/ The Daisy Foundation with Lesley Doig

A baby in hindsight – 4 steps to responsive bottle feeding

Traditionally when you bottle feed a baby, they are held in a laid-back position in the cradle of the arm. The bottle is then held near vertical so as not to create bubbles in the teat. The thought being that this would reduce wind in baby. So why shouldn’t this be practised anymore?

Bottle fed babies have a history at being at greater risk of obesity, colic or being a sicky baby. If you look at your babies clenched fist, this is a good reminder of the size of baby’s stomach. They need a lot less milk than you think! You should feed baby in response to its hunger cues. There will be guidance on how much milk to give a baby on the formula packets but remember that your baby may need more or less milk in a feed. Baby should not be encouraged to finish the bottle every feed or be offered more milk if they show signs of being hungry outside the designated schedule. There is no need for baby to feed to a strict schedule, and allowing baby to have smaller or bigger feeds throughout the day can be good practice to and is closer to babies’ natural feeding patterns.


So, what is responsive bottle feeding?

This practice can help baby to be an active participant in feeding, helping both you and baby learn their cues for when they are full.

I would split the practice into 4 main parts

  1. Baby sits up – So rather than having baby lie back, sit baby up. This takes gravity out of the equation and will mean baby has to actively suckle at the teat. It also reduces the likelihood of you making contact with the roof of baby’s mouth, meaning the suckling reflex is not being constantly stimulated.
  2. Tickle teat on baby’s nose to see if they are interested in a feed – This mirrors what a baby would do at the breast, as you are letting baby smell the milk and waiting for them to show interest in a feed. This can be done several times throughout a feed, allowing baby to dictate when they are no longer hungry or interested in feeding.
  3. Hold bottle horizontally (as much as possible) – Again, this reduces gravity when dispensing the milk, and allows baby to actively suckle.
  4. Pace the feeding – Find a rhythm that suits you and baby. This mimics how milk is dispensed from the breast. The milk is naturally supposed to eb and flow, so removing the bottle from baby’s mouth frequently throughout the feed allows them time to recognise when they are full or not.

Lastly, I would suggest you slow down and enjoy each feed. Baby will love being in your arms and snuggling in. Hearing your heart beat, feeling your breath and the warmth of your body is all good for baby and can help their little body to regulate their own internal systems. So, cuddle in, binge watch some TV, play a video game or read a book. There is no such thing as a baby that is held too much!


If you want to read up on responsive feeding, Emma Pickett has a great guide: