Paced bottle feeding is a method of bottle feeding that is designed to mimic breastfeeding. There are many reasons families might decide to try it.
Some mothers find that when they return to work and their babies are receiving breastmilk or formula from a bottle in childcare, their babies become less interested in breastfeeding at home and some may even refuse the breast.
Many mothers also find that childcare providers are quickly going through the pumped milk they bring to childcare and end up supplementing with formula because their babies seem to want to take more milk at daycare than they can pump at work. Increasing the effectiveness of pumping sessions using hands-on pumping may help. Asking the childcare provider to use paced bottle feeding, and to offer at most 3 ounces every 2-3 hours may help as well.
A 2012 study showed that babies who are exclusively bottle fed, regardless of whether they are fed formula, breastmilk or some of each, tend to gain more weight during the first year than their exclusively at-breast fed peers. It is often easy to encourage a baby to take more milk at a feeding with a bottle than it is at the breast, and bottle feeding babies may be learning to interpret the slightly over-full feeding they get from bottle feeding as normal fullness. Paced bottle feeding may help prevent this for babies who receive many, most or all of their feedings from a bottle.
The video below is a demonstration of how to do paced bottle feeding.
The steps of paced bottle feeding are:
- Hold the baby pretty close to upright.
- Touch the baby's upper lip with the bottle and encourage the baby to latch onto the bottle with lips widely flanged and relaxed.
- Hold the bottle horizontally. (The baby may take some air during the feeding but burping afterwards will normally prevent any problems.)
- Allow the baby to drink for 20-30 seconds.
- Without taking the bottle out of the baby's mouth, tilt the bottle down so the baby can't get milk.
- Wait for the baby to suck on the bottle again, and as soon as he does, return the bottle to horizontal.
- Allow the baby to drink for 20-30 seconds and then tilt the bottle down again. Repeat this pattern.
- During one of the pauses the baby will probably not suck again. At this point take the bottle out of the baby's mouth and end the feeding.
- Do not try to encourage the baby to take just a little bit more. If you are using breastmilk, return it to the fridge and start the next feeding with the rest of the unused bottle.
- Most breastmilk fed babies need about 3-4 ounces every 2-3 hours. Encouraging a breastmilk fed baby to take more than this is usually not necessary and may lead to some of the issues I mentioned above.
- Remember that not all fussy babies are hungry. If the baby seems fussy after 3-4 ounces of breastmilk from a bottle, consider a pacifier or other soothing method to calm the baby until it is time to feed again.