Bottle feeding. While we are here to promote and encourage skin-to-skin breast/chestfeeding we also know it’s a practicality that most babies will have a meal through a bottle.
Bottle feeding is a whole different ballgame than breastfeeding and requires some different skills. Breasts and bottles behave very differently!
Let’s look at some tips and tricks to help your baby bottle feed with comfort and with ease.
Slow down the pace.
You may have heard of paced bottle feeding. This is a feeding technique which slows down the flow of milk and is response based. We pay attention to how our baby is acting throughout the feed. Are they furrowing their brow? Do they look super focused while they gulp gulp gulp?
These are stress signs during a feed and baby is telling you with their body language that they need a break.
The bottle can be tipped down and rested on the lips while baby catches their breath and gets ready to start the suck-swallow-breathe pattern again.
Look at the baby in the picture. What do you notice?
She is sitting is upright. This helps baby to regulate their feeding and it slows down milk flow compared to an angled bottle.
Her lips are out and have a good seal on the nipple. She’s almost touching the ring with her lips.
Her cheeks look relaxed and in general she looks pretty chill. This is exactly what we are going for.
So why else might we want to use paced bottle feeding?
It can prevent reflux and spitting up.
Babies who are gulping in milk quickly have a tendency to swallow air, too. Their tummies become overfull and they will often spit up or act uncomfortable and squirmy. The sphincter, which is a little “rubber band”, at the top of the stomach is immature in infants until they are about 6 months so it’s really easy for milk to come back up.
Reducing the air in the stomach can help prevent reflux and overfeeding which are the main reasons little babies have spit up.
It prevents overfeeding.
Okay, so overfeeding can cause spit up or even make reflux worse and it causes parents to worry about milk supply. Most people make all the milk their baby will need but if baby is chugging down a big bottle without any breaks, they can easily overfed. This makes it hard to keep up on the pumping! Babies rarely need more than 4 oz for a feed (maybe 5oz occasionally). Feeding more than that actually stretches their stomach beyond normal capacity.
A slower feed also helps babies suck for longer which is super comforting. Sucking regulates stress hormones, breathing, heart rate, and helps baby transition to deep sleep. Slow down that bottle and you will have a calmer baby!
It can prevent gas!
Just like swallowing air can cause spit up, the same is true for the downstairs. Gassiness is just a part of life for humans but it shouldn’t be painful or cause colic-like behavior.
Paced bottle feeding can help prevent these discomforts.
Ready to give it a try? Here is the lowdown on how to do paced bottle feeding.
Megan Dunn, IBCLC