Tommee Tipps

If you're bottle feeding your little one with breastmilk or formula, you may have come across the term 'paced feeding'. But what exactly is paced bottle feeding, and how can you do it too?

A Complete Guide to Paced Bottle Feeding

If you're bottle feeding your little one with breastmilk or formula, you may have come across the term 'paced feeding'. But what exactly is paced bottle feeding, and how can you do it too?

Keep reading for guidance about this baby feeding technique.

What is paced bottle feeding?

Paced bottle feeding simply means letting your little one take the lead when it comes to feeding time. It means they can decide when they're full, rather than requiring them to finish a whole bottle in one go.

It’s sometimes referred to as "responsive" or "on demand" feeding, and basically means that you’re following your baby's cues.

It involves slowing the flow of milk (expressed breast milk or formula) into the bottle's teat and baby's mouth. This feeding method gives them extra control over the pace of their feed and how much they eat. 

Paced feeding mimics the stop-start motion of breastfeeding and gives them the chance to check in on their own appetite.

What are the benefits of paced bottle feeding?

The benefits of paced feeding include that it…

  • Helps reduce overfeeding and obesity risk in childhood.
  • Reduces air intake when feeding, meaning less uncomfortable trapped wind and general digestive discomfort.
  • Allows your baby to vary how they feed based on their needs.
  • Means parents can identify feeding cues from their baby.
  • Can make transitioning between bottle and breastfeeding easier because your baby is less likely to get used to the fast, constant flow of a regular bottle feed and reject your breast.

How do I start the paced bottle feeding technique?

Getting started with paced feeding requires you to feed based on your little one's early hunger cues, rather than on a set time schedule.

These early hunger cues can include baby…

  • Sucking their hands or fingers.
  • Moving their eyes around.
  • Rooting around or looking for the teat of the bottle.
  • Wriggling and becoming restless.
  • Opening and closing their mouth.

Once they're showing you these early signs that they're hungry, you can follow these paced feeding steps…

  1. First, hold your baby in an upright position (so they're almost sitting up) to give them more control over the flow of milk.
  2. Let your little one suck on the bottle's teat/nipple without any milk in it for a few seconds.
  3. Hold their bottle in a horizontal position and only tilt it slightly so that there's always milk in the teat/nipple.
  4. Encourage your baby to latch onto the bottle as they would when breastfeeding. Don’t force the teat/nipple into their mouth.
  5. Their lips should rest on the wider part of the bottle's teat/nipple. If the flow of milk from the bottle seems too fast or slow for your baby, it might help to try a different teat.
  6. Once they're feeding with a comfortable latch, you can encourage them to take breaks. When they need to pause feeding, you can rest the bottle teat/nipple gently against their lips or use the time to wind them.
  7. When they're ready, your baby will begin feeding again.
  8. While paced feeding, you can switch which side you're holding the bottle and your baby on. This will mimic breastfeeding and keeps your little one stimulated.
  9. When they're showing signs that they're done (like relaxing their body, becoming sleepy, or turning away from their bottle) don’t try and force your baby to eat more. It can help to serve expressed breastmilk or formula in smaller quantities when you're just starting out to avoid any going to waste!

When should I start paced bottle feeding with my baby?

If you can, it's a good idea to establish a good breastfeeding routine for six to eight weeks before you introduce your little one to a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula.

Some babies will get straight into the flow of paced bottle feeding, while others will take some time to get used to it. But if you're returning to work or your baby is suffering from colic symptoms, getting them used to paced feeding can really help them transition smoothly from breast to bottle (and back again) when needed.

Paced bottle feeding FAQs

What type of bottle do I need for paced feeding?

Using a bottle teat/nipple with a slower flow that resembles a real life nipple when paced feeding will mimic the flow of breastmilk from the breast, and encourages your baby to suck more.

When it comes to the actual bottle you use, it's just a case of experimenting with different shapes and sizes to see what suits you!

When your baby is feeding, their lips should rest on the wider part of the bottle's teat/nipple. If the milk flow from the bottle you're using seems too fast for your baby, you may need to try a different bottle.

Signs to look out for that indicate the milk flow is too fast include your baby…

  • Grimacing during a feed.
  • Choking or gagging.
  • Having blue lips.
  • Letting milk overflows from their mouth.
  • Flaring their nostrils.
  • Opening their eyes wide.

Does paced feeding help with my baby’s development?

Healthline suggests that paced feeding "reduces stomach issues associated with overfeeding or eating too quickly" and "establishes good eating habits from a very young age, which can last a lifetime".

How long does a paced bottle feeding session last?

Paced feed timings will vary from one baby to the next. In general, they'll last as long as it takes for your baby to decide when they're no longer hungry, usually around 20 minutes.

Will paced feeding help with bonding?

Absolutely! This method is designed to be slower and responsive.

Taking a few breaks mid-feed gives you both a chance to enjoy loving eye contact, snuggle and bond. Babies grow so quickly, and before you know it, they'll be ready to begin weaning and moving onto solids. So, paced feeds offer a great opportunity for you to spend some quality one-on-one time together.