Guide to Paced Bottle Feeding

Abrie McCoy, CLC
October 14, 2022

Think back to the first time you witnessed a baby drinking a bottle. Most likely, they were completely laid back with the bottle pointed straight down into their mouths. Just gulping the milk down. Admittedly, I did the same! I wasn’t aware of any certain ways bottles should or should not be fed. 

Experiment time

Take a full baby bottle and point it nipple down. That milk starts streaming out of the nipple hole. Imagine that while your baby is latched on- sucking, gulping, and trying to keep up with the flow. It would be hard! Your baby’s pace at the bottle should follow a suck-suck-swallow pattern, NOT them gulping with every suck and breath. 

What’s the deal then?

Paced bottle feeding is a method that parents can use anytime a bottle is fed. It may also be referred to as responsive bottle feeding. It does not matter if the bottle is made up of expressed breast milk, formula, or both - paced bottle feeding is the way to go!

How can paced bottle feeding help?

By allowing your baby to control the rate of the feed, you avoid over feeding, spit up, and discomfort. Let’s do some role reversal. Imagine when you have a huge meal and you eat until you feel stuffed. More than likely, you end up with some burps, discomfort, and maybe even some reflux. It is the same for your baby! By slowing down that feed a bit, we avoid all of that! 

What is it?

Paced bottle feeding allows your baby to control the feed. So they can suck and swallow at their own pace. What is needed from you is a supported position, a bottle positioned parallel to the floor, and responsiveness to their sucking pattern. 

More upright.
Lying on side across legs.
Parent semi-reclined, baby on side with head on bicep and bottle still kept parallel.

There are a few different ways this can be done: baby held in a more upright position, baby laying on their side upon their caregiver’s chest and bicep, or laying on their side across caregiver’s legs.

Responsiveness to their sucking pattern? What does that mean?

You can observe your baby’s sucking pattern and respond when they stop sucking by tilting the bottle down, so that they are not getting flooded with milk while they are trying to take a break. Then, when they start sucking again, gently tilt the bottle back up to fill the nipple with milk. Then the feed has started again! Once your baby’s suck pattern slows down or they don’t seem interested again, you can end the feeding!

Does paced feeding help with nipple confusion?

Babies use different skills when feeding from the breast/chest and from a bottle. When we try to mimic the way a baby eats at the breast with the bottle, they continue to “practice and make perfect”. We want to mimic the way your baby latches on to the nipple, works for the milk flow, and the rate of the flow. We can do this all by paced feeding. 

To recap what paced feeding can help avoid:
  • Overfeeding
  • Spit up
  • Tummy troubles and discomfort
  • Flow preference or nipple confusion

Let’s break it down, step by step!

How to pace feed:
  • Use a nipple with a slow flow 
  • Hold the baby close to you in a supported position 
  • Hold the bottle in a position that is almost parallel to the floor without filling the nipple with milk
  • Rub the nipple along the baby's lips to encourage them to latch onto the bottle nipple
  • Baby should latch onto the bottle nipple past the narrow part so that their lips are near the collar of the bottle
  • Allow the baby to latch and suck on the bottle nipple for a few seconds without milk filling the nipple
  • Slowly tilt the bottle so that the narrow part of the nipple fills with milk
  • After 3-5 swallows or about 30 seconds, tilt the bottle back down to slow the flow and give the baby a break
  • If baby unlatches, let them root for the nipple 
  • Feedings should take about 15-30 minutes If the baby begins to drink too fast, you can tilt the bottle down or pull the bottle away to slow down the feeding 
  • You can also break the bottle into increments and burp in between to keep the pace
  • Once baby is showing signs of being full like not sucking between breaks, turning or pushing away, you can end the feeding


Lactation Education Resources. (2019). Paced Bottle Feeding. Lactation Education Resources. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from

Minnesota WIC Program. (2017). Paced Bottle Feeding. Minnesota Department of Health. Retrieved February 17, 2022, from