Any breastfeeding mom that's tried to introduce a bottle to her breastfed baby has heard the term "paced bottle feeding." Whether it was from a well-meaning friend or a lactation consultant, the feeding method has made its rounds in the breastfeeding community. But what is paced bottle feeding and why is it so important for breastfed babies?
According to Lansinoh, paced bottle feeding is a technique of feeding your baby that mimics breastfeeding by allowing the baby to control the feeding and eat at their own pace. You aren't forcing your child to down so many ounces every few hours. Instead, you wait on their hunger cues, like rooting and sucking on their hands.
Paced bottle feeding also has a different position to feed your baby in than a formula feeding parent might implement. You don't cradle your child or lay them flat. Just like when you're breastfeeding and you bring them to your breast, you bring your child to the bottle. Kelly Mom noted that you hold your baby in an upright position when they feed and that you can also switch them from side to side to encourage eye stimulation and help avoid any side preference for when they are breastfeeding.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Krstin Gourley from Lactation Link tells Romper that when you are paced bottle feeding, you should "sit the baby up so the bottle is more horizontal than vertical." Gourley says this keeps the milk flow from being too fast and also allows you to take frequent burping breaks. Lactation consultant Sarah Lester from Naturally the Best Lactation Services agrees and encourages paced bottle feeding for any baby who is taking a bottle after breastfeeding. "Paced bottle feeding helps your baby not feel so waterlogged by the volume and flow of milk and should be the method all caregivers use when you aren't with baby," Lester tells Romper.
Lansinoh noted that when you are paced bottle feeding, you watch your baby's cues. When they are acting as if they are full or wanting to take a break, listen to them. You don't have to force them to finish a bottle or try to keep the bottle in their mouth. If they are pushing it away, spitting the nipple out, or moving their head away from it, they are finished. And the frequent pauses? Those mimic your own letdown reflexes according to Kelly Mom and you should follow your baby's cue on how many breaks they want to take as well as encouraging frequent pauses if you feel like your baby is taking too much too fast.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and owner of Tiny Tummies Lactation Services, Tori Sproa, tells Romper that utilizing the paced bottle feeding method to help avoid flow preference and reinforce healthy eating habits. Often, a baby who has had a bottle will prefer the constant, steady flow of milk from the bottle rather than the breast, which has several letdown reflexes and requires suckling for the milk to be removed. On the other hand, a breastfed baby who has never had a bottle may not like the fast flow and may refuse it altogether unless paced bottle feeding is used.
If you have a baby who has preferred the bottle and you want them back on the breast, Gourley says that it's often not a nipple preference, but a flow preference as to why your child doesn't want the breast. "By practicing paced bottle feeding and taking frequent breaks, you can help your baby get used to the differing flow rates throughout a feed and help them come back to the breast," she says.
Basically? Paced bottle feeding should be the method you use when giving any breastfed baby a bottle. It's great for keeping them between the breast and the bottle, it's perfect for helping a reluctant nurser get back to the breast, and it's a must for any parent who's having a hard time getting their little one to use a bottle after being exclusively breastfed. If you're still having feeding difficulties, reach out to a lactation consultant for help.