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Paced Bottle Feeding

The paced bottle feeding technique is designed to mimic the flow of milk from the breast and allow baby to experience a comfortable feed. When you decide to give your baby a bottle, it’s good to be aware of, and respond to baby’s feeding cues.  

Baby cues

Babies show several cues to indicate that they are ready to feed—look for and respond to these early feeding cues that baby displays including:

  • eye movement under closed lids (rapid eye movement).
  • increased alertness, awakening or changes in facial expression.
  • movement of arms or legs.
  • tossing, turning or wriggling.
  • mouthing.
  • rooting—opening their mouth and searching to suck on contact.
  • clicking or tongue sucking.
  • hand movements to their mouth and sucking on hands.
  • squeaking noises or light fussing.

Crying is a late sign of hunger. Avoid waiting for this sign as a crying baby can be more disorganised and therefore more difficult to feed.

Giving your baby a paced bottle feed

  • Test the temperature of the feed by shaking a little milk from the teat onto the inside of the wrist. It should feel like body temperature to warm, but not hot.
  • Position baby upright and closely against your chest, encouraging skin and eye contact. Switching from one side to the other half way through the feed will encourage eye stimulation and development while avoiding a preference to one side. 
  • Stroke baby’s lip from top to bottom with the teat to stimulate a rooting response. When the baby’s mouth opens to accept the teat, gently allow the teat to be drawn into the mouth rather than pushing it in. The baby should have a wide gape, with relaxed flanged lips holding the teat deeply in the mouth
  • As the baby begins to suck, hold the bottle in a horizontal position.
  • As the baby pauses, lower the base of the bottle so that milk no longer fills the teat while keeping the teat in the baby’s mouth.
  • As baby begins to suck again, raise the level of the bottle back to the horizontal so that milk is again available in the teat.
  • If the baby dozes and releases the teat before the bottle is empty, this signals the end of the feed.
  • The feed should not take more than 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Never leave a baby to feed alone or with a propped bottle as this increases the risk of choking.
  • Do not put an infant to sleep while drinking a bottle as this increases the risk of ear infection and choking while the pooling of milk increases the risk of dental caries.

Other considerations

  • If your baby is consistently not taking enough milk, check your baby’s output and consult medical officer if concerned.
  • Any milk left in a bottle after completion of a feed will be discarded and not kept for use in a later feed.
  • For breastmilk storage guidelines, click on the link for the Mater Mothers patient information brochures site for Expressing breast milk
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430192
Last modified 25/5/2020.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 14/5/2020
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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