Responsive bottle feeding

By Julie Cottle, Blackmores

Many families use bottles to feed their baby. For these families, some simple tweaks to the way the bottle is given may help baby to regulate their own appetite, provide better digestive comfort and support the development of a close and connected relationship.

In this article, Blackmores Maternal Health and Infant Nutrition Specialist, Julie Cottle, provides the latest in best practice bottle feeding technique.
Often, bottle feeding has baby lying mostly flat with the bottle tipped up. This can cause milk to pour into the baby’s mouth, forcing them to keep swallowing. While this technique works well for some, for others it may lead to over feeding and colic like symptoms.
If your baby is getting any milk from a bottle, it is worth considering a responsive approach to feeding.

Paced bottle feeding
Paced bottle feeding aims to make bottle feeding more comfortable by allowing your baby to decide how much and how quickly to drink. It prevents babies from getting too much milk too quickly and works with their inbuilt feeding behaviours to let you know when they are hungry, when they need a break and when they have had enough.
If you are mixed feeding or feeding your baby expressed breastmilk, this approach may help to minimise the risk of your baby developing a preference for the bottle over the breast. This said, if you are finding breastfeeding difficult, it is always a good idea to speak with a lactation consultant or other health professional knowledgeable in breastfeeding management.

How to do it:
• Test the temperature by shaking a little milk from the teat onto the inside of your wrist. It should be body temperature but not hot.
• Hold your baby close in an upright position so you can see their face and look into the eyes. Keep distractions such as your phone or TV to a minimum and give your baby your full attention.
• Brush your baby’s upper lip with the bottle teat to encourage a wide-open mouth. Gently allow baby to pull the teat into the mouth.
• When sucking begins, hold the bottle in a horizontal position so that the nipple is partially full and allow your baby to drink until he pauses.
• If your baby gets tense or starts to gulp, tilt your baby and the bottle slightly forward so the milk drains out of the teat.
• When baby pauses, keep the teat in the mouth and lower the base of the bottle so that there is no milk left in the nipple.
• When baby starts to suck again, raise the bottom of the bottle back to horizontal so that milk is back in the teat.

Knowing when to feed your baby
All babies, whether breast or bottle fed, should be fed whenever they show signs of hunger rather than according to any kind of schedule. Babies show subtle signs to indicate that they are getting hungry long before they start to cry.

You can learn to read your baby’s natural feeding behaviours and respond to these. Responsive bottle feeding encourages baby to respond to their own feelings of hunger and fullness to consume the right amount of milk for their appetite, size and age.

How do I know when my baby has had enough?
When you think your baby has had enough, twist and remove the bottle, then immediately offer it again. If baby takes it, offer another ten sucks or so, remove, and offer again. If baby keeps the lips closed, you’ll know that the feed is finished.

The following signs are also good indicators that baby has had enough milk.
• Falling asleep
• Turning head aside
• No longer sucking
• Letting go of the teat
• Pursing lips together

Bottle feeding safety
• If there is any formula left in a bottle one hour from when first fed your baby, the remaining milk should be discarded and not kept for later.
• If you are concerned that your baby is not taking enough milk, please see your health care provider.
• Never leave a baby to drink a bottle alone or to feed with a propped bottle as this increases the risk of choking.
• Do not put your baby to sleep while drinking a bottle as this increases the risk of ear infection, choking and dental problems.

Do you have questions about feeding your baby? Blackmores offers a free Infant Nutrition and Maternal Health Advisory Service providing mums and mums-to-be with information and support.

Call Julie and the team on 1800 808 669 (freecall within Australia), visit or email

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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