Have you ever struggled with your baby drinking from a bottle too fast? Are you trying to figure out how to mix breastfeeding and bottle feeding, or maybe you’re thinking about switching from breast to bottle without much stress? Whatever your baby feeding questions may be, we’re here to help.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to paced bottle feeding, a technique that helps you and your little one enjoy mealtime at a more relaxed pace.
Breastfed babies naturally control how much milk they drink, taking breaks and stopping when they’re full. On the other hand, bottle-fed babies have less control because the milk or formula flows faster, which can lead to problems like overfeeding, tummy discomfort, a preference for bottles, ear infections, respiratory issues, and so on.
To tackle these issues, you should try the paced bottle-feeding method. It mimics breastfeedingby slowing down how quickly milk flows from the bottle.
Paced feeding involves holding the baby upright with a horizontal bottle position, making the baby suck like during breastfeeding. Your little one eats more slowly, takes regular breaks, and has better control over how much they drink.
This method, also called pace feeding, responsive feeding, or baby-led feeding, is recommended for all babies who use bottles, whether they’re exclusively bottle-fed or switch between breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.
Learn why paced feeding can be an excellent choice for both you and your baby. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore the numerous advantages it offers to make feeding time a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
Traditional bottle feeding is associated with a greater risk of overfeeding, rapid weight gain in babies, and later obesity. This may happen because caregivers have control over what and how much goes into the bottle and may push babies to finish it. Some mothers might also miss their baby’s cues.
Alison K. and her team found out that helping parents with inclusive assessment of infant feeding, offering personalized bottle-feeding guidance, and providing more education and support for responsive bottle-feeding reduced the prevalence of rapid weight gain in infants.
Paced bottle feeding ensures your baby gets just the right amount of milk by following hunger and fullness cues. This way, they avoid being either too full or too hungry.
When bottle-feeding, babies may appear very hungry and drink quickly. However, they might be doing this to prevent choking and trying to keep up with gravitation.
When they gulp too rapidly or lie down while bottle-feeding, they can swallow too much air, leading to tummy discomfort and gassiness. Paced feeding encourages a slower drinking pace with breaks, reducing this digestive discomfort. In any case, be attentive to your baby’s feeding to avoid excess air intake.
Choosing a bottle-feeding method similar to breastfeeding can help strengthen the breastfeeding bond and prevent bottle preference. Babies are often more influenced by “flow preference” rather than “nipple confusion”. If you consistently offer a fast-flow bottle to a breastfed baby, they may prefer it over breastfeeding.
By giving the baby only the amount of milk or formula, they need during bottle feeding, they’ll be ready to breastfeed effectively when you’re together, which benefits your milk supply. It also means less time spent expressing milk to keep up with their (over)feeding.
As paced feeding mimics breastfeeding, it will reduce your little one’s stress, confusion, and resistance when first introduced to a bottle. This gentle and familiar approach will help your baby feel more comfortable with the transition, making it a smoother process for both of you.
Feeding is more complex than it appears, especially for premature babies who often struggle with coordination of sucking, swallowing, and breathing. Paced feeding helps these infants by reducing heart rate issues during feeding and improving their sucking patterns by the time they leave the hospital, as shown in the research of Law-Morstatt et al.
Newborns usually need to be fed every two to three hours, totaling eight to twelve feedings daily. Rather than following a strict feeding schedule, watch for signs of hunger. If you catch these signs early, feeding your baby will be easier and more comfortable for both of you.
Fussing and crying are signs of hunger that come later.
If your baby is upset, try comforting them with cuddles and skin-to-skin contact or soothing techniques like a diaper change or a gentle walk before feeding. But if it’s clear they’re hungry, go ahead and offer a bottle.
When pace-feeding your baby, whether with expressed breast milk or formula, it’s a good idea to serve smaller portions. It can prevent wastage and ensure your baby is hungry for their next feeding session. The latter can help your baby stick to a regular feeding schedule and develop good eating habits.
1. Small Bottle: Use a small 4oz. bottle with a slow-flow nipple.
2. Hold Upright: Hold your baby in an upright position, supporting their head and neck with your hand, not your arm.
3. Bottle Position: Point the bottle straight toward your baby’s mouth, with just a little milk in the bottle’s nipple.
4. Initiate Feeding: Gently touch your baby’s upper lip with the nipple to encourage them to open wide. Let them pull the whole nipple into their mouth, like in breastfeeding. Don’t push it in.
5. Maintain Angle: Keep the bottle almost level. Raise the bottle’s bottom just enough for milk to fill the nipple. As you go along, let your baby lean back a bit to keep the nipple filled.
6. Take Breaks: If your baby doesn’t take a break after three to five sucks, tip the bottle down a bit. This slows milk flow but still keeps your baby comfortable.
Give your baby time to swallow and breathe. If they don’t pause when you tilt the bottle down, take the bottle’s nipple out briefly.
7. Let Baby Decide: Let your baby decide when they’re finished. They may not need all the milk or formula, so don’t force it.
8. Watch Cues: Watch for cues that your baby is done or needs a break, so they feel full and avoid overfeeding.
9. Remove the bottle in case your baby is:
● Drinking milk quickly without breaks
● Spitting out milk
● Widening their eyes
● Becoming stiff in their arms and legs
● Flaring their nostrils
● Lips turning blue
Once following the steps of pace feeding, keep an eye out for your baby’s cues to understand if they’re full. Being attentive to these signals is key in ensuring your little one receives the right amount of milk and maintains a healthy feeding routine.
Burping is important to release swallowed air during feeding. Burp your baby during and after feeding, and also when they give you cues.
Signs that your baby needs to burp:
● Arching their back
● Becoming irritable or fussy
● Pulling or flexing their legs
● Pulling away from the bottle
Don’t prop a bottle in your baby’s mouth because it can lead to choking and dental problems, and it might cause your baby to get too much or too little milk.
With paced feeding, over time, your baby will learn to pace on their own. You’ll notice them stopping and then starting again. Keeping the baby upright and holding the bottle flat helps them learn this. You can change your baby’s feeding position to avoid them developing a preference for one side, ensuring balanced feeding.
Give paced bottle feeding a try to make feeding your precious one easier and more enjoyable. For additional tips and support, visit ‘’The Milky Box” website. We have news, helpful information and organic nutriton to help you on your feeding journey.
1. Ventura, A. K. et al. (2022) ‘Promoting Responsive Bottle-Feeding Within WIC: Evaluation of a Policy, Systems, and Environmental Change Approach’, Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 122(1), pp. 99-109.e2. doi: 10.1016/J.JAND.2021.05.003.
2. Law-Morstatt, L. et al. (2003) ‘Pacing as a treatment technique for transitional sucking patterns’, Journal of Perinatology : official journal of the California Perinatal Association, 23(6), pp. 483–488. doi: 10.1038/SJ.JP.7210976.
3. Avital, A. et al. (2018) ‘Feeding young infants with their head in upright position reduces respiratory and ear morbidity’, Scientific Reports, 8(1). doi: 10.1038/S41598-018-24636-0.
4. Haack, V. ‘MINNESOTA WIC PROGRAM Paced Bottle Feeding: Infant Feeding Series’.
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7. Belly (Abdominal) Gas in Babies | Michigan Medicine
8. Signs Your Child is Hungry or Full | Nutrition | CDC
9. Feeding on demand - Bottle feeding - Start for Life - NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/start-for-life/baby/feeding-your-baby/bottle-feeding/bottle-feeding-your-baby/feeding-on-demand/#paced
10. Feeding your newborn: Tips for new parents - Mayo Clinic. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/healthy-baby/art-20047741
11. Feeds, P. (2021) ‘Paced Bottle Feeding’, (June), p. 2021 - Delaware Public Health District
12. Bottle feeding - Region of Peel. Available at: https://www.peelregion.ca/children-parenting/feeding-baby/bottle-feeding/#pacing
13. How to burp your baby - Bottle feeding - Start for Life - NHS. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/start-for-life/baby/feeding-your-baby/bottle-feeding/bottle-feeding-your-baby/how-to-burp-your-baby/
Please be aware that this information is based on general trends in babies, and it is not medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s formula and when choosing your child’s formula. Always consult your pediatrician before making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child.
Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.
Nazeli Gevorgyan is a medical doctor from Armenia, and is a researcher in the fields of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Nazeli is passionate with providing women and parents with reliable and high-quality information on healthy options for infant nutrition, breastfeeding, infant formula, and food. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, traveling, and pottery.