If you’ve done any kind of research about bottle-feeding your baby, you’ve probably seen the term pace feeding before.
Pace feeding is a great option as an alternative to traditional bottle-feeding, but figuring out how to do it is the trick.
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What is Pace Feeding?
Pace feeding, also known as paced bottle feeding, is a way of bottle feeding a baby that mimics breastfeeding.
Pace feeding allows the baby to be in control of the amount of milk that he actually drinks so that he is better able to recognize when he is full.
Doing this helps your baby learn his own body’s cues for when he is full and when he is still hungry. Understanding this is a HUGE benefit for both you and your baby.
Is Pace Feeding Necessary?
While pace feeding is not technically “necessary”, if you are both nursing and bottle feeding or if your baby has a tendency to overeat, then paced bottle feeding is a great alternative to the traditional methods.
Typical bottle feeding methods involve laying the baby back and almost pouring the milk in. With paced bottle feeding, the baby is forced to work harder for the milk (like he would if he were breastfeeding) and because of that, is less likely to overeat.
Paced bottle feeding is meant to mimic breastfeeding so your baby is less likely to develop any nipple preferences this way if he is being bottle fed while away from you.
Benefits of Paced Bottle Feeding
There are several benefits of proper pace feeding for your baby that will help support your breastfeeding relationship.
The only time that paced bottle feeding would be unnecessary is if you have a naturally fast letdown/milk flow and your baby is used to drinking very quickly.
If your baby is able to drink a full feeding in about 5-10 minutes, then you probably don’t need to worry about pace feeding.
Baby Gets the Right Amount of Milk
When caregivers are in charge of how much milk your baby drinks, your baby probably will not be getting the right amount.
Your baby could be underfed due to not putting enough milk in the bottle and allowing your baby to drink until he’s full.
Your baby could also be overfed since typical bottle feeding methods cause the milk to flow so much faster.
Babies are not like adults. They are not able to overeat and keep it down. If your baby is overeating, then not only is he going to throw up all of that liquid gold that you worked so hard for, but it means he is also going to end up needing more shortly after because he’s still hungry.
That’s just a waste of milk! Not to mention how difficult that is for your baby.
Paced bottle feeding solves all of those problems.
Minimizes the Risk of Choking
When babies are laid on their backs to drink, they have to keep gulping to avoid choking due to the negative pressure that is created.
Paced feeding gives the baby time to eat at his own pace to avoid any unnecessary stress.
Easier feedings make for happier babies.
Minimizes the Risk of Colic
Colic can develop from traditional bottle feeding since the baby has to continuously gulp to keep up with the milk flow, taking in excess air, as well as overeating which can lead to discomfort.
A good bottle and proper feeding techniques can reduce symptoms of colic.
Supports a Breastfeeding Relationship
It is not uncommon for babies to develop a bottle preference when they begin bottle feeding since the milk comes out so much easier.
Directly nursing requires your baby to work for the milk and if he doesn’t have to work for the milk out of a bottle, he could start preferring that.
Trust me, it happens.
Paced bottle feeding eliminates this issue and reduces flow preference since the entire process is set up to mimic traditional breastfeeding. This makes it much easier to go back and forth between bottle feeding and nursing.
Establishes Healthy Eating Habits
Studies have shown that overeating early in life play a large part on whether or not a person will overeat later in life.
Traditional bottle feeding, with the risk of overeating, could cause your baby to have trouble understanding his body’s cues of when he is actually full.
Learning what fullness feels like early on can only be beneficial for your baby.
How to Bottle Feed a Breast Fed Baby
Though paced bottle feeding is meant to mimic traditional breastfeeding while mom is away, this can also be a great feeding method for babies whose moms exclusively pump or for formula fed babies.
The benefits are still the same.
1. Wait for Baby’s Hunger Cues
Though going off of a schedule can seem like the easier feeding option, it is best to follow your baby’s cues for when to feed him. Every 2-3 hours is a good guideline, but it’s is better to watch your baby for signs that he is hungry rather than the clock.
Signs that Your Baby is Hungry
- Acting restless and stirring
- Sucking on his hands
- Turning his head side to side
- Seeking you out (rooting)
Always try to feed your baby before he gets to the crying stage. That is his late hunger cue and you’re more likely to have to calm him before he will actually settle down to eat.
2. Proper Positioning
In order to pace feed properly, your baby should be sitting in an upright position.
He doesn’t have to be completely upright at a 90-degree angle (that’s uncomfortable), but only slightly reclined rather than laying down.
Remember, the goal is to keep the milk from pouring into his mouth. Sitting upright allows your baby to control the flow better.
3. Horizontal Bottle
Keep the bottle horizontal when you offer it to your baby. You want your baby to essentially “latch on” like he would to a breast. You can do this by gently rubbing the nipple on his nose or upper lip to entice him to accept the bottle.
Once he has taken the bottle, try to mimic your letdown.
You can keep the bottle horizontal for a few moments while he sucks to initiate a letdown. This can help reduce the risk of a nipple preference since he is still having to work for the milk.
4. Be Patient
It is common for babies to pause while they’re nursing to take a break. Paced bottle feeding should mimic this. You can either lean your baby forward a little bit to have the milk flow out of the nipple, or you can tilt the bottle down a bit.
You don’t have to remove the bottle, that will most likely give you a fussy baby, but allowing him the time to understand his body’s cues will be better for him in the long run.
5. Switch Sides
Just like with typical breastfeeding, you should switch sides halfway through the bottle feeding. This will help keep your baby from developing a side preference.
It’s also good for his development because it gives him a new view.
6. Mimic the Pace
The idea is to mimic a typical breastfeeding session. This means that you should try to make the amount in the bottle take just as long as a typical nursing session.
If the baby is allowed to guzzle the milk, it can cause more problems down the road since your baby may develop nipple preferences.
Allow your baby to take breaks, burp him often, and let him dictate how much milk to drink.
Paced bottle feeding sessions will generally take at least 10-20 minutes, though possibly more if that is what your baby is used to. Let him lead.
7. Let Your Baby Say He’s Full
Look for your baby’s signs of fullness before you try to finish the feeding session. Your baby needs to understand the messages that his body is sending, and satiety is one of them.
It is also perfectly fine for your baby not to finish all of the milk in the bottle. If anything, that is the goal. You want your baby to say he’s finished rather than you or the caregiver dictating it.
How to Tell When Your Baby is Full
Signs that your baby is getting full include:
- Slower sucking
- Hands open and relaxed
- Falling asleep
- Eyes wandering
If your baby starts showing any of these signs, or if you think that your baby is getting full, gently remove the bottle from your baby’s mouth.
Offer the bottle again, and if it takes it then allow him to drink for about 10 seconds (or sucks), then remove it. Continue this practice until your baby refuses the bottle.
This will help to teach him that he is indeed full by giving his brain enough time to get the message from his stomach.
Don’t try to force your baby to finish the bottle. That defeats the purpose of pace feeding. Breast milk can be refrigerated and used once more. Formula, on the other hand, will need to be thrown out.
Which is the Best Bottle to Use?
There are several opinions out there about which bottle and nipple shape is best for pace feeding.
Some say that the narrower, more elongated nipples like those on the Dr. Brown’s Bottles are the better option since it allows the baby to get a deeper latch like they would on the breast.
There are others that say that the wider, more breast-like shaped nipples like those on the Tommee Tippee Bottles are the better option because the flow is generally slower.
This is my opinion. Every baby is different. Some babies will prefer the narrow nipples, and some will prefer the wider ones.
My son, for instance, preferred the wider ones so we used the Tommee Tippee bottles throughout our entire breastfeeding journey.
I will say, that the flow on the Tommee Tippee bottles are some of the fastest out there, so I would suggest using the size 0 nipples.
My son used the size 0 until he was about 10.5 months old. I only moved him up to the size 1 because I was being harassed by his daycare and I was comfortable enough with how he ate and the amount that he ate so I felt okay with the decision.
The size of your nipple doesn’t change, the size of the bottle nipple doesn’t have to either. Just keep that in mind when people try to tell you to move up a size. It is not necessary in the slightest.
Will Pace Feeding Make my Baby Gassy?
Some people become concerned when they first hear about pace feeding because they feel that babies will take in too much air during the breaks when they are working on the “letdown” and this will cause colic.
That isn’t the case. Colic is more likely to show up in babies that have been over-fed because their stomachs can become distended which can cause irritation.
As long as your baby is being burped frequently enough, then the excess air will not cause any problems.
Alternative Ways to Feed a Baby
If paced bottle feeding isn’t your thing and you want to try feeding your baby in a different way, there are alternative options.
For babies younger than six months, a medicine cup or a shot glass is the best size. Make sure that your baby is calm first, and then sit him upright on your lap.
Gently place the edge of the cup on his lower lip and tilt the cup up and allow him to lap the milk up like a cat. Don’t pour the milk into his mouth. This process will still move slowly.
For babies older than six months, a weighted straw cup is a great option. I would suggest practicing with a little water first before moving up to milk since he is likely to waste a good bit in the beginning until he is used to it.
I taught my son how to drink out of the Tommee Tippee straw cup. I began offering it to him at dinner around the time he turned six months, and then by about seven months he was a pro.
I really liked it because I could gently squeeze the sides of the cup and the water would move up the straw. Doing this helped him to figure out how to use it. It worked great!
Feeding your baby with a spoon is very similar to feeding your baby with a cup. It will just take longer.
I’d suggest a silicone coated infant spoon since it will be softer on your baby’s gums.
To feed your baby with a syringe or an eye dropper, sit your baby in a semi upright position. Put your finger (make sure it’s clean) in your baby’s mouth with your fingernail facing down toward his tongue.
Let him suck on your finger and then gently slide the milk-filled syringe into his mouth alongside your finger. Slowly squirt the milk into his mouth. Not too much at a time, you still want to mimic breastfeeding.
You can also use a syringe attached to a fine tube for this as well. This can even be used to supplement feedings while your baby is nursing. It sounds weird, but it isn’t that bad. I’ve done it.
Just like with syringe feeding, you can also take that thin tube and attach it to your finger and feed your baby that way.
This is really helpful for newborns that are having trouble latching correctly because it helps to strengthen the muscles and get them used to the process of nursing.
Give your Baby Time to Adjust to Pace Feeding
Do not expect that switching to pace feeding from alternative means to be easy the first time around. Your baby will need time to get used to it just like with any new situation.
Give him some time to adjust before immediately throwing in the towel. Who knows though? He might just surprise you.
What about you? Have you tried paced bottle feeding? How has it helped you? Leave me a comment below or join the conversation in our Facebook group.
Until next time!