Paced Bottle Feeding: A More Natural Way to Bottle Feed Your Baby

Paced Bottle Feeding

Paced bottle feeding is a way to bottle feed a baby that is more natural, more like breastfeeding. Paced bottle feeding allows your baby to feed more slowly. It prevents overfeeding. It helps your baby learn to stop feeding when full. Paced bottle feeding can reduce colic and may reduce the risk of your baby becoming overweight.

Paced bottle feeding is a good way to feed your baby if you are not going to breastfeed. It is also a good way to introduce bottle feeding to a breastfeeding baby. You may want to do this if you can no longer be around for all your baby’s feedings, you have to stop breastfeeding for health reasons, or if you want to have a partner or family member help with feedings to give you some freedom.

Always keep in mind that breast milk is the best food for babies. Baby formula has all the nutrients that babies need but it does not have antibodies that can only come from you.

How to Start Paced Bottle Feeding

Before you start, talk to your child’s health care provider. Ask what formula you should use, and what type of bottle and nipple. If you are going to pump breast milk, ask how often to pump and how to store your milk safely. In general, a smaller bottle (7 ounces) and a slow-flow nipple is best.

You should start bottle feeding on demand. Feed only when your baby is hungry. Over time, your baby will develop a schedule. When your baby is hungry, he or she may:

  • Clench fists and flex arms and legs
  • Make sucking noises
  • Put fingers in the mouth
  • Turn head from side to side and open mouth, called rooting
  • Cry, usually a late sign of hunger

Before you start, wash your hands, make sure the bottle and nipple are clean, and follow directions for mixing formula. If you thaw breast milk in the refrigerator, do not use milk that has been thawed after 24 hours. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Hold your baby upright, and support the head and neck with your hand.
  • Plan to feed for about 15 to 20 minutes, about the same time as a breastfeeding.
  • Pick a quiet and comfortable place. Avoid distractions, so you can give your baby full attention.
  • Place the nipple on your baby’s cheek. Let your baby root around to find it.
  • If your baby is not rooting or finding the nipple, gently stroke your baby’s lips with the nipple.
  • Once your baby is latched on to the nipple, hold the bottle horizontal so that the nipple is only half-filled.
  • Holding the bottle too upright forces too much milk or formula.
  • Let your baby take about three to five sucks and swallows before removing the nipple and letting it rest on your baby’s chin. If your baby stops to take a breath, remove the nipple.
  • Keep feeding like this, paying attention your baby’s feeding cues.
  • Half way through the feeding, switch sides, just as you would for breastfeeding.
  • Start looking for signs that your baby is full. These include slowed feeding, turning the head away and being distracted, becoming very relaxed, or falling asleep.
  • When your baby seems full, gently remove the nipple. Offer the nipple a few more times for 3 to 5 sucks until your baby refuses or no longer sucks.

If you feed your baby this way, you can avoid overfeeding. You may also be able to introduce bottle feeding while still breastfeeding. If you see signs of overfeeding, slow down. Signs of overfeeding include gulping, drooling, noisy feeding, stiffening, coughing, or choking. Remember that you don’t have to finish the bottle with each feeding. Never force you baby to finish. Never prop up the bottle. After feeding, throw out any remaining milk or formula.

Paced feeding is also called responsive feeding, because your baby will try to tell you when he or she is full. Paced bottle feeding is a responsive and responsible way to feed your baby. If you want to hand off some feedings to a partner or family member, show them how to pace your baby’s bottle feeding.

Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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