Paced Bottle Feeding: What is it and why?
With abysmal family leave policy in America, many new mothers and fathers find themselves returning to work outside the home sooner than they like. For the breastfeeding mother, this brings up the question of how to continue their breastfeeding relationship. The great news is - you CAN continue to breastfeed while working. An integral part to this will be how breast milk is given to the baby when mama is away. This is where paced bottle feeding comes in. If you are the breastfeeding mother, you will want to share this information with any caregivers who will be feeding your baby while you are away.
What is Paced Bottle Feeding?
Paced Bottle Feeding, or PBF, is a method of giving the baby a bottle in a manner which mimics breastfeeding. This method is generally recommended for both breastfed and formula fed babies in order to avoid overfeeding. By pacing the feeds, the baby can recognize when they are full, and avoid developing a bottle preference (not to be mistaken for “nipple confusion”). Bottle preference can occur when babies receive immediate results from a bottle being poured into their mouth with little effort on their part. Breastfeeding does not work this way - the baby suckles in order to elicit a letdown, which can sometimes take a minute or two.
How Do I Paced Bottle Feed?
When baby is showing their signs of hunger, sit them up almost vertically (you are trying to avoid “dumping” the milk down their throat). If the baby is so small their head still tilts back, prop them in the crook of your arm as much as you can. Hold the bottle horizontally, with milk filling the teat about halfway. Just like the baby comes to the breast on their own, allow baby to latch themselves to the bottle. Rest the teat on their philtrum (the little dent on their upper lip) and they will latch.
Every couple of minutes or so, tip the bottle down and allow baby to take a breather. When they want to continue, they will come at the teat again. It’s important to take these breaks - hence the name “paced” - so they can register when their tiny tummies are full. If the bottle is continuously pouring into their mouth, they will swallow in an attempt to keep from feeling like they’re drowning. This is what leads to overfeeding - and with a breastfed baby, what can lead to a freezer stash dwindling at a rapid rate.
A bottle should take about fifteen to twenty minutes to drink. It’s also ideal to switch arms you’re holding the baby in about halfway through the feed - this gives them a new perspective! Think about when mom is breastfeeding - when mom switches breasts, the baby gets to look at the world from a new direction. Some older babies may want to face out when being fed, and this is fine too. The key elements remain the same.
For visual learners, I really like this YouTube video about the method:
If you have questions about feeding your baby away from the breast, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your International Board Certified Lactation Consultant - we are experts in this area as well. Paced Bottle Feeding is an important tool that can be used to continue your breastfeeding relationship even while you are away from your baby.