From Refusing to Taking the Bottle

Some advice from the members of Park Slope Parents on getting a baby to accept a bottle.

Quick Tips:

  • Keep trying - offer the baby the bottle for 10 minutes each day, whether s/he accepts it or not.  After 10 minutes, stop trying.  Be consistent and patient.  Many babies will accept a bottle after weeks (or months) of trying.
  • Don't worry - your baby will not starve by holding out while you're away.  Your baby may want to nurse more when you're around to make up for the missed meals, however.
  • Experiment with different people offering the bottle:  some babies won't take a bottle from the mother and will accept it from another caregiver.  In some cases, the mother has to leave the home during bottle feedings.  On the other hand, some mothers may find it useful to offer the baby a bottle each day themselves.  Many babies will learn to accept different kinds of nourishment from the mother.
  • Try lots of different bottles and nipples - you may find one that your baby likes better than others.  Some babies respond better to the shape of one nipple over another, and some babies prefer a faster or a slower flow.  Don't be afraid to try a "stage 2" nipple for a faster flow, if that's what your baby is used to from the breast.
  • Consider trying a sippy cup if your baby is 6 months or older. 
  • Consider soupy rice cereal if your baby is older than 4 months.
  • Offer the bottle in unusual places.  Some babies will respond to a bottle from mom while out in the stroller but not at home.
  • Try offering the bottle when the baby first wakes up; s/he may be more receptive at this time.
  • Get a bottle ready. Put the baby in a carrier facing away from you. Go for a walk outside alone. Hold the bottle so that your baby can see it - try offering it to her mouth. Walk and gently offer until she takes it.
  • Try having the baby sit facing away from you, or sit in a bouncy seat in a position different from a nursing position.  Some babies respond, however, when in a nursing position.
  • Let your child play with the bottle when you're not feeding.
  • Taste the milk before you offer it to the baby.  Although breast milk is often good in the freezer for up to 6 months and in the refrigerator for up to a week, sometimes it becomes sour sooner.  Some women's milk only lasts for a few days (in the refrigerator) or weeks (in the freezer) at most.  Make sure you're not offering the baby sour milk, and make sure your refrigerator is below 40 degrees.

 

Member Advice:

 

Try an open cup:

"As an update, I tried nearly every bottle out there, but she struggled with every one. I still think it's more of a mechanical issue than a behavioral one since she always tries to take it, but her tongue gets in the way. What seems to be working is a little, open cup. It's actually pretty cute! Hopefully getting these responses into the archives will help someone else in the future. This seems to be a common, but little talked about problem. I also bought a helpful book called "Balancing Breast & Bottle: Reaching Your Breastfeeding Goals" that's specifically about bottle feeding a breastfed baby and goes into a lot of detail about nipple flow, shape, etc." 

 

Try a playex drop in liner wide nipple bottle:

"This happened with my daughter too and it just took us trying every other feeding for like 4 weeks (it was exhausting!) before we had success with aplatex drop in liner wide nipple bottle. It was so hard not leaving the house for longer than 2 hr increments but we just wore her down eventually. Also, Some moms in my psp group had no success with bottles but slow flow sippy cups worked. Good luck!

 

Try a cup:

"Your little one will be 5 months old? So almost old enough for solids, which takes a little pressure off of bottle feeding. But until she starts solids she could drink the milk via a cup if the bottle doesn't take. My advice is not to worry that she won't take the milk from a bottle yet. That the entirely different space and entirely different people of daycare may make it easier to take the bottle. And she will be 2 months older, nearly twice as old as she is now!"

 

Try a syringe:

One thing that worked for us was using a little medicine syringe. It’s a slow process, but we were at least able to get some milk into her. That said, I do think that she will eventually adapt, she probably just prefers it straight from the source."

 

Try with a medicine dropper:

"Before Alexander would take the bottle, he would take milk from a medicine dropper. Not ideal, but at least he was eating."

 

Try weaning in slowly and try the switcharoo:

"I have a 10 mo old daughter. At about 3-4 months, she had taken a bottle maybe once a day but we had done only nursing for about a week and when we tried again, she was not having it. If you are still having trouble and need to find an extreme - here's what ended up working for us... First day: I got a bottle ready and put it in a bowl of hot water next to me. I would let her start nursing and then tip the bottle upside down, plugging the nipple and warm the nipple so that it was like body temp.
Then as she was nursing, I would edge the nipple into her mouth and do a little switcharoo on her. 1-3 days after doing this: I would have the bottle in the hot water. I sat with my shirt up like I was going to nurse but then put the bottle down at
nipple level and let her latch there thinking she was nursing - same view, same milk. 1-3 days after doing this: I would do all the same stuff just with my shirt on. Warm bottle / nipple, bottle down at nipple level... 1-3 days after this: she took the bottle no issue. So I don't really remember the timeline. It didn't take me 10 total days to get her to do the bottle... so I'm just estimating those time intervals. I just sort of went off of how confident I was to move to the next step based on the success of what we'd been through to that point."

 

Try warming the milk and at different temparatures:

"Hang in there! Try warming the milk and try out different temperatures. And keep trying the techniques that haven't yet worked bc one will eventually work!"

 "Did you try scalding your milk right after pumping? My colleague found out right before returning to work that her baby wouldn't take a bottle and she figured out it was lipase. Her daughter turned one in June and she is still doing this (I checked with her before writing to you just to make sure this is still what she is doing and nothing has changed): she heats the bottle in a bottle warmer right after pumping. She uses a cheap first years bottle warmer plugged into a kitchen outlet. It sounds so high maintenance but she's still pumping and going strong! Might be worth trying just to rule it out."

""Currently we are finding that my daughter prefers milk that has never been frozen."

 

Try feeding with a pinky:

"My sister had a really hard time with her son and she did the following: She would start nursing the baby and slowly put in the bottle nipple to replace her nipple. I know it sounds very counter intuitive but apparently it works. A caregiver can also try using a pinky to let the baby suck on and slowly move th bottle nipple in to replace the pinky."

 

Make sure the milk is fresh:

"are you sure your milk that your giving is fresh? Is your nanny handling the milk properly? Like my son did not like warm pumped breast milk unless it was never refrigerated... He liked it cold. Maybe play with the temperature a bit. And despite our best efforts many many times the milk would spoil for no apparent reason.  Maybe try some formula... See if that makes a difference."

 

Try with someone other than the breastfeeding parent:

"What worked for us was to have one person (not me) be the point person. Every day at the same time my babysitter (who was working part time during my maternity leave to help me care for my older son) would attempt to give Kristina a bottle. We would try in different positions, environments, bottle type & nipple, milk temperature, and levels of hunger. She progressed to taking a "few" pulls from one particular bottle (the "Lansinoh Momma" bottle was the winner). So we stuck with that bottle. Then I went out for a day trip with my son. I was nervous to leave her alone! But wouldn't you know it- she took a bottle while I was away. I had left the house before to "see" if she would take a bottle without me around, but never left for 6 hours before. Ever since then she will take a bottle . She definitely prefers a boob, but if she is hungry and I am not there., she takes a bottle. I am away for 11 hours a day so she drinks between 20-24 oz in my absence now. Also, it was important to have the milk hotter than we thought it should be and she preferred to be moving around. So- she wanted to be walking around while she ate. Crazy child. We learned that the person who feeds her has to be patient, take breaks and not get frustrated. The baby senses the anxiety. It is so hard for the person feeding!! (And momma)."

 "If it's possible, as you're training her to use the bottle, you might want to try having your partner be the only one actually giving her the bottle --- and you might want to be out of the room, or even the house. She might realize that when you're nearby, if she complains enough, you're there and she can nurse. Also, walking around the block while she's crying could give you some peace of mind - it's hard to listen to the crying!  For us, my husband eventually cracked through. But it wasn't easy. We picked a weekend, and for every feeding, they went through the same routine. He'd put our son on his lap, try to feed him.  Our son would cry for a while, and then get tired and start to fall asleep.  My husband would hold the nipple near his mouth so that when the little guy would stir, my husband would put the nipple in his mouth with the hope that his instincts would kick in and he'd just start to suck on the bottle without really thinking about it.  The first couple times we did it, the little guy would wake up, cry and go back to sleep. But soon enough, he'd take it a bit, wake up, cry and go back to sleep. Finally he just took it and drank the whole bottle."

 

Try not to worry, your infant will come around:

"Sorry to hear about your feeding troubles! My daughter (now 11 months) was very picky about taking bottles in the first few months- she did fine the first couple of times we tried and then went through a phase of refusing. She did come around after a few weeks."

 

Try to be consistent:

"Also, are you trying to do a bottle everyday around the same time? Consistency might help."

 

Try formula in the bottle instead of breastmilk:

"My daughter would take formula from a bottle but not breast milk. So maybe that is worth a try."

 

Try to be patient:

I'm a believer that your child doesn't have to be exclusively breastfed to get the benefits of it and I was still able to keep my supply up enough to feed her when i was around for as long as i needed to. She did at one point reject all bottles and we tried everything but just had to wait for her to come around. Just keep telling yourself kids will not let themselves starve."

 

Try different bottles and nipples:

"I had the same issue! We never REALLY found a solution, but different bottles/nipples helped (KleenKanteen bottle, also Dr Bronner's)."

 "We also tried a bunch of nipples. I recall reading that lots of parents used Comotomo as a "learn to use the bottle" nipple. The shape and softeness are a bit closer to a real breast. We also tried the Mimijumi bottle --- with that one, the whole point is to look and feel more similar to a real breast. These helped a little. At least they got him to open his mouth a little bit and take it. Eventually, though, it was the persistence and me being out of the house that got him going."

"This may be obvious, but have you tried different bottles and nipples? If I were you In a time crunch I would buy like 5 or six bottle types, try them all one by one. My babies each preferred different bottles/nipples and flow strength, unprepared to the age indicated on the nipple.  You of course, you should leave the house and have another caretaker do it. My babies would never eat from a bottle if the main milk was in the house. They can sense you there even if your in another room."

 

Try solids sooner:

"Also we started my son on solids earlier than I would have, at the pediatrician's advice. We just needed other options for things he could eat when I wasn't around! (Luckily he loved solids.) Now, of course (at 17 mos) he eyes all of the babies' bottles and wants them for himself!"

"I would keep trying different bottles and different nipples. My daughter was the same - we went through about 10 before we found the one that she would accept (in her case it was a Playtex one, Evenflo maybe?) They all have different flow rates and I think some were too fast or too slow for her."

 

Try a spoon:

"How about a cup? Or a spoon, or a dropper?"

 

Try different holding positions:

"Try different holding positions. Not being held, being held upright, etc..."

 "Also, he prefers to be facing my mom in the boppy when he eats from the bottle. He only wants to be cradled for breast feeding."

 

Try outside the house:

"Maybe try feeding outside of the house. In the stroller. My first baby would never nap in the house. We HAD to take him out."

 

Try recording your voice to playback:

"Maybe make a recording of your voice saying the same things you say when you are nursing. And play it when he is eating."

 

Have your smell close by:

"Also try putting your dirty slept in Tshirt next to the baby, near its face, that smells like you when the caretaker is feeding. My husband did this all the time (he was a stay at home dad),he said just the smell of me would relax the baby."

 "My husband was brilliant! He wrapped the bottle in my nursing tank that I had worn the previous day and overnight. It was the only way my daughter accepted the bottle - with the mommy smell on it. You, however, cannot be anywhere around while this is attempted. She will not want a substitute with mommy around!  While it's not a guarantee that what worked for my little one will work for you!"

 

Try a different feeding time:

"Feeding her right as she fell asleep or right as she was waking up from a nap.  As someone else said, their instincts seem to kick in over their brains at that point.  Of course, it becomes problematic when the only time you can feed is when they are sleeping...ours now will take a bottle while awake, which is easier, but the sleeping trick was a good stop gap measure for a while."

 

Member stories and words of encouragement:

 

"This happened to me with my first and it is hard to believe this but they will eat when they are forced to.  For the first couple weeks she may only eat when you come home and then she will not have a choice but to take the bottle. And it is ok   And if you need to have your nanny give her milk in a cup."

 

"My kid (now 11 years old!) did that until either the day before I went back to work or the day I actually went back to work. I was also worried - a decade later he's still stubborn about food and drink and strong willed.  But he was hungry so he had to take the bottle.  If she's really hungry she'll take the bottle.   If not the first day, the second.  Small babies do have a sense of self-preservation, I think."

 

"Ugh, my heart goes out to you as I was in this exact situation 5 years ago. One piece of advice given to me that I have shared widely, because even though it didn’t work for my son, it has worked for many others, is to try the Platex drop-in system with the brown latex nipple and get the nipple in a faster flow. The conventional wisdom when you are breastfeeding is to use a slow flow nipple because you don’t want to get the baby used to getting a rush of milk without having to do the work. But if you have a good supply and quick let down, your daughter may be getting the equivalent of a faster flow from you and be very frustrated with the slower flow nipples. And something about that particular nipple seems to also work for people, but you have to replace them fairly often because they break down easily, which is why I think they are generally less preferred than silicone.

This is probably the last thing you want to hear right now but I lived your nightmare! And I tell you that not to freak you out but to let you know that there is light at the end of the tunnel –as torturous as it is, its temporary. My son never took a bottle and I tried every possible thing that was recommended to me. I bought dozens of types of bottles, had dozens of people try feeding him in dozens of different scenarios and nothing worked. My son never drank milk from anywhere but me and didn’t even drink cows’ milk until he was 3½. I went back to work when he was 4 months old thinking, well, now he’s going to *have to* take a bottle because there won’t be any other way for him to eat, but he didn’t. My poor husband was home with him those first couple of weeks and he would just scream and cry from about 11am onward. My mother-in-law who was coming over to help out, had to stop coming because she couldn’t take it. I would sit at work crying and feeling insanely jealous of the women who only had to miss their babies while at work but were spared worrying about them suffering. We finally hired an amazing nanny (after too many interviews to count with people who wouldn’t entertain the job after hearing about the no bottle feeding) who
was willing to bring him to me at work in Manhattan to eat on my lunch break. He ate just that one time between 8am and 6pm every day and our nanny spent two hours of her day with him riding the subway back and forth. I faithfully pumped 2-3 times a day to keep my supply up and ended up tossing the milk. A co-worker of mine who had a similar situation put her daughter in a daycare across the street from our office so she could run over on breaks to feed her.

I spoke to a lactation consultant during that horrible stage of motherhood, who I found really helpful for my mental state. She didn’t have any new suggestions, but she assured me that my baby was making a rational choice, that he would not starve himself to the point of having health problems, and that we were experiencing a very natural consequence of living in a society where mom-baby bonding is not valued as it is just about everywhere else. That of course made me angry and a big advocate for better family leave policies, but it also helped me to really feel that my son and I would both be okay. My son did wake and eat more frequently at night during those months, and I didn’t try to stop that until he was well into eating solids. He is now a healthy 5 year old who has carried through some of the characteristics from the first year: he’s pretty indifferent to food and eats very little, and is very strong willed.

I see from your post that you already have an older one, but in case any more kids are in your future, what I did with my next 2 was give them a bottle every other day from day 1, against the loud and crazy protests from the hospital lactation consultant. Good luck and keep trying different things, being consistent try a bottle every day. I am sure you will find a trick that works for your daughter. Most people do. But if you don’t, you will all be okay in just a few short (long feeling) months. Its agonizing. Hang in there!"

 

"Just some words of encouragement - my daughter refused to take the bottle until the very day I went back to work (she was 6 months old) and then adjusted quickly over about a week. She did not eat much during the day for that week (maybe 6 ounces over 10 hours) but once she realized that bottle is here to stay she began to drink from it. Good luck!"