Is Responsive Bottle Feeding the Same as Paced Bottle Feeding?

Dec 21, 2023 | Breast Pumps

Lactation consultation showing how to do responsive and paced bottle feeding

Responsive bottle feeding is an approach to feeding infants with a bottle that aims to mimic breastfeeding by allowing the baby to take an active role in the feeding process and learn to stop taking in food when they feel they’ve had enough. Paced bottle feeding is led by the person who is feeding the baby and geared at helping the get a good feeding but not looking at the infant’s satiety cues. Each of these methods has its place. Both involves paying attention to the baby’s cues and responding to their needs during the feeding session, but responsive feeding, in particular, is helpful for parents who are alternating between breastfeeding and bottle feeding or exclusively bottle feeding and want to use baby lead weaning.

Optimizing Bottle Feeding Techniques

When feeding your baby be sure to hold them in a semi-upright position, similar to how they would be held during breastfeeding. This position supports the baby’s digestion and helps prevent ear infections. It is important to look for hunger cues such as rooting, sucking on hands, or making sucking motions. Responsive bottle feeding involves offering the bottle when the baby is showing signs of hunger, rather than sticking to a specified feeding schedule based on time. It allows the baby to communicate to you that they are hungry. 

Choose a bottle nipple with a slow flow to mimic the slower flow of breastfeeding. This helps prevent overfeeding and allows the baby to have better control over the pace of the feed and feed more comfortable. Hold the bottle horizontally to control the milk flow and allow the baby to suck and swallow actively. This position encourages a natural suckling motion. Maintain eye contact with the baby during the feeding session. This promotes bonding and helps the baby feel secure and connected.

Key to Responsive Bottle Feeding

Throughout the feeding, pause periodically and allow your baby to take breaks. This gives them the opportunity to signal when they are full or need a breather, similar to breastfeeding. Pay attention to cues that indicate they are full, such as turning away from the bottle, slowing down sucking, or losing interest. Avoid encouraging them to finish the entire bottle if they show signs of being satisfied. 

Paying attention to the signs your baby may need to stop the feeding momentarily to burp is helpful. You can burp the baby when necessary but do it responsively. Pause during the feeding if the baby seems uncomfortable or if they naturally stop sucking. Burping can be done gently and without rushing. Pat the back gently, rock them back and forth or rotate their hips in a circular motion to help them get a burp to come out. It is important to follow the baby’s lead when using responsive or paced bottle feeding. It is about following the baby’s cues and allowing them to take the lead in the feeding process. This helps foster a positive feeding experience and supports the development of healthy eating habits.

It’s important to note that while responsive bottle feeding can be beneficial, individual preferences and needs vary. Always consult with your IBCLC for personalized advice based on your baby’s health and development. If you would like more information on this and other types of feeding techniques, please click the link to schedule.

Sarah Early - MSN, APRN-FNP-C, IBCLC

Sarah Early, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, IBCLC, is a clinically trained Integrative and Functional Health Family Nurse Practitioner who specializes in women's health and is the owner of Peony Women's Integrative Health and Lactation Room. She graduated with a Master's in Nursing and Family Nurse Practitioner with high distinction and is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing. Sarah has been a practicing International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2011 and opened Lactation Room in 2014. Lactation Room specializes in supporting parent/baby dyads who are struggling with infant oral dysfunction, feeding difficulties, and tongue-and-lip ties. They earned the prestigious IBCLE Care Award from the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners® (IBLCE®) and International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) have recognized Lactation Room for excellence in lactation care. She is a member of ILCA, USLCA, MBC, AANP, IATP, and MBC.