flanged out lips.
2. Hold baby in your lap in a semi-upright position, supporting the head and neck.
3. When baby shows hunger cues, touch the nipple to baby’s lip so he opens his mouth wide.
4. Insert nipple into baby’s mouth, making sure the baby has a deep latch with the lips turned outward.
5. Hold the bottle flat (horizontal to the floor).
6. Let the baby begin sucking on the nipple with the bottle angled just enough to fill the nipple about halfway with milk.
7. Watch baby during the feeding: cues that baby may need a break can include leaking milk, hands held with the fingers wide apart, a creased brow, wide open eyes that look startled, gulping, or clicking noises
8. Every 2 minutes or if you notice any stress cues, tip the bottle down and remove it from baby’s mouth keeping the nipple just touching baby’s lips.
9. After a few seconds baby will try to latch back onto the nipple.
10. Continue this Paced Feeding until baby shows fullness signs – no longer sucking after the break, turning away or pushing away from the nipple.

After several days of Paced Feeding, babies often start to learn to pace on their own. You will notice them taking their own breaks, and then returning to feeding. Positioning the baby upright and holding the bottle in a flat position helps babies be in control of their own feeding.

Megan Dunn, IBCLC