Introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby: Paced Responsive Feeding Technique

The health benefits of breast milk are well known but in reality it’s hard to breast feed all the time when you go back to work etc. The paced feeding technique means you can use a bottle of your precious expressed milk and it still allows you to go from breast to bottle and back, overall helping mums to breastfeed for longer.

Focus on breastfeeding first
In the first few weeks after birth you should focus on establishing a good nursing relationship between you and your baby. Once you become comfortable with breastfeeding, around six to eight weeks, you may consider expressing your breastmilk and introducing a bottle and this is where the paced feeding technique comes in.

Relax: offer, don’t push!
The bottle should be introduced in a ‘stress-free’ manner. Your baby should be encouraged to draw the bottle teat into its mouth; it should never be forced.
Top Tip! Try stroking the bottle teat against the infant’s cheek, then lips.

When the teat enters the mouth, the teat should be angled slightly upward, toward the roof of the mouth rather than pushing the teat against the tongue. If your baby resists, you should take a break and try again later. It’s important that mum and baby are in a stress free environment.

Offering the very first bottle
When offering your baby its first bottle, start with just 30ml (1fl.oz) of expressed breast milk. This way you will not worry about wasting your precious breast milk, if your baby rejects the bottle. If your little one finishes the milk and wants more, offer another 30ml. Once they seem comfortable with the bottle, gradually increase the volume in 15ml increments.

Helping your baby adjust to the bottle
Hopefully your baby will easily take a bottle the first time it’s offered to them. Though sometimes your baby may require more time to become comfortable with accepting a very new way to eat. You should always stay patient, calm, positive and consistent – remember this is a new skill for your baby. Some infants are more willing to drink from a bottle when drowsy or when not hungry and you may find this an ideal first time to introduce a bottle of expressed breast milk.

Beware of the bottle feeding ‘holiday’
One of the biggest anxieties for mum as her return to work date approaches is your baby will not take a bottle. You shouldn’t assume that because your baby drank from a bottle once, possibly many weeks ago, that your little one will remember the skill of bottle feeding. This skill needs to be kept familiar and you should avoid a bottle feeding ‘holiday’ (i.e. five to seven days without a practice bottle). Some babies will do fine with a rare or occasional bottle, but other babies, even those who had previously taken a bottle readily, will refuse when the bottle is re-introduced after a holiday. Every other day, or about three of four bottles a week, is usually enough to keep the skill familiar. If a full feed with a bottle isn’t needed, just 30ml is enough to keep the practice familiar.

Paced, responsive feeding positions
All who care for your baby should be encouraged to bottle feed with close physical contact, changing positions several times throughout the feed and pausing often to play with your baby. Your baby should be bottle fed in a semi upright position with the bottle teat almost horizontal (though filled with milk). This allows your baby to better control the flow and avoid being overwhelmed by too much milk at once. In the typical ‘reclined and cradled’ bottle feeding position, the bottled milk will flow faster and your baby will need to drink faster in order to keep up with the flow. A more upright position will help pace the feeding. If your baby pauses to rest or take a deeper breath, this is a cue for you to remove the bottle, talk or to burp them, or take a little break from bottle feeding. You should never prop a bottle – this can lead to choking. There is no need to pull the bottle away from your baby if it’s actively sucking happily just because it’s been 5 minutes or 30ml. Instead, wait for a natural pause to remove the bottle for a break, engage with eye contact, play with them or maybe they need a burp.

The paced feeding technique is a practical way to introduce a bottle for your baby but still protects breastfeeding. This gives Mum and Dad a bit more freedom whilst still allowing your child to get all the nutrients needed from Mum’s breast milk.

Visit the Lansinoh website for more information on the Paced Responsive Feeding Technique and our Feeding Bottle with NaturalWave™ Teat  specifically designed to be used in this way.