Paced Bottle Feeding

Bottles are not the only way to supplement a baby away from the breast though it is the most common alternative feeding method and perhaps the only one your caregiver feels comfortable with. Breastfed mothers are right to worry that bottles may confuse their breastfed babies but formula fed babies also experience problems with bottles, such as overfeeding. All babies will benefit from being bottle-fed in a manner closer to breastfeeding.

Latching On to The Bottle

It is especially important for breastfed babies to latch on to a bottle as if they are latching on to the breast since it can be helpful for the proper oral-facial development of all babies. Your baby should be encouraged to open his mouth wide, like a yawn, before the bottle is inserted. His lips should be around the wide part of a wide based bottle and not on the narrow teat. The nipple should be far enough back in his mouth that it reaches his "suck spot" the place where his soft palate and hard palate meet. This will cause him to suck properly. He will suck differently if the nipple only reaches the front of his mouth.

A Slow Flow Is Best

Unlike our breasts, most bottles flow instantly with out any sucking needed and this can cause the milk or formula to flow too quickly. Bottle-fed babies are often held cradled in a caregiver's arm practically on their backs, with the bottle held so that the milk pores into the baby's mouth. Babies fed this way have a difficulties breathing while eating and their oxygen levels decline. Bottle-fed babies get used to a flow that happens on its own and may even forget that they need to suck to get milk. To avoid these problems, keep the flow slow. Use a nipple designed for newborns even if your baby is older. Holding your baby in sitting position and the bottle horizontally will slow the flow down even more and encourage sucking. Your baby will be able to control the flow better and take breaks when he needs to. If he is swallowing constantly, take the bottle out after every 10 sucks or so. It should take him about 15 minutes to finish a bottle. He may not feel satiated if he eats too quickly and cry for more. It takes time for our brains to register that our bellies are full.

Follow Your Baby's Cues

Unless medically indicated, your baby should be fed only when he shows hunger cues and until he is satiated. There is no reason to make him finish a bottle if he has clearly had enough. Don't let your caregiver use the bottle as a way to calm your baby if he doesn't need to be fed. He may take the bottle anyway because he wants to suck or because he has figured out that he is held only during feeds. Work out other ways to keep him happy.

Learn more about bottle feeding your baby in our baby forum.