Is your breastfed baby refusing a bottle? I’m going to walk you through all the things to try before throwing in the towel. There are very simple solutions and it’s important to not overthink it!
Let me preface this with something first. I am not a medical professional. I am a mom who has breastfed 4 babies and one was in daycare from week 7. I also worked in said daycare so I have seen countless numbers of breastfed babies who wouldn’t take a bottle. I have had moms crying on my desk because they felt like their baby would never take a bottle. I’m here to give you some of those tips that worked and some that didn’t work for those moms.
First off, pick one bottle and commit. In my experience in child care, the moms who had the most luck with getting their babies on a bottle were the ones who chose one and stuck with it. Each time you switch to another bottle, you are starting over at square one. Along with this, it’s important to stay consistent and start attempting the bottle with no bells and whistles. Don’t automatically go into it thinking they’re not going to take it.
Why is my breastfed baby refusing a bottle?
There are a few reasons why a breastfed baby will refuse a bottle and here are some of them:
- They want the real thing. Nursing is comforting for a baby if they’ve been doing it from birth. Babies know the difference between a fake nipple and a real nipple.
- Temperature: Sometimes the bottle isn’t the right temperature and we need to practice with different temperatures.
What to do when your breastfed baby is refusing a bottle
- Bottle type: This is my biggest and best tip. DO NOT SWITCH BOTTLE TYPES. All this does is creates even more nipple confusion and keeps putting you back to square one. I get so frustrated when I see in moms groups the question “what bottle did your baby take?” Because it’s no different than searching “bottle types” on Google. Everyone is just going to start spouting off bottle types. Every baby is different.
- Temperature: Once you’ve chosen a bottle, experiment with different temperatures. One of my twins had to have his bottle so warm – almost hot!
- Feeding position: Try a few different positions with baby. In your lap facing out, cradle hold, on a Boppy pillow, etc.
- Mama, out!: Sometimes mom has to leave for a few reasons. It can be stressful to watch and believe it or not, baby can smell you. If you’re there, they will cry for you.
- Bonding time with other caregivers: Let someone else give the bottle for the same reason above. Go take a shower, lie down, pump if you’re in the early days and need to keep up your supply.
- Amount per feeding: Sometimes it’s helpful to give the milk in smaller amounts. Maybe 1 ounce every hour. This minimizes stress!
- Nipple flow: It is recommended that you don’t go up in nipple size/flow with a breastfed baby so you can mimic the real thing. Sometimes trying a preemie flow nipple will help because it slows it even more.
- Sippy cup: Some moms with older infants (6 months +) had success going straight to a sippy cup.
How to prepare for bottle feeding
First and foremost, as I mentioned before, don’t bother with the bells, whistles and fancy tactics. You could be creating something out of nothing. There’s no reason to get your kiddo used to taking a bottle while standing on their head (please don’t do this, ever) if it’s not needed. Introduce a bottle slowly. One bottle a day – we started around 3 weeks. Remember to pace feed. This essentially is mimicking breastfeeding but with a bottle. If you do run into problems with your baby taking a bottle then try these tips, but try them consistently before throwing in the towel.
I want to stress that I am not a medical professional, and sometimes a breastfed baby refuses a bottle for medical reasons – sensory disorders, lip/tongue ties, etc. These are concerns you should express with your doctor after you’ve consistently tried tips and tricks.