How To Bottle Feed A Breastfed Baby
Are you breastfeeding? Thinking about using a bottle? If you are, it’s SO important to learn how to bottle feed a breastfed baby! And the best way is with paced bottle feeding.
Breastfeeding is very different from bottle feeding, and sometimes introducing a bottle can cause nipple confusion. Some babies don’t do well switching back and forth so the most important thing to do is make bottle feeding more like breastfeeding.
Don’t worry, the steps are easy to follow. Read on for tips about the best way to feed a breastfed baby with a bottle.
Paced Bottle Feeding: Step-By-Step
Here are the simple steps to take when paced bottle feeding a breastfed baby:
- Wash your hands, read directions, and prepare formula or warm breast milk.
- Hold your baby in a comfortable position, upright. Make sure their neck is supported but don’t restrict their head from moving.
- Place the bottle nipple near your baby’s mouth, stroke their lips, and wait for your baby to open their mouth.
- Gently put the bottle nipple in your baby’s mouth after they open it to accept it.
- Keep the bottle horizontal (make sure the milk is in the tip of the bottle and your baby isn’t sucking air).
- Let your baby pause and take breaths. During the pauses, you can remove the bottle and then start again when your baby is ready.
- Feed your baby until they are full. Don’t try to feed baby more after they are finished, it’s okay to not finish the entire bottle.
- Burp your baby. Place them against your chest with a burp cloth underneath. Bounce, rock, and pat your baby’s back to expel swallowed air.
- Discard unused formula or milk after 4 hours. Your baby’s mouth introduces bacteria into the bottle, so if they don’t finish the bottle within 4 hours then discard it.
Follow the steps above when paced bottle feeding a breastfed baby. It shouldn’t be as simple as tilting your baby back and letting the entire bottle drain into their mouth. A breastfed baby that’s using a bottle needs a little more care to avoid nipple confusion or preferring the bottle.
If you are a pumping mom and giving expressed breast milk, pump following the above steps. Try to pump at least as many ounces as your baby eats. If you can’t pump enough, leave the pump on for 5-10 minutes after you see the last drops of milk in order to give your breasts the stimulation they need to maintain milk supply.
Make Paced Bottle-Feeding Resemble Breastfeeding
The reason there are so many steps is because it’s critical to make bottle feeding resemble breastfeeding! For a breastfed baby, the bottle should be similar to breastfeeding.
Too often, we try to feed our babies quickly with a bottle. It makes sense to want to finish the feeding in little time – babies can be overwhelming.
But if we tilt our baby back, pop the nipple in their mouth, and let gravity drain the milk into their mouth they might grow used to the bottle. It makes feedings faster, and the baby doesn’t have to work as hard to draw the milk out.
That could lead to your baby preferring the bottle over breastfeeding.
There are many reasons why this isn’t good.
First, it can be devastating for a mom when her baby refuses to breastfeed. They’ll cry and become upset every time, but happy suck down a bottle.
Second, it isn’t good for babies to eat too fast.
Babies can become overfull when they don’t control the flow themselves. Overfullness can lead to more spit ups, colic, gas, and overall fussiness. The baby often doesn’t realize they’re full until it’s too late and they’ve had more milk than they can handle.
Because of these reasons, try to make bottle feeding resemble breastfeeding!
Paced Bottle Feeding
Allowing a baby to control the feeding is called paced bottle feeding. The person feeding the baby with a bottle will help pace them.
With paced bottle feeding, hold the bottle horizontal. This is the first step to giving the baby more control over the feeding. It takes gravity out of the situation and helps baby draw the amount of milk they need.
Additionally, it may be helpful to use a newborn sized bottle nipple. A smaller nipple will encourage your baby to suck more to get the milk out.
When feeding, pay close attention to the baby. They will have times of sucking and swallowing and then take a rest.
When your baby rests, pace them.
That means either tilt the bottle so there’s no milk in the nipple, or remove it from their mouth completely. Then, when your baby is ready to start suckling again, offer them the bottle.
Paced feeding works well for breastfed babies because it helps them take control of the feeding. It resembles breastfeeding and helps make the transition from breast to bottle and back easier.
How Long Should A Paced Bottle Feeding Take?
For a breastfed baby, a paced bottle feeding should take as long as a typical breastfeeding session. Typically newborns will feed for longer than older babies. They are still trying to figure out how to use their mouth and suck-swallow-breathe pattern.
As babies get older, feedings may start to go faster so try and pay attention to how long breastfeeding typically takes each time.
For newborns, it’s common for a feeding to take 30 minutes or longer. Try to make a paced bottle feeding last that long too. Especially in the first few months, it’s important to reinforce breastfeeding to avoid nipple confusion. Keeping feedings the same length of time will help your baby to not become used to quick, easy feeds.
Additionally feeding a baby too fast can result in colic, gas, or discomfort. When a baby eats too much too fast, their bodies are stressed.
Take time, let the baby lead the feeding and don’t force things to happen too fast! If your baby doesn’t finish the bottle but stops feeding, that’s okay. Just feed them the next time they are hungry.
Paced Bottle Feeding Technique
It might be tempting to bottle feed your baby laying down.
Your baby will finish the bottle much faster… but it isn’t as good for them!
As I mentioned earlier, when paced bottle feeding a breastfed baby, it’s important to keep the bottle as similar to the breast as possible.
A baby should be upright in order to keep the bottle horizontal and reduce the effect of gravity. This way, the baby can control the amount and speed of milk flow.
Additionally, feeding upright will help your baby avoid other problems. When babies are fed lying down, they are at risk for ear infections. Keeping them upright will minimize that risk and keep baby healthy.
If you have a baby that spits up frequently or has reflux, feeding them upright will only help.
To feed your baby upright, cradle them in the nook of your arm. If your baby’s head needs support, hold them against your chest and upper arm.
Offer the bottle, keeping it horizontal with milk in the tip of the nipple for feeding.
Paced Bottle Feeding A Breastfed Baby: Tips
Now that you know the ins and outs of bottle feeding a breastfed baby, here are some tips to help along the way!
1. Expect paced bottle feeding to be different.
Bottle feeding will be different than breastfeeding. Each baby and mom might find something different about the experience. For example, when bottle feeding there may be a difference in how your baby tolerates the milk.
Even when using expressed breast milk, the content is different than when breastfeeding. This has to do with foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is the watery, thin milk found at the beginning of a feeding. Hindmilk is higher in fat and is found at the end of a feeding.
When a baby breastfeeds, the amount of fat content can actually change throughout the feeding. When babies eat faster, our body responds by putting more fat into the milk (making it more hindmilk heavy).
When giving expressed milk, there may not be as much fat in the milk as if the baby were breastfeeding. Sometimes when babies don’t get enough hindmilk, they become more gassy and spit up more.
If formula is used to bottle feed, there are all sorts of ways it could be different. Some babies don’t tolerate formula well. They may act fussy, be gassy, cry more, and have more spit-ups. Additionally formula feeding can cause a decrease in breast milk supply because it is harder to digest meaning your baby won’t feed as frequently. Be sure to pump as much breast milk as the amount your baby is eating in order to keep your milk supply up.
Additionally, breastfeeding brings comfort. You may notice that after paced bottle feeding your baby is more cuddly or more fussy. They may just feel like they need more skin-to-skin or cuddles from mommy because they didn’t get the same experience from bottle feeding.
2. Don’t mix breast milk and formula.
Some babies need to be supplemented with a little bit of formula. The best way to supplement is to give a bottle of breast milk followed by a bottle of formula.
I know it means more dishes…
But if you mix breast milk with formula, you may end up wasting your breast milk.
When you have a limited amount of breast milk because of low supply, it’s important to give your baby all you have. Breast milk is so good for your baby that you don’t want to waste it or accidentally replace it with formula!
So, give your baby all that you have expressed for the feeding and then supplement with formula afterwards.
You can also try breastfeeding before offering either bottle because babies are more efficient than breast pumps!
3. Supplementing can decrease milk supply.
If you’ve been told to supplement by your baby’s doctor then pay attention to your milk supply.
While supplementing is necessary for some babies, it can cause unforeseen consequences. In most cases, supplementing isn’t necessary but ultimately it’s unique to each baby and situation.
When giving formula, your baby may go longer between feedings. Formula is harder for your baby to digest therefore it takes longer.
If you want to keep your milk supply up and breastfeed in the future (or continue breastfeeding as much as possibly right now), you need to be diligent in pumping or expressing milk.
Your body produces milk based on the signals it gets from your baby (or pump). The more milk expressed, the more your body will make.
When supplementing with formula, you may not be expressing enough breast milk which can result in a drop of your milk supply.
To avoid this, just be sure to pump AT LEAST the amount of milk/formula your baby is eating. If you notice that the flow of milk stops, just leave the pump on for 5-10 minutes. Even if nothing comes out, the action of the pump still gives your body stimulation and a signal to increase your supply.
4. Babies sometimes reject breastfeeding after being bottle fed.
After introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby, you might notice a change in breastfeeding. Bottles are completely different from breastfeeding. A bottle is more rewarding than breastfeeding for many reasons:
- The flow of milk is instant once starting to suck – your baby doesn’t have to wait for a let-down.
- The nipple is firm and gives your baby something easy to latch on to.
- The flow of milk is often faster and more instantly satisfying with a bottle.
- Your baby doesn’t have to work as hard to get the milk out.
- When using formula, your baby may feel full longer (because it’s difficult to digest).
Those reasons can make your baby start to refuse breastfeeding. It’s an extremely common problem, so if this happens to you don’t stress. There are ways to overcome it, and a lactation consultant might be a big help.
5. Pumps aren’t as effective as babies at removing milk.
Breast pumps aren’t nearly as effective at removing breast milk as a baby is. When a baby suckles, they give your body a hormone response that helps the milk release (or let-down).
Babies also are able to form a vacuum with their mouth while massaging the milk out with their tongue. The motion a baby uses with their tongue to expel milk is unique and effective.
A breast pump only uses a vacuum to draw the milk out, so isn’t as effective.
Many moms worry when they express breast milk with a pump because it looks like they don’t produce very much milk.
But, rest assured.
Your baby would be able to express much more breast milk than the pump ever can. That’s why I recommend leaving the pump on for at least 5 minutes after the last drop of milk is seen. The stimulation of the pump tells your body that you still need more milk, and it will respond by increasing your supply.
Keep this in mind when giving your baby a bottle. If you have the option to breastfeed, it is always the best option for your milk supply! Your baby will be able to draw milk out better, they will eat to fullness, and your breasts will have the perfect amount of stimulation to respond and make milk.
6. Don’t force your baby to take the entire bottle.
Paced bottle feeding is much different than breastfeeding in the simple fact that you can see how much milk your baby eats.
Sometimes it can lead to problems, though. Moms worry about a lot of things! One of those is whether or not their baby is eating enough.
Allow your baby to lead the feeding process. If they stop feeding and act full, don’t try to force them to take more. Just like your baby will stop breastfeeding when they’re satisfied, allow them to stop bottle feeding.
Forcing a baby to take more than they need can result in them being over-full. Instead, pay attention to how your baby acts after feeding. If they wake 20 minutes later and act hungry, then let them finish the bottle.
But if they don’t, that’s okay! Let your baby tell you when they’re hungry and feed them accordingly.
7. Feed to hunger cues, not to a schedule.
That brings me to my final tip! Feed your baby according to their hunger cues, not to a schedule.
All babies are different. They’re little people just like you and me!
I usually eat 5 or 6 small meals a day. But my husband eats 2 or 3 large meals a day. Neither of us would be happy with the others eating schedule.
Babies are quite similar!
Some babies want to feed frequently throughout the day while others want fewer, larger feedings.
The best way to feed is by following your baby’s hunger cues. Your baby will start to rouse, move their mouth and tongue, suck on their fingers and hands, clench their fists and act uncomfortable.
When you notice their cues, feed them until they relax, unclench their fists and act satisfied. This applies to either breastfeeding or bottle feeding. Allow your baby to lead feedings. It’s more natural and might lead to a much happier baby throughout the day.
Paced Bottle Feeding Video
Paced Bottle Feeding A Breastfed Baby: Conclusion
In conclusion, paced bottle feeding a breastfed baby comes with a lot of things to think about! If you really want to keep breastfeeding, try to make the bottle as similar to a breastfeeding experience as possible.
If you run into trouble, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Join an online breastfeeding support group or find a lactation counselor to help you.
Kealy Hawk, BSN, RN, CLC
Kealy is a Registered Nurse, Lactation Counselor, and most importantly a mommy! Her own baby feeding struggles gave her a passion to help moms throughout their feeding journey. She specializes in breastfeeding support and evidence-based formula recommendations. To talk with Kealy or take one of her breastfeeding or formula classes, visit https://littlebearcare.com.