One of the biggest concerns new moms have is how to feed their babies when they aren’t there. Whether you are exclusively pumping, going back to work, or just getting prepared for a date night or mama night out, it is possible to bottle feed and not derail your breastfeeding journey. However, it’s vital to ensure that all caregivers are educated on paced bottle feeding.
Never heard of paced bottle feeding? It is used to allow baby to experience the same or similar flow of milk and the sensation of breastfeeding while they are bottle feeding. This prevents babies being overfed or getting used to a fast flow from the bottle nipple.
A woman’s breast does not immediately give baby the goods. Baby first has to establish a good latch, suck for a while, and then the milk in mama’s breast lets down. The amount of milk that comes out at one time is usually fairly low as well. Essentially, the baby has to work for his or her food. Nature has designed this amazing process to work this way for several reasons. Baby is able to completely control the flow rate and the amount of milk they take in.
When you introduce a bottle, if it is not properly used, the baby no longer has to work for milk. The bottle nipple may release too much milk too quickly, the baby won’t be able to control the flow, the caretaker may overfeed the baby. If you continue to incorrectly feed on a bottle, then the baby will get frustrated with mom’s breast and successful breastfeeding becomes more difficult. Other issues may present themselves as well, such as baby being overfed, causing their little tummies to get stretched - creating a cycle of more overfeeding and more stretching.
With paced bottle feeding, you use the slowest flow nipple possible. You then allow the baby to suck on the nipple with no milk in it for a few seconds to mimic that waiting period before milk lets down. Then, only allow enough milk in the nipple to reach the hole in the nipple (you do this by keeping the bottle horizontal - never vertical or straight up and down). Do not keep the nipple completely full. Many moms worry about the air that baby may take in when the nipple isn’t full, but the baby takes in quite a bit of air when suckling at the breast as well. Just be sure to burp at appropriate intervals.
You will also want to be sure that the baby is sitting more upright rather than lying flat in your arms. This will help you further pace the baby’s feed. The goal is to maintain a similar duration and experience to breastfeeding so that your baby doesn’t realize there is a difference between bottle feeding and breastfeeding. Additionally, this helps them rely on their own natural instincts - controlling the flow rate and amount of milk they take in. They know how much their bodies need! However, if someone is continuing to pour milk in their mouths, they will continue to suckle and drink - they are no longer relying on their natural cues and instincts.
That’s why it is so important to pace the feed, keep the baby upright, keep the bottle in an appropriate position, and to let the baby bring the nipple into their mouth when they are ready. Take breaks where you tilt the bottle down, bringing the nipple out of their mouth and resting on their lips. Pay attention to their cues and notice when they are done.
You can’t always be with your baby to feed them, but she or he still has to eat. Bottle feeding does not have to mean the end of your breastfeeding journey, just be sure that all of your caretakers are aware of paced bottle feeding and help them understand how important this experience is to you. Making sure that everyone in baby’s life is on board will make a dramatic difference in your breastfeeding success.