Most babies, whether breast or formula fed, will drink from a bottle at some point. With all the breastfeeding support and education that is out there, there is very little help available to learn optimal bottle feeding. Most parents just assume it is as simple as putting the nipple in baby’s mouth and waiting for the bottle to be empty.
Breastfeeding is the feeding method babies are designed for, and should be our model for bottle feeding. Breast milk leaves the breast only when baby compresses and pulls on the nipple; and the amount of flow varies during a feeding as mom has a let down, then slower flow until another let down. The inside of a breast is a vacuum, collapsing as the milk is drained and with no pressure from air behind the milk as we find in the standard baby bottle. The air in a bottle and gravity both impact the speed that milk leaves the bottle while baby feeds. This is why you may notice that a baby can drain a 2 oz. bottle in 3 minutes, while it may take 10 minutes or longer to get that same volume of milk from the breast.
Think about that for a minute. Would you enjoy 2 oz of wine knocked back in a gulp or would you rather sip and savor that wine? I bet if you knock it right back you might go right back to the bottle for another glass…. And so your baby too may not feel sated after a bottle feeding of the same amount of milk that leaves him milk drunk at your breast. This is why moms returning to work often get complaints from their daycare providers that they are not sending in enough milk for baby.
There is a way to make bottle feedings more satisfying, more similar to breastfeeding, and more comfortable for your baby. The best way to bottle feed your baby is by mimicking the natural pace of breastfeeding. This method is called Paced Bottle Feeding. Rather than reinvent the wheel by detailing how it is done here, I will just say that it is a slower, more upright feeding method that removes some of the pressure of gravity and allows baby time to savor, suck, and breathe. Paced bottle feeding is also less likely to interfere with the breastfeeding relationship in babies that are both breast and bottle fed. It reduces gassiness and spitting up, and reduces the volume of milk needed to satisfy your baby. It makes baby not only happier, but healthier in the long run.
Please take the time to learn and practice paced bottle feeding and teach the people who will be feeding your baby about this better way to bottle feed. There are several links and videos listed below that will help you learn the mechanics of a paced bottle feeding.
Here is a great handout about Paced bottle feeding that you can print out and share with your baby’s caregivers:
Here are some videos that may help you visualize paced bottle feeding: