Jacque Ordner BSN, RN, IBCLC, RLC
Are you worried your precious little one will grow to prefer the bottle over your breasts? Are you concerned you might not be able to keep up once baby begins taking bottles regularly while you’re away? Are you exclusively pumping and looking for tips on bottle feeding? We’ve got you covered with our full guide on Paced Bottle Feeding.
Research indicates that infants will take more from a bottle than they would when nursing. This can result in overfeeding, mom losing confidence in her milk supply, and can even contribute to later obesity. One large study compared formula fed infants (via bottle) and breastfed infants (via direct nursing) and found that the bottle-fed infants consumed 49% more milk at 1 month, 57% more at 3 months, and 71% more at 5 months. In comparison, we know that directly breastfed infants do not increase the volume of breastmilk intake from one to six months of age. The average daily intake for a breastfed infant from one to six months remains about 25 ounces per day.
Why do bottle-fed infants tend to consume more?
- The flow from a bottle can often be initiated by gravity alone, triggering innate sucking reflexes present in babies under 4 months old. In other words, baby will often continue to suck and swallow milk from a bottle long after they’ve reached “fullness”. In contrast, the flow of milk from the breast requires a coordinated suckle and does not flow consistently. An infant can pause, breathe, relax, and reassess before initiating additional flow from the breast. This puts the baby in greater control of the feeding.
- Formula fed infants regularly consume more than their breastfed counterparts because more formula is required to meet their nutritional needs. Formula also does not contain hormones such as leptin and adiponectin which regulate hunger and metabolism. It’s especially important to keep this in mind if your baby receives breastmilk and formula or if you are tempted to compare your breastmilk fed baby’s intake with that of a formula fed infant.
What are the benefits of Paced Bottle Feeding?
- Paced Bottle Feeding allows infants to develop and practice their innate feeding cues and skills rather than only responding to the consistent flow of the bottle over which they have no control. This is especially important for newborns (particularly pre-term newborns) who require supplementation early. Allowing newborns to develop natural feeding cues and skills can be instrumental in helping them return to the breast or to transition from breast to bottle and back.
- Babies often develop a preference for the fast and continuous flow from the bottle. In the past, this might have been labeled as “nipple confusion”, but we now call it flow preference. We now know that when baby prefers the bottle over the breast, it’s almost always due to the preference and ease associated with the faster flow of the bottle. Babies are smart, and once they learn that they don’t have to wait for milk from the bottle they may start to refuse or become frustrated at the breast. Paced Bottle Feeding helps to mimic the slower and non-continuous flow of milk that occurs during nursing.
- Paced bottle feeding allows time for baby’s satiation signals to be recognized. Most of us know the experience of scarfing down a big holiday meal in 10 minutes or less only to realize we’re painfully full. Similarly, a baby can often take copious amounts from the bottle, due to its rapid and persistent flow, before the brain has had a chance to realize the belly is full. This can lead to a gassy, fussy, spitty baby. Over time, baby’s tummy can come to expect those large feeds even if the volume isn’t necessary for baby’s complete nutrition. Additionally, the same large study mentioned above found that caregivers often encourage baby to finish a bottle even when they’re displaying signs of satiety. Caregiver pressure to empty the bottle is another contributing factor to overfeeding. This can also lead mom to believe her supply is inadequate when baby is actually being overfed.
What are the principles of Paced Bottle Feeding?
- Feed on demand following baby’s hunger cues (rooting, sucking on fists, smacking lips, restlessness, etc.) Remember crying is a LATE sign of hunger.
- Choose a slow flow nipple. Not all slow flow nipples are as slow as they claim. Click HERE for to check the flow rate of many popular brands.
- Feed baby in a nearly upright position.
- Allow baby to “latch” onto the nipple rather than inserting it into his or her mouth.
- Hold the bottle parallel to the ground so that milk just enters the nipple.
- Provide frequent breaks by tipping the bottom of bottle down or completely removing the nipple from baby’s mouth. This is especially important if baby begins to gulp. Watch baby’s cues!
- Switch sides halfway through the feeding to mimic a nursing session. This also provides cross-connectivity in the brain.
- Feedings should take 15-30 minutes.
- Don’t force baby to finish the bottle. Allow baby to determine when he or she is full rather than encouraging them to finish a specific amount.
*These techniques are appropriate for babies under 6 months of age.
Click HERE for a video demonstration of Paced Bottle Feeding.
Paced Bottle Feeding helps protect the nursing relationship, reduces the risk of overfeeding, and gives baby control of their feedings. Have concerns about bottle feeding? We can help! Our Board Certified Lactation Consultants can develop a plan to help you introduce or manage bottle feeding. Click HERE to schedule your free virtual consultation or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to support you!
Arenz, S., Ruckerl, R., Koletzko, B., & von Kries, R. (2004). Breast-feeding and childhood obesity–a systematic review. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 28(10), 1247-1256.
Dewey, K. G. (2009). Infant feeding and growth. In G. Goldberg, A. Prentice, P. A., S. Filteau & K. Simondon (Eds.), Breast-Feeding: Early influences on later health (pp. 57-66). New York, NY: Springer.
Kramer, M. S., Guo, T., Platt, R. W., Vanilovich, I., Sevkovskaya, Z., Dzikovich, I., et al. (2004). Feeding effects on growth during infancy. Journal of Pediatrics, 145(5), 600-605.
Kent, J. C., Mitoulas, L. R., Cregan, M. D., Ramsay, D. T., Doherty, D. A., & Hartmann, P. E. (2006). Volume and frequency of breastfeedings and fat content of breast milk throughout the day. Pediatrics, 117(3), e387-395.
Li, R., Fein, S. B., & Grummer-Strawn, L. M. (2008). Association of breastfeeding intensity and bottle-emptying behaviors at early infancy with infants’ risk for excess weight at late infancy. Pediatrics, 122 Suppl 2, S77-84.
Doneray, H., Orbak, Z., & Yildiz, L. (2009). The relationship between breast milk leptin and neonatal weight gain. Acta Paediatrica, 98(4), 643-647.