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Paced Bottle Feeding

What is paced bottle feeding and why should you care? 

As a breastfeeding advocate, I am very much in favor of babies breastfeeding anywhere and all the time. But, it would be naive of me to think that this is realistic for every breastfeeding dyad. Lots of families choose to bottle feed some of the time and breastfeed other times. How you breastfeed a bottle fed baby matters, though. It's all too common that I see families soon after they've introduced a bottle because their baby has started becoming fussy at the breast or is refusing to breastfeed altogether. This is where paced bottle feeding comes in.

Paced bottle feeding is a technique that allows the baby to have much more control over the flow of the feed, and also mimics the flow of milk from the breast alot better. Babies don't get nipple confusion- they get flow preference. If you tip a bottle upside down you'll notice that milk starts to drip out, bottles are fast and consistent. Milk flow from the breast ebbs and flows depending on whether you're having a letdown or not. In fact, for parts of a breastfeed babies are getting no milk at all. Babies are smart and often develop a preference for the easier and faster flowing bottle.

Benefits of Paced Bottle Feeding

  • Baby has contol over how much they eat, so you aren't at risk of over feeding or under feeding them
  • Less chance of overfeeding often leads to less fussy babies because they aren't uncomfortable from having a distended stomach
  • Easier time going back and forth from breast to bottle
  • Although this has not been studied, because baby is controlling their intake this should help preserve the mechanisms in breastfeeding that prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life

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How to do it

Check out the video below for a how to guide on paced bottle feeding.

Key points

  • Start the feeding with baby sucking on an empty nipple for a few seconds, this is expecially important if you've noticed your baby starting to get fussy at the breast
  • Keep the nipple 50% full of milk so that they baby can access it by sucking but it doesn't just pour into their mouths
  • Give your baby periodic breaks when you tip the bottle down so there is no milk available
  • You'll know it's going well if you see your baby taking pauses where they aren't sucking at all
  • Let your baby tell you when they are done and don't force them to finish what is in the bottle