paced feeding

6 Important Tips for Paced Feeding Your Breastfed Baby

Want to give your breastfed baby a bottle, but worried about them starting to prefer the bottle over breast? Paced feeding is a great way to initiate bottle feeding while still breastfeeding. I’ll share how and why I chose paced feeding with my breastfed babies.

I’ve breastfed for over 6 years combined now, and like many breastfeeding moms, I was worried about introducing bottles to my babies when they were infants. The fear of nipple confusion was real and I wanted to make sure I did all I could to protect our breastfeeding relationship, which is why I chose paced feeding.

I used pumped breastmilk while to bottle feed my breastfed baby, but you can use this method of feeding with formula too. I would especially recommend paced feeding formula if you are supplementing and want to continue to breastfeed.

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paced feeding

What is paced feeding?

Paced feeding is a method of bottle feeding a baby that slows down how quickly a baby feeds, and also gives the baby more control over the speed and amount they get from the bottle.

Paced feeding is done through the way in which you hold the bottle and the frequency you take breaks during feedings.

Why is paced feeding better?

When breastfeeding, the baby has to work to get milk out of the breast. The milk only comes out (usually) when baby is actively sucking. A bottle, on the other hand, tends to continuously drip even when the baby is not actively sucking.

This is a problem because it can cause a breastfed baby to become lazy when they get too used to a bottle. If they are too used to the ease milk flows from a bottle, they might get lazy with their latch at the breast or frustrated with the slower flow of the breast.

Breastfed babies might also overeat when given a bottle without paced feeding. Since they’re used to the slower pace and flow of a breast, they might gobble down a bottle without realizing how much they are getting. It takes time for their bellies to send their brain the message it’s full. If they eat too fast, the message doesn’t arrive until they are overly full.

Overfeeding a breastfed baby isn’t good because it can cause discomfort for the baby, spitting up, and wastes milk, which can be especially demoralizing for a mom who worked hard to pump that milk.

What kind of bottle is best for paced feeding?

You can choose whatever bottle you want, that isn’t what really matters. But was DOES matter is the type of nipple you are using on that bottle.

Be sure you are using the slowest flow nipple possible. Many moms will actually choose preemie nipples for their babies.

The slower flow nipples will ensure that the milk doesn’t flow too freely, preventing overeating and bottle preference.

A lot of moms like Dr. Brown’s slow flows, but I used Munchkin Latch with my kids.

What is the proper way of feeding a baby? How do you do paced feeding?

There are few keys to properly doing a paced bottle feed.

First, ensure the baby is sitting as upright as possible.

We want the baby to have as much control over how much and how long they are feeding. If they are laying back they don’t have as much control and the milk might flow too quickly.

So hold them up as much as is possible or comfortable for them based on their age and head control.

Next, hold the bottle parallel to the ground.

You usually see baby’s being fed with the bottle pointed downward, but you DON’T want to do that.

Instead, hold the bottle parallel to the ground. You’ll notice the entire nipple isn’t full of milk, just enough to cover where the opening of the nipple is. This is good.

Holding the bottle this way slows down the flow of milk. Instead of gravity pulling it all down at the baby, just what the baby wants will flow through.

Stop to burp and take a break every ounce or so.

This is where the “paced” part really comes in. Especially when you are first introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby, take your time. Stop to burp and take a break every ounce or so.

Interrupting the feed for a break ensures that the baby isn’t going to overeat because it gives them time to be able to tell when their bellies are full.

Does paced feeding cause gas?

No. If anything, it prevents gas.

Gas is caused by a bunch of things like air bubbles in the bottle (stir, don’t’ shake your milk), overeating or laying down after (or during) eating.

Paced feeding prevents a lot of the causes of gas in babies.

If your baby is really uncomfortable or colicky, then you might want to check with your pediatrician for the cause.

How long should paced feeding take?

As long as it needs to.

Use common sense here. If your baby gulps down 3 ounces in 3 minutes then you are not really pacing them or the flow is too fast on the bottle.

My babies usually took around 10-15 minutes to breastfeed, and it was about the same for bottle feeding. You want to mimic the breastfeeding experience the best that you can.

In fact, I went against my advice above and used heavier flow nipples for my babies because my actual breasts had a heavier flow than the slow flow nipples, causing them to get frustrated at the slower flow of a bottle.

This process is about watching and knowing your baby. Follow their lead, and focus on them having as much control over the process as possible.

You got this, Mama. Follow your baby and your instincts. If you’re introducing bottles because your nips are killing you, check out these amazing nipple-saving breastfeeding tips for pain to get some relief!

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