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Paced Bottle Feeding: It Isn’t about the Bottle, It’s about the Bottle Feeder.

How do you properly bottle feed a breastfed baby?

Which bottle you use is less important than how you bottle feed the baby.

Which bottle is best? Well, it doesn’t really matter. I say start with the bottles in your house and make sure you’re using a slow flow nipple.

What is important is how you feed the baby a bottle. When babies breastfeed, they have both drinking time and sucking time. Meaning, they do in fact “use you as a pacifier” (gasp!). This is a really healthy way for them to eat. The pacifier sucking, or non-nutritive sucking, gives them time to digest their food and let their brain catch up with their belly. For the average nursing pair, feedings take at least 20 minutes. Coincidentally, it takes your brain about 20 minutes to register that it is full when you’re eating.

Bottle feeding, however, doesn’t work quite the same. When a breastfed baby gets onto a bottle, he takes his super powerful breastfeeding suck and guzzles the bottle. It isn’t uncommon for a breastfed baby to finish a bottle in under five minutes and still look hungry. Bottle guzzling means no non-nutritive sucking time, but baby’s brain needs to catch up with his belly before he knows whether or not he is satisfied. It is just like when you miss lunch and by dinner you are starving so you eat an entire plate of spaghetti and meatballs in five minutes. Fifteen minutes later you realize, “Oh man. I ate too much.” Right?

So, here are some way to slooooow your breastfed baby down when giving a bottle.

This, as well as everything else you need to know for your return to work, is covered in Working Pumping Mamas.

Paced bottle feeding:

1. Sit baby upright in your arms, not laying flat on his back. 

2. Keep the bottle as horizontal as possible without letting air get into the nipple. If baby is laying flat-back and the bottle is perpendicular to his mouth, gravity will make the milk flow into baby’s mouth much, much faster. 

3. Tickle baby’s mouth with the bottle and wait for baby to open wide and latch himself onto the bottle. Don’t wiggle the bottle into baby’s mouth.

4. Watch baby closely. If he slows down or stops sucking, take the bottle out of his mouth or tip the milk back out of the nipple. What’s happening here is that baby needs a break, but the milk continues to drip into the back of his throat, so he must reflexively start swallowing again. Also, a lot of people have the tendency to wiggle the bottle to prompt the baby to start sucking again, which interrupts the baby’s rest period.

5. Stop baby every half-ounce or so to burp. If he gets really upset at this, try giving him a pacifier to suck intermittently and while burping. 

6. Try to stretch the feeding to 15 minutes or longer. If you can’t stretch it that long, make sure you wait at least that long to decide whether or not that bottle was “enough.” Use the pacifier and other soothing techniques to hold him off for those 15-20 minutes. 

Sometimes, when a baby is really set in his bottle guzzling ways, he can get really mad when you start pacing his feedings. Just be patient with him and keep doing it. Soon, he will learn that the milk isn’t going anywhere and he will start to allow paced bottle feeding.