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At great personal risk, I’m going to say it: Some ways of feeding a baby are better than others.
And nope! I’m not talking about breastmilk vs. formula or the benefits of breast vs. bottle.
You see, infant feeding isn’t an activity that carries moral weight. You are not “right” or “wrong” or “good” or “bad” for feeding one way or another. But if you find yourself needing or wanting to use a bottle at any point, it’s important that you know about paced bottle feeding.
In other words: Breast milk, donor milk, formula milk–it doesn’t matter what’s in the bottle. What matters is how that bottle is fed.
Now I know what you might thinking: Really? It’s just a bottle! You put it in their mouth, and they drink! It’s simple. I know how to use a bottle and I’ve never had any problems!
Hear me out.
Paced feeding is a method of bottle feeding that slows down the feed. It’s beneficial for any baby that gets a bottle, regardless of the type of milk in the bottle. Here’s why:
IT PREVENTS OVERFEEDING
For the first 4-6 months of a baby’s life, sucking and swallowing is a reflex–an automatic behavior babies cannot help. When baby feels pressure on the roof of the mouth, the reflex is triggered. You can test this yourself by placing a pacifier or a clean finger pad side up in baby’s mouth.
Why does this matter? Because when a baby’s mouth fills with milk, they automatically swallow. In other words, babies can and do drink milk even if they aren’t actually hungry.
In fact, it’s not unusual for a breastfed baby to be willing to take a bottle after breastfeeding (this willingness is not a reliable sign of low supply).
And don’t forget: The breast and bottle don’t release milk the same way. Bottles have a continuous, faster flow of milk, whereas the breast has a slower flow of milk that only picks up during letdowns:
In one study of over 16,000 babies, bottle-fed babies drank 70% more milk than their breastfed counterparts by the age of 5 months (source).
As a result, it is VERY easy for bottle-fed babies to gulp down milk until they have taken in WAY more calories than they need. This can have health ramifications in the future–even when bottles contain pumped breastmilk–and puts babies at increased risk for obesity later in life (source, source).
Want to know the secret to better bottle feeding?
Overfeeding from a bottle happens way more often than you’d think. Reduce childhood obesity risk with the tips in this cheat sheet.
Paced feeding is a style of bottle feeding that mimics the flow and pace of milk from the breast. It helps babies self-regulate their own milk intake in a way they cannot with traditional bottle feeding (source).
PACED FEEDING IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT FOR BREASTFEEDING MOMS
When bottles are not pace fed, most babies will eventually start to drink milk faster than mom can pump it. They grow accustomed to larger volumes of milk and may act fussy when that demand isn’t met. This can leave you feeling like you aren’t producing enough milk, when really, baby is in the habit of drinking more than she needs.
Some parents try to combat this with more pumping or milk boosting cookies and teas (Spoiler Alert: There is virtually no evidence suggesting that milk boosting foods actually work!). But the reality is that the body is very efficient: It doesn’t like to be producing more milk than it needs.
Not only is trying to keep up with an overeating baby often not successful, but it also puts mom at increased risk for painful clogs and mastitis.
Another significant problem with traditional bottle feeding is that babies can become used to the fast, easy flow of the bottle and begin to reject the breast entirely.
This can be devastating, particularly if you aren’t wanting to exclusively pump and aren’t ready to end your breastfeeding journey.
Fortunately, paced bottle feeding helps avoid these problems! And it’s super easy to do!
READY TO LEARN HOW TO PACE FEED?
I’ve got you covered! Grab a free copy of how to pace bottle feed here, and be sure to print a copy for your baby’s caregiver. If your baby is suddenly resisting the breast or seeming dissatisfied, how bottles are being fed may very well be the culprit.
PRO-TIP: Need more info about pumping milk and creating a freezer stash?
NEVER RUN OUT OF
Everything you need to know about pumping and creating your freezer stash is all right here!