Paced bottle feeding helps you make an easier transition from breast to bottle. The trick? Placing your baby at the head of the whole operation.
And how do you do this? Basically, you make the bottle experience as similar as possible to the breastfeeding experience.
Some background: Bottle feeding can have a very different rhythm from breastfeeding. When a baby is nursing, they can generally control the flow of milk and stop and start drinking at their own pace. Sometimes with bottle feeding, the flow of milk is more of a steady stream, like putting your mouth under a tap.
This type of “steady-flow” bottle feeding can cause a few issues:
- Some breastfed babies just can’t cope with it and thus refuse the bottle.
- It can cause stomach issues because babies fill their tummies too fast and don’t realize they’re full until they’ve already had too much milk.
- Some babies like the steady flow of the bottle so much that they start to prefer it and refuse the breast!
Paced bottle feeding can help with these issues by mimicking the flow of nursing direct from the boob.
Is paced bottle feeding necessary?
Paced feeding babies is a really awesome strategy because it can be a best-of-both-worlds situation. Whether you’re going back to work, having a caregiver look after your baby for a bit, or just needing a break from breastfeeding, having the bottle as an option gives you flexibility. And paced feeding might be the best way to make the bottle an option for breastfed babies.
So how do you even do it? Let’s have a look.
Paced feeding 101
You’ll find your own groove, but here’s a general step-by-step:
- Go with the (slow) flow. If available to you, choose a bottle with a slow flow nipple. They are specifically designed for this purpose. Also, smaller bottles (four ounce) are useful.
- Places everyone. Position your baby to give them maximum control. Rather than laying them down, hold them upright. (Somewhere in the region of a 45-degree angle, if that helps.)
- Open wide. Not you. Them. And how do you get them to do this? Tickle their top lip with the nipple of the bottle.
- Latch on. Aim for the same sort of latch that you would for breastfeeding. Deeper rather than shallow.
- Suck practice. Before you even get to the milk part, hold the bottle horizontally so that they can get used to sucking on the nipple.
- Tipping time. Once they are acquainted with the nipple, tip the bottle back gently so that the nipple is about half-filled with milk.
- Suck it up. Think about four or five continuous sucking stints in a period of about 20 seconds. Then take a pause.
- Let them lead. If they’re keen to continue, tip the bottle again and repeat the process. Keep going until they’re not into it anymore.
How long should paced bottle feeding take?
All babies are different, but each paced bottle feeding session should last somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes. Sometimes longer. Think in the region of how long you usually breastfeed.
Does paced bottle feeding cause gas?
Your baby will likely swallow a bit of air in those pauses between sucking—so yes, they may get some gas. Burping them after feeds can go a long way to relieve gas. As can a tummy massage.
And, mama. Feeding your baby can be an isolating and sometimes distressing experience. It can often feel like it’s just you and this little mouth in the world—but it doesn’t have to be. Chatting with other mamas is kind of amazing. (Peanut can help you do that.)
Also, lactation specialists can be really helpful as you navigate this journey. Chat with your healthcare provider if you want to get in touch with one.
Good luck, mama!