How Fast Should Baby Drink Bottle? Stress Cues To Watch For

It is not unusual for infants to encounter challenges with bottle-feeding, as they may not be accustomed to the sensation after being nursed by their mother.

This can get easier after the newborn stage, or it may persist for longer. Every baby is different, but what should your baby’s feeding speed look like?

How fast should baby drink bottle? Depending on their age and hunger levels, babies may drink their bottle within 10 or 40 minutes on average. The rate at which babies drink can depend upon their needs, sucking ability, or nipple flow on the baby bottle (slow- or fast-flow nipple teats).

The first step to helping your baby during bottle feeds is to observe their mannerisms during each feed.

Babies know when they’ve had enough, but outside factors can mean they drink less or more than they need to.

To help your little one feed well, let’s discover how long it should take your baby to feed from certain bottle sizes, stress signs to look out for, help with bottle refusal, and more.

How Long Should Bottle Feeding Take?

To ensure your baby’s bottle has the right flow, hold it upside down when full. It should steadily drip (not pour) from the teat.

The nipple flow will affect how fast or slowly your baby drinks their bottle, but remember that all babies drink different amounts and are generally good at judging how much they need.

To learn more, let’s look at the typical feeding duration for your baby’s age, signs of bottle-feeding stress to watch out for, and so on.

How Long Should It Take a Baby To Drink a 2-Ounce Bottle?

Babies may take anywhere from 15-45 minutes to finish a 2-ounce bottle. Dr. George Skarpathiotis notes that newborn babies should be given around 20 minutes to take 1-2 ounces of formula, but it may take some babies 30 minutes or longer.

If your baby is finishing a 2-ounce bottle in less than 15 minutes, consider increasing the amount you give them on their next feed.

How Long Should It Take a Baby To Drink a 4-Ounce Bottle?

According to The Pump Station & Nurtury, your baby should be able to finish a 4-ounce bottle in around 15-20 minutes.

If they are gulping the bottle any faster than this, it can be a good idea to break up feeds with burps and consider paced bottle feeding (we’ll delve into this further on).

Bottle Feeding Times

The following bottle feeding times are recommended as a guideline by lactation consultant and founder of Baby Care Advice, Rowenna Bennett, RN.

Age of BabyFeeding Time
Newborn to 3 months20-40 minutes
3-6 months15-30 minutes
Over 6 months10-20 minutes

Baby Drinks Bottle Too Fast

When babies are used to breastfeeding, it can be hard to pace themselves with a bottle feed since they can no longer control the flow as they could with breast milk.

Babies can also end up drinking too fast if the nipple style on the bottle has too fast a flow for their age or needs.

If your baby is finishing their bottle much sooner than the times recommended in the table above, consider switching to bottles with a slower flow.

Remember that slow-flowing nipples are not just for newborns, and it helps to take your cue from your little one on this — are they satiated or still hungry?

You can also try feeding him/her in a near-upright position to slow the flow and take short breaks in between feeds to rest and burp your baby more.

A baby pushing the bottle away from himself.

Baby Drinks Bottle Too Slow

If your baby is drinking too slowly, it could be because your little one is still learning how to suck effectively. This is especially true in newborns and preemie babies.

The flow on the nipple may also be too slow for their needs or the nipple teat could be screwed onto the bottle too tightly.

You’ll know it’s too tight if the nipple collapses in baby’s mouth due to a build-up of air pressure in the bottle, causing baby to work harder to extract the milk/formula from the bottle.

To remedy this, be sure to always use a vented baby bottle as these systems help to maintain a neutral balance in air pressure and screw the nipple teat onto the bottle securely but not too tightly.

You should also consider trying out a faster-flow nipple to help your baby get what he/she needs and encourage slow suckers by running a finger gently across their cheeks and chin to stimulate them.

Signs of Stress While Bottle-Feeding

If your baby is distressed during a bottle feed, this will usually manifest in:

  • A worried expression/wrinkled brow
  • Splayed fingers and toes
  • Widening eyes
  • Stiffened arms or legs
  • Milk running down the corners of their mouth
  • Noisy gulping sounds
  • Rapid swallowing
  • Panting or gasping
  • Flared nostrils
  • Turning their head away/pushing the bottle away

If your little one is showing any of these stress signs, gently tilt the bottle back to empty the nipple, making sure the nipple doesn’t touch your baby’s palate.

Wait for a time to see if they resume sucking. If not, they are likely full.

Bottle Refusal

It’s common for babies, especially breastfed ones, to refuse the bottle. It’s important to be patient and not lose heart when this happens as it can take weeks of practice.

Babies often refuse the bottle if the mom is present as they know the breast is available, so it may help if the dad or another trusted caregiver can offer bottle feeds.

Some suggestions to curb your baby’s bottle refusal according to The Pump Station & Nurtury and the Raising Children Network Australia include:

  • Offering a pacifier at first and replacing it with the bottle teat once your baby seems calm.
  • Allowing baby to open their mouth rather than placing the teat in their mouth.
  • Trying a natural teat shape — some nipples are designed with a wider base and softer, more natural feel to replicate mom’s breast.
  • Distract with a different feeding environment — move around or go outside during feeds.
  • Feed them under a mobile, or sing to them.
  • Offer the breast, and wait until baby becomes sleepy before replacing with the bottle.

What Happens if Baby Drinks Bottle Too Fast?

If your baby drinks too fast from the bottle, it can make them regurgitate or spit up their milk/formula.

Feeding too fast can also cause their stomachs to expand too quickly, leading to gassiness and uncomfortable bloating.

Keep a look out for signs your baby is distressed during feeds, and make sure you take quick breaks when he/she needs them.

Try to limit activity right after feeds too by letting them sit upright, and burp them regularly to prevent stomach discomfort.

Spitting up is normal after drinking too fast from the bottle, but if they are violently sick (vomiting) or seem to be in pain when they spit up, speak to your doctor.

Baby Not Latching Onto Bottle Properly

As with breastfeeding, your baby may struggle to latch properly onto the bottle too.

This can take some time for them to get used to, but you can help them along by making the process feel a little more natural and baby-led.

For example, you can try to tickle your baby’s nose and upper lip with the nipple of the bottle to encourage them to open their mouth.

When their mouth is open wide enough (like they’re yawning), gently place the entire nipple in their mouth so their lips are resting on the base — not the tip — of the nipple.

To further encourage latching, you can also try wrapping the bottle in a shirt or burping cloth that smells like mom, or consider using baby bottles with latch nipples that replicate mom’s breast to help ease the transition.

What Is Paced Bottle Feeding?

Paced bottle feeding is a method that allows babies to feel they are in control of the feed by allowing breaks and slowing the flow to prevent overfeeding and discomfort.

The Minnesota Department of Health advises the following steps for paced bottle feeding:

  1. With a small 4-ounce bottle and slow flow nipple, hold baby in a semi-upright position, supporting their head and neck.
  2. Wait for baby to show hunger cues, and brush/tickle their lips with the nipple to encourage them to open their mouth.
  3. Insert the nipple into baby’s mouth, ensuring they have a deep latch, and hold the bottle flat so it’s horizontal to the floor.
  4. Allow baby to start sucking without the milk before gently tipping the bottle. Allow them to suck for 20-30 seconds (3-5 continuous swallows).
  5. Tip the bottle down, giving them a quick break.
  6. Allow them to suck again before tipping the bottle up for another 20-30 second feed, and continue this paced feeding until they show fullness signs (no longer sucking after the break, pushing/turning away from the bottle).

Related Questions:

When Can a Baby Drink a Bottle Lying Down?

You should never feed your baby his/her bottle lying down as they may choke or risk an ear infection as milk can flow into the middle ear.

However, a supervised elevated side-lying position can be appropriate for premature babies or those prone to vomiting/reflux, according to lactation consultants.

Why Is My Baby Spilling Milk While Bottle Feeding?

It’s normal to see some milk leaking from the corners of your baby’s mouth while feeding.

If this occurs regularly and large quantities are spilled, it could indicate that the nipple on the bottle has a fast flow.

Take brief feeding breaks, and try switching to a slower-flowing nipple to see if this helps.

Final Thoughts

We hope this has reassured you about your baby’s bottle-feeding habits and speeds.

Don’t forget that every baby is different, and some may never drink the recommended amount for their age while others may prefer to drink more.

By taking regular breaks between feeding and trying certain nipple flows and styles to see what feels right for them, you can help your baby to feed at a comfortable, healthy pace.