Paced Bottle-Feeding

As you explore options for how to feed your baby, perhaps you’ve heard of a technique called paced feeding, sometimes known as responsive feeding. This method has two main objectives: mimicking the milk flow and intimacy of breastfeeding and allowing your infant to control the pace of the feeding. Discover more about what paced bottle-feeding is, the benefits of this method, and how to introduce it to your baby.

What Is the Paced Bottle-Feeding Method?

The method of paced bottle-feeding (responsive feeding) gives your baby more control of the bottle-feeding process while simultaneously mimicking the position and closeness of breastfeeding. The technique involves slowing down the flow of milk into your baby’s mouth to reduce the amount of air and allow your little one to take regular breaks (and, therefore, control the pace of feeding). The paced bottle-feeding method could be a good choice for you regardless of how you choose to feed your baby. You can use paced bottle-feeding for a breastfed baby, while formula feeding or if you choose mixed feeding. Check with your doctor if you have any questions about paced bottle-feeding or feeding your baby in general.

Benefits of Paced Bottle-Feeding

The benefits of paced bottle-feeding may include the following:

  • Encouraging your baby to feed more slowly, reducing digestion issues associated with overfeeding or eating too quickly

  • Making the switch from breast to bottle easier, as it can slow the flow as your baby gets used to bottle-feeding

  • Helping you and your baby learn to rely on hunger cues and responsiveness rather than a set routine.

Introducing Paced Feeding to Your Baby

Remember that paced feeding with an infant means waiting until your little one shows signs of hunger. Once that happens, you can follow the steps below for introducing paced bottle-feeding to your baby:

  1. 1Hold your baby close. After preparing the bottle with formula or breast milk (15 to 30 millilitres may be enough, but every baby is different), hold your baby in your lap in a semi-upright position while supporting their head and neck. Look directly into your little one’s eyes and hold them close, just like you would if breastfeeding your baby. You can opt for skin-to-skin contact if you wish.

  2. Stimulate feeding. Rub the teat of the bottle gently across your baby’s lips and wait for your little one to open their mouth. Help guide the teat into your baby’s mouth while holding the bottle horizontally so that the milk doesn’t flow quickly on its own or let in too much air.

  3. Keep an eye on your baby while feeding. Allow your baby to initiate and control suckling on the teat. Because of the horizontal position of the bottle, when your little one takes a needed break, the milk won’t flow out. Instead, it will slow and stop, allowing your baby to control the pace of feeding. Don’t forget to wind your baby when they’re taking a break.

  4. Look for signs of fullness. Paced feeding requires you to be responsive to your baby’s hunger needs, feeding them when hungry and stopping when full. Some common signs of fullness include your baby splaying their fingers and toes, pushing the bottle away or becoming relaxed or sleepy. At this point, gently tilt the bottle up to stop any milk from flowing and slowly remove the teat from your baby’s mouth.

Does Paced Feeding Cause Gas?

Any time a baby is fed from a bottle, they risk swallowing some air, which can lead to gas. Paced bottle-feeding may actually help decrease the chance of your baby getting wind, since it may reduce the amount of air your little eater takes in. Still, it’s always important to wind or burp your baby during and after bottle-feeding.

RELATED ARTICLE

Newborn Feeding
Formula Milk: A Feeding Guide
  • You can practice paced feeding the entire time that your baby is using a bottle. For individual feeding sessions, the paced feeding method relies on hunger cues from your little one, so you feed your baby until they show signs of fullness. Every child is different, but your paced feedings might last between 15 and 30 minutes.

  • Wait for your baby to show hunger cues, then follow these steps for paced feeding:

    • Hold your baby tight and sit them in a semi-upright position, like when breastfeeding.
    • Gently rub the bottle’s teat on your baby’s lip until they open their mouth.
    • Hold the bottle in a horizontal position to reduce the milk flow.
    • Let your baby control the pace of feeding and take breaks when needed.
    • Burp your baby during and after feeds.

  • Paced bottle-feeding (a.k.a. responsive feeding) is a method of feeding your baby that mimics the closeness of breastfeeding and allows your infant to control the pace of eating, so as not to overeat.

The Bottom Line

Paced bottle-feeding offers many potential benefits for your baby, as it can teach your little one how to pace themself when feeding. This method may help reduce the risk of overfeeding and wind, too. And because the paced feeding method mimics the position and closeness of breastfeeding, you can still bond with your little one as you bottle feed. If you plan to use breast milk with this method, learn how to express and safely store your breast milk. Overall, what’s most important when it comes to feeding your baby is making sure they receive the nutrients they need, regardless of the method. But if paced bottle-feeding interests you, why not give it a try? It might even help you become more attuned to your little ones needs and cues!

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.