A lot of new parents use a bottle to feed their baby at some point, whether it is all of the time, or some of the time. As postpartum and infant care doulas, we are often teaching families techniques to successfully introduce the bottle to their baby. One of our favorite techniques is called paced bottle feeding, and we really believe it is a must-know for parents!
The Benefits of Paced Bottle Feeding
Paced bottle feeding is a method of feeding that more closely mirrors breastfeeding, which is great for families doing a mix of breast and bottle. It is slower, which allows the baby the opportunity to register fullness, and not become overfed, which can decrease the risk of obesity longterm. It also allows the baby and caregiver the opportunity to slow down and bond during feedings.
How to Do Paced Bottle Feeding
- Choose a "slow flow" nipple, in the shape that your baby prefers.
- Hold your baby in a more upright position, at a slight recline. Remember to keep your baby's head and shoulders in alignment. It is hard for anyone to swallow when your chin is tucked or your neck is turned!
- Use the nipple to tickle the bottom lip and chin of your baby, and wait for him or her to open her mouth wide, and take the nipple in himself or herself.
- Hold the bottle horizontally, instead of upright, at an angle just enough to allow milk into the nipple, but not so much that the baby can easily become overwhelmed by gravity pulling the milk into his or her mouth.
- Allow your baby to take 2-3 good sucks of milk, and then tilt the bottle so that it just rests on the bottom lip.
- Wait for a few seconds to allow your baby to swallow, and then show signs of readiness to continue by sucking the nipple back into his or her mouth to take another 2-3 sucks.
- Watch your baby for signals that he or she is done feeding, including turning away from the bottle or no longer continuing to suck after a rest.
- Do not force a baby to finish a whole bottle if he or she is indicating that he or she is full.
A paced bottle feeding approach can take 15-20 minutes to finish a bottle, and research shows that for any person it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness. This approach allows the baby to set the pace, and begin to learn about feeding and feeling of being full. Use it as an opportunity to slow down, look your baby in the eyes, and enjoy spending this special and important time together!