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Paced Bottle Feeding

Paced bottle feeding is an approach to bottle feeding that differs from the traditional horizontal feeding of a baby and allows the baby to have more control over the speed of the feed and the amount of milk being consumed. This approach allows the baby to feed vs. be fed. This approach is appropriate for all babies and is especially helpful when babies are going back and forth between the bottle and the breast. Paced bottle feeding reduces the chances of overfeeding and focuses on following the baby’s cues.

How Paced Bottle Feeding Works

  • The caregiver holds the baby at an incline, almost upright, so the baby’s head is well above the rest of the body. This requires the adult to be in a comfortable position, giving the baby full support.

  • The bottle has a wide base nipple with a slow flow.

    • Hint- bottle nipples come in different flow rates; select the slowest flow nipple option. This is especially important for breastfed babies so it more closely mimics a breast milk flow.

  • The caregiver holds the bottle horizontally so the nipple fills with just enough fluid. For breastfed babies, it might help to mimic a let-down experience where the baby doesn’t receive milk immediately, by holding the bottle horizontal for a minute with just a little milk in the nipple so it doesn’t pour into the baby’s mouth and cause the baby to prefer the instant flow of the bottle over breastfeeding.

  • The caregiver places the tip of the bottle nipple on the top of the baby’s lip to encourage the baby to “latch on” like in breastfeeding. This also helps avoid forcefully feeding a baby who may not be ready to eat.

  • Paced bottle feeding should take about 15-30 minutes. The caregiver can switch sides mid-feed or every other feed, which can help with a smoother transition back to the breast for the breastfed baby and may also benefit normal eye development.

  • The caregiver carefully observes the baby for signs that they are finished eating or need a break.

  • The caregiver pauses the feed often to give the baby a chance to burp.

  • The caregiver tilts the bottle down to slow the flow of milk if the baby seems to be gulping, gasping or drinking too fast.

  • The caregiver does not try to coerce the baby to drink more than they willingly take. It’s ok if there is still milk left in the bottle, even if at other times the baby drinks the whole amount.

Traditional bottle feeding typically looks like the baby being held horizontally and the bottle being held at an incline. In paced bottle feeding, the baby is held at an incline and the bottle is held horizontally.

Paced bottle feeding isn’t the standard practice, so gently sharing this approach with your baby’s caregivers will help ensure consistency among feeds.

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