Whether you’re feeding your baby formula or breast milk, learning how to pace bottle feedings can make a significant difference in your baby's feeding journey.
Paced bottle feeding is a method that allows the infant to be more in control of the feeding pace so they don’t get stressed by the rate of milk flow, and can easily recognize the signs of when they are full. This bottle feeding method helps you respond to baby’s cues and ensure the feeding experience is comfortable and successful for you and baby.
We’ve pulled tips from our Bottle-feeding class, led by Dana Czuczka, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (free for a limited time in partnership with Baby Brezza!) so you can bottle feed with confidence.
The Paced Bottle Feeding Technique:
To begin, Hold your baby in a comfortable position— there are a few positions you can try that we go over in our class, but it’s important to note, you always want to keep your baby in a semi-upright position with their head supported. Avoid feeding them lying down on their back as it increases the risk of choking and ear infections.
- Tickle baby’s lips or cheek with the bottle nipple and watch for baby to root or gape. We suggest doing this instead of putting the bottle directly in baby’s mouth, because it allows baby to invite the bottle in and show you that they are ready. You want to avoid forcing the bottle into a baby’s closed mouth.
- When they open their mouth for the bottle, place the bottle in baby’s mouth. At first, let the baby begin sucking on the nipple without milk in it for a few seconds so you don’t overwhelm them.
- Then, tip the bottle so milk enters the nipple, allowing the baby to swallow. Typically, you want to hold the bottle as parallel to the ground as possible, so that you’re not letting gravity doing all the work, and baby learns to suck.
- Watch your baby’s demeanor and face as they are drinking. If you notice they are stressed (scrunched eyebrows, dripping milk out of mouth, panting, stopping sucking, then stop the flow of milk by adjusting the angle of the bottle and give your baby a break. Or, you can proactively give the baby a break after 20 to 30 seconds of feeding just to help encourage the baby to pace themselves versus chug too much too fast.
Note: Some people prefer to remove the bottle from the baby's mouth entirely, especially if baby is chugging or choking. Some only do that when they stop to burp or reposition. Figure out which works best for you.
- When your baby looks like they’re ready and starts to suck again, tip the bottle so the nipple fills with milk again.
- You’ll repeat this pattern of starting and stopping the flow of milk, on and on. Doing so allows you and baby to co-regulate the feed. If your baby starts getting fidgety, they may need a break or need to burp.
Other tips to keep in mind when using Paced Bottle Feeding:
- At first, the paced bottle feeding technique may feel very unnatural – but once you and your baby get the hang of pacing, it becomes second nature and you won’t explicitly be thinking about it. The goal is to let baby take their time.
- Watch baby’s cues while you’re feeding them to make sure they’re comfortable and to notice when they may need a break.
- Keep an eye on your baby’s demeanor –if you see any signs of distress, or signs your baby is uncomfortable, you’ll want to slow down and back off. You can try taking a break, switching positions, or burping baby.
- During the feed, remember to hold the bottle steady. You shouldn’t need to twist and turn the bottle to prod baby to take more.
- Remain actively engaged in feeding. Avoid propping the bottle in baby’s mouth with a pillow or any other device, as this comes with a variety of risks like increased ear infections, risk of choking, overeating, and more.
- Remember, feeding is a time to bond and interact with your baby.
Want more expert bottle-feeding advice like this? Check out our class, Bottle Feeding: Using Formula, Breastmilk or a Combination or Both (free for a limited time thanks to Baby Brezza!), to see paced bottle feeding demonstrations and more. This class covers everything you need to know about bottle feeding to nourish and bond with your baby. Learn about choosing formula & bottles, sterilization and drying, how much your baby should be drinking by age, feeding cues, preparing formula, feeding positions, burping, and more.