As a new parent, you have so many things to learn, and it can be very overwhelming.
Before your baby is born there’s so much focus on the birth. The thought of feeding your baby sometimes doesn’t even register until there’s a little being trying to latch to your innocent nipple.
We all know the benefits of breastfeeding. Your milk is designed especially for your baby, and it’s also great for your health too.
Sometimes, though, breastfeeding is hard. There are often challenges that come up, which means you might need to introduce bottle feeding at some stage.
You might choose to express your milk exclusively, or offer your baby formula in a bottle. Or you might even decide to do both and mix feed.
That doesn’t mean your breastfeeding journey is over. With the right support, most mothers can overcome the challenges breastfeeding might present.
This article is aimed at discussing what the feeding style paced bottle feeding means, and why it can be important to you and your baby’s breastfeeding or bottle-feeding experience.
What is paced bottle feeding?
Bottles and teats come in all different shapes and sizes, from preemie, to slow flow and fast flow. As a mother, you might be confused about which one is best if you need to give your baby milk from a bottle.
Paced bottle feeding is a feeding style used to offer your baby a bottle that slows down the flow and works on the baby’s cues so she can manage her intake better.
The paced bottle feeding method can work with any type of bottle you decide to use, as you can help your baby control the flow with the way you offer it to her.
It can also help reduce nipple confusion and bottle preference if you plan to return to feeding at the breast.
An article written by IBCLC author Dee Kassing was published in The Journal Of Human Lactation describes paced bottle feeding as an effective tool to avoid suck confusion in babies. It also uses a baby’s oral anatomy in ways similar to the breastfeeding process.
How do you pace feed a baby?
Parents can easily learn tips about pace feeding their baby, especially as the Internet is so much more accessible to many people.
The technique is basically to hold your baby in an upright position on your lap, supporting the back of the neck and keeping the torso a little straighter.
Offer your baby the bottle when she shows her hunger cues; this will help her learn how to communicate with you.
Stroke the teat of the bottle over your baby’s lips and mouth in a downwards motion. This encourages your baby’s mouth to open wide to ensure she latches deeply onto the bottle, just as she would need to do when at the breast.
Then hold the bottle to your baby’s mouth in a position that allows the milk to lie almost horizontally in the bottle, so the milk can’t drain out too quickly.
Give your baby a break from the flow by holding the bottle in her mouth but stopping the flow; this allows her to pause, as she naturally would at the breast.
Paced feeding helps babies catch their breath and allows the milk to settle in the tummy a little before continuing the feed.
Paced bottle feeding video
Some people are more visual learners and would prefer to watch ‘how to’ videos.
There are some great tips and videos available on the web to help you learn about paced bottle feeding and how to do it.
Here is a good example showing paced bottle feeding with a real baby.
Why paced feeding is important?
When babies feed at the breast, they have the ability to control the flow of milk and manage the amount they want to take in.
Paced bottle feeding allows babies to work the milk out a little more slowly, so they aren’t too overwhelmed by the fast flow of milk. It also means they don’t drink the whole bottle in a matter of minutes.
Taking your time with the feed also allows your little one’s brain to recognize satiety signals that tell her when she’s full. This allows your baby to regulate her appetite.
If bottle feeding your baby will be temporary and you want to return to feeding from the breast, paced bottle feeding can mimic this and reduce the chance of your baby having a bottle preference.
How long should paced bottle feeding take?
Paced bottle feeding should take around 20 minutes. This isn’t set in stone, though, and your baby might take a little longer.
This amount of time is enough to allow you and your baby to bond and make eye contact, in the way you would if you were breastfeeding.
It also gives baby’s other caregivers the chance to enjoy the moment rather than have feeding done and dusted in 5 minutes flat.
Feeding a baby shouldn’t be a rushed task. Babies need to have time to learn their new digestive system and how to stop eating when they’re full.
Does paced bottle feeding cause gas?
Both breastfeeding and paced bottle feeding can cause wind, depending how well your baby is latched.
When using paced bottle feeding, it can help if you place your baby in a more upright position and try to avoid a fast flow of milk.
Stopping for burping breaks is important, too, so your baby has a chance to bring up any wind that has developed from paced bottle feeding.
Check out How To Burp A Baby | Newborns And Sleeping Babies for some useful tips.
Which is more important – breastfeeding or bottle feeding?
There are so many discussions and debates on parenting platforms these days about whether ‘breast is best’ or ‘fed is best’. In fact, both comments can really rub people up the wrong way.
Breastfeeding is the normal, biological way to feed our babies.
Sometimes, though, it is unachievable for many types of reasons.
Babies need to be fed, one way or another.
Breastfeeding can be hard. Bottle feeding can be hard. Parenting can be hard.
I’m passionate about helping families reach their breastfeeding goals.
Statistics, such as those you’ll find in this article, show more mothers would continue to breastfeed if they had more education and support.
If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, there are many support services available to help you overcome the challenges you are facing, such as Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC).
Is bottle feeding easier than breastfeeding?
Bottle feeding might seem to be an easier option for some families, and it might be all they’ve known through generations in their family.
However, a baby is biologically meant to suckle at the nipple.
Bottles and dummies are designed to mimic the nipple for times when breastfeeding isn’t an option.
When it seems easier to bottle feed your baby, perhaps you might consider a few other things you might not have thought about.
Bottle feeding is harder for a baby to manage. The flow of milk is faster and babies often finish a bottle in far less time than they would take to breastfeed.
This sounds great, but breastfeeding and suckling on a nipple have great benefits for a baby’s growth and development, as well as providing food, drink, and comfort whenever they are needed.
Bottles have air in them. This increases air intake when your baby is drinking. It can create discomfort from gas and potentially cause reflux.
How can I improve my bottle feeding?
Paced bottle feeding is a great way to improve your bottle feeding technique. Make sure your baby’s lips are well applied to the teat to reduce air entry.
Another term I really love is Responsive Bottle Feeding. This method allows you to get to know your baby and focus on the connection of bottle feeding.
Your baby will benefit not only from your connection but, as you get better with the bottle, she’s more likely to avoid gas intake and less likely to suffer wind.
The more you can practice paced bottle feeding, the more your bottle-feeding will improve, and your baby will thank you.
Another way to improve bottle feeding is to make sure you regularly switch the side you are feeding on; some parents tend to have a preference for one side, which can affect a baby.
Never let your baby drink lying down, as it can cause choking.
Read our article Bottle Nursing | 6 Steps to Better Bottle Feeding for more ideas.
How do I know when my bottle fed baby is full?
Your midwife, health nurse, or lactation consultant will often suggest a rough quota for babies who are bottle-fed.
These quotas are based on your baby’s weight and age and can help you avoid giving too much milk when bottle feeding.
These amounts are suggested guidelines; sometimes your baby might require less or sometimes might seem to want more.
Usually, when infants have had enough, their drinking slows or they pull away from the bottle, indicating they’re full.
Sometimes this can be confusing, as babies like to suck for comfort, even when they’ve had their full quota of milk, or even a little more.
Let your baby take the lead. Babies are pretty clever, and they’ll generally become very good at letting you know the volume of milk they want.
Our article 3 Reliable Signs Baby Is Getting Enough Milk will guide you if you’re a little unsure.
What happens if you overfeed a baby?
Overfeeding your baby can cause her to become overfull and bloated, and she’ll more likely show signs of distress and discomfort.
Your baby might also bring up excess milk with wind, which is not a good thing for anyone.
Reflux can be normal for many babies (also known as ‘happy chuckers’) and not a cause for concern. For other families, reflux can be quite stressful.
Research shows an overfeeding pattern when feeding with formula can increase your baby’s overeating patterns later in life. This increases the risk of obesity and other health problems.
For more discussion about the problems of overeating, you might like to read our article Does Overeating Begin With ‘Super Sizing’ Baby Bottles?
Best bottles for paced bottle feeding?
There are so many marketing ads, and so many different bottles to chose from these days, it’s no wonder parents are confused.
As an IBCLC, I recommend Pigeon. These bottles sit well in the baby’s mouth and encourage the tongue to rest in a more natural position, which mimics breastfeeding and allows for a deeper latch and wider gape.
A baby that’s well latched to a teat or nipple will most likely suffer less air entry and wind pain.
Dr. Brown’s feeding products are also highly regarded by families who choose to use bottles.
There are many others that claim to mimic breastfeeding and nipples, so be sure to research those that have good reviews from families who have actually had experience using them.
Always take great care when choosing a bottle for your baby, as this article shows 1 in 5 Baby Bottles Fail Measuring Standards Due To Inaccurate Markings: Study.
What other way can I feed my baby other than by bottle?
If you’re breastfeeding and don’t want to bottle feed your baby but you need to give supplementary milk, there are other ways to feed your baby.
Some lactation consultants might suggest cup feedings, syringe feedings or using a supplementary nursing system (SNS).
Read here about 6 Different Ways To Feed Your Baby Expressed Breastmilk (Or Formula).
Some babies even refuse to drink milk out of a bottle. Giving extra milk becomes a challenge if breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding.
There are ways you can entice your baby to take a bottle, if necessary.
Why Some Breastfed Babies Refuse The Bottle And What To Do About It can show you how to bottle feed if that’s what you need to do.
Can I offer my milk to baby instead of formula?
If you need to take breaks from breastfeeding and bottle feed, you can offer your baby your own expressed breastmilk as this one of the most nutritional options for a baby.
Express your milk as often as your baby would demand a feed. This will keep your supply up while there’s an interruption to the natural feeding pattern.
This Technique Can Double The Amount Of Milk You Express is a great read for mamas needing to use pace feeding method.