What is Paced Bottle Feeding?

Mother bottle-feeding baby in bed

Read time: 4 minutes

What to know about the paced bottle feeding method:

  • What is paced bottle feeding
  • When should paced bottle feeding be used
  • How to do paced bottle feeding

Paced bottle feeding is a bottle feeding method that helps baby control the speed with which they eat.1, 2 This often means a slower pace that lets your little one take breaks when needed.1 Paced bottle feeding helps prevent overfeeding and allows your baby to be in tune with their strong internal hunger and fullness cues.2

Read on to learn all about paced bottle feeding.

Paced bottle feeding is responsive feeding

Paced bottle feeding is based on the concept of responsive feeding, which is following your baby’s hunger and fullness cues.4 Letting your baby lead the way with how much they eat has been shown to help build healthy eating habits as well as help reduce the risk of feeding problems in the future.3, 4

Read more: Understanding your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Feeding

When is paced bottle feeding used?

Paced bottle feeding allows for baby (not caregiver) to control how much milk they take in. It is recommended for all babies who feed from a bottle – whether exclusively or in combination with feeding at the breast.1

Since it closely replicates the pacing of breastfeeding, paced bottle feeding may be particularly helpful for breastfed babies who are having difficulty latching or who are away from mom temporarily.2

Using paced bottle feeding in these instances is thought to help avoid nipple confusion.2 

Paced bottle feeding is particularly effective for younger infants.2

Read more: Top Latching Tips

Read more: Sore Nipples

How to do paced bottle feed:

  1. Always feed baby on demand, and never on a schedule.
  2. Hold baby close to your body and mostly upright, supporting their neck.
  3. Take the bottle and place the nipple at the tip of baby’s lips or stroke the baby’s lips with it. This will help baby open their mouth on their own accord rather than the bottle being forced in.
  4. Allow baby to suck the bottle into their mouth. Wide neck bottles used to be encouraged for paced feeding, but many lactation professionals now recommend the narrower nipples to help baby “latch” better.2
  5. Keep the bottle as horizontal as possible to allow milk to be drawn out by baby but not “drip” into baby’s mouth. The bottle will have to be tipped more and more vertically as the milk is being drunk.
  6. Pause after every 3 to 5 swallows to allow baby to breath and take a break. To do this, tip the bottle nipple down.
  7. In a few seconds baby will start to suck again; tip the bottle back up for baby to relatch.  This pattern helps baby attain a natural rhythm; as feeding at the breast is a pattern of sucks followed by pausing to breathe and swallow.
  8. Follow this pattern until baby shows signs they are full and would like to stop feeding1,2,7,8,9

Read more: Should I Feed My Baby on Demand or on a Schedule?

Tips for using paced bottle feeding

Use a slow flow nipple

A newborn ,or slow-flow, nipple allows baby to put forth effort into the feeding, helping to slow it down.2 This also gives baby time to help figure out when they are full.

Read more: Choosing the Right Bottles and Nipples

How long should a bottle-feeding session be?

If your little one can down a bottle in 5 to 10 minutes, the flow of milk is likely too fast and your baby may not be able to listen to their fullness cues.2 If the feeding takes longer than 30 minutes, the flow may be too slow.2

(Note: as baby learns to use paced bottle feeding, you may get a few feedings that are this long, but they should get more efficient at feedings after that).

Typically, a baby at the breast will take about 15 to 20 minutes total per feeding, this is about how long a bottle-fed baby should feed as well.2

Educate other family members and care providers about using paced bottle feeding

Remember that paced feeding can take some practice for both you, your baby, and anyone else who may be feeding your little one.

Listen to baby’s hunger and fullness cues

Helping your baby slow down their feeds allows them to regulate their intake. This means your little one may be telling you they want less (or more!) than what you are providing. Make sure everyone who is feeding your baby knows to listen to baby’s feeding and understanding it’s okay to stop before the bottle is empty.4

Let’s Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

What Do I Need to Know About Supplementing with Formula, Breastfeeding, and Pumping?

Breast to Bottle: How To Transition

How Much Formula Does Your Baby Need?

Feeding Tips for Healthy Weight Gain in Babies and Toddlers

Supporting Adequate Milk Supply

Breastfeeding positioning

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