Being a parent is all about adapting to changes and transitions. Milestones, as they are often referred to, are significant changes in your baby’s cognitive, developmental, and motor skills. From sleeping through the night to sitting up, milestones are exciting transitions for both a baby and parents. A significant milestone for exclusively breastfed babies is the transition into bottle feeding. There are many reasons why a baby who is exclusively breastfeeding may need to transition into bottle feeding. Paced bottle feeding is a technique that makes this change easier for both baby and mom.
Paced bottle feeding is a method used to help transition babies from breastfeeding to eating through a bottle. This technique mimics the flow of milk, similar to breastfeeding and can help ensure a smooth transition. As breastfeeding mamas know, the flow of milk through a breast is very different from that of a bottle. There are many bottles available to help transition your baby comfortably. However, using the paced bottle feeding technique can help your baby adjust to this new way of feeding.
This method allows your baby to drink until they are full, very similar to breastfeeding. By using this method, your baby may not finish the entire bottle right away. However, as you and your baby establish a consistent feeding routine, you will know how to adjust the amount of milk you are serving correctly.
The first step to beginning paced bottle feeding your baby is to find the right bottle. There are many different brands that market a “natural” feel or nipple to babies transition from breast to bottle. Truth be told, since every baby is different, finding the right bottle might be through trial and error. There are so many bottles available, and it may be overwhelming trying to find the right one. As with every new process and milestone, patience is a necessity. For my baby and myself, the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottle worked best for us. Not only did it have a nipple that resembled and felt like my own, but there’s also an anti-colic valve. It was also super easy to clean, which is a huge plus!
After choosing your bottle, it’s time to begin! Paying attention to your baby’s hunger cues is very important when paced bottle feeding. Your baby will show signs of hunger by smacking their lips, turning their head towards your chests (also known as rooting), or by straight up crying! Paced bottle feeding is centered around feeding your baby when they are hungry, rather than on a timed schedule.
When the baby is ready to eat, hold them in an upright position, at a slight incline, and offer the bottle to your baby. This can help prevent colic. You can try to lightly touch the bottle on the baby’s lips. Your baby may refuse but usually, if they are hungry, they will open their mouth and “latch” onto the bottle.
Once the baby is latched on, here’s where the paced bottle feeding method comes into play. By keeping the bottle in a horizontal position, the baby controls the flow of milk. Try alternating the flow, by not letting the milk reach the nipple, similar to the flow of breastmilk. Try to mimic a breastfeeding session as much as possible, switching baby to a different side and letting them stop for a break. Not only does this help the transition from breast to bottle, but the paced bottle feeding technique will help your baby recognize when they are full, which they will show signs of by maybe opening a closed fist, falling asleep, or giving up the bottle altogether.
Similar to breastfeeding, don’t expect your baby to gulp down a bottle in one sitting. Patience is vital when with this method, as not only is it a new process, but the goal is to mimic breastfeeding as much as possible, especially if you’re transitioning from exclusively breastfeeding to bottle feeding. It can be frustrating when your baby doesn’t take to the bottle right away. You may need to consider trying a different bottle or waiting for the baby to give those cues that they’re really hungry. If you ever have questions or concerns that your baby isn’t eating properly or enough, we recommend consulting your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
There are many reasons why a mom should consider using the paced bottle feeding method to transition her baby to use bottles. For a mama that has to go back to work after being on maternity leave and has been exclusively breastfeeding, she may consider pumping breast milk to give her baby while she is away and transitioning to a bottle is necessary when the baby is left in someone else’s care.
Paced bottle feeding is also great for formula-fed babies. Since it’s more of a “baby-led” technique, this method helps avoid over or underfeeding baby. Both formula and breastmilk are extremely valuable. Not only do you want to make sure that the baby is getting enough nutrients so that they can thrive and grow, but paced bottle feeding also helps make sure that you’re not wasting any precious milk by over-serving the baby. You may have some instances where you’re over or under serving milk at first, but one of the many benefits of paced bottle feeding is that you establish a feeding routine that’s custom to your baby and eventually can figure out how much they need before they get full.
Paced bottle feeding can also help you understand your milk supply if you are breastfeeding. If you’re overfeeding your baby, it can be difficult trying to pump to make up for the extra milk. However, by allowing your baby to lead the process, you can have a better understanding of how much milk they need. This will help you pump the right amount since you produce breastmilk on a supply and demand basis.
Did you know that using the paced bottle feeding technique can also help prevent colic? Yup, you read that right! By using proper positioning, your baby will swallow less air while eating. Therefore creating less gas and discomfort for your baby, (and more sleep for mama!).
As we all know, breastfeeding is an intimate and unique experience between a mother and her baby. Dads, grandparents, and other caregivers may want to bond similarly with baby, and paced bottle feeding is a great way to do so. Since paced bottle feeding mimics breastfeeding, other caregivers can use this feeding time as their way to create a bond with the baby.
The paced bottle is a process that transitions your baby to achieving one of many future milestones. Understanding your baby’s cues and patience is a skill worth learning, the results and benefits are totally worth it. Paced bottle feeding helps establish healthy eating habits for the future and can also help others bond with baby similarly (but not exactly) to the way mom and baby bond while breastfeeding. Good luck and enjoy this and all the other milestones you will share with your baby!
Have some questions about feeding? Feel free to list them in the comments! Also, check out our Rookie Moms Facebook Group, it’s a great group of moms where you can share your experiences, ask for advice and even help out another mom!
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