Baby Refusing to take bottle

Your Breastfed Baby Won’t Take a Bottle? Here’s What to Do!

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Is Your Breastfed Baby Refusing to Take a Bottle? Try These Tips!

It is so hard as a mom when your breastfed baby won’t take a bottle! Breastfeeding can be so wonderful. The bond you feel with your baby. The physical closeness and snuggling. And being able to give your baby something no one else can. But, chances are you won’t be able to be with your baby every single second.

You may be returning to work and planning to pump or supplement breastmilk.  Or you might have errands or appointments that don’t include a baby. When mom is away your baby will need to take a bottle. But what if your happily breastfed baby won’t take a bottle? Check out these tips for what to do!

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When My Baby Wouldn’t Take a Bottle

My oldest daughter took a bottle the first time we offered one to her. As a new mom, I was more upset by her being given a bottle than she was. I was worried at 6 weeks old she no longer needed me and I cried (hormones, ya know).

My second baby was a much different experience. She had no interest in taking a bottle. When she refused to take a bottle at 6 weeks or so, I didn’t push her.

I was planning to work from home and we both loved her breastfeeding. I didn’t see any reason to try very hard with the bottle. I don’t recommend this attitude or approach to others. It really came back to bite me.

At around 3 to 4 months old my daughter started getting bloody diarrhea. ( YIKES!) And shortly after she was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy, and eventually a food protein allergy (yes, food, pretty much all of it.)

And all of the elimination diets I tried to keep nursing were unsuccessful. I tried for weeks. According to our pediatric gastroenterologist, the best thing for my daughter would be a switch to formula.

So my much-too-old not to know how to take a bottle baby needed to learn to bottle feed in a hurry. We had to figure it out. And fast. 

Do you have a breastfed baby that won’t take a bottle? Try these ideas for successful bottle feeding!

10 Tips for Getting a Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle

1. Try to Figure Out Why Baby Won’t Take a Bottle

You may be able to skip a few steps here if you can quickly determine the reason for your baby’s refusal to take a bottle. Is it the bottle itself? Does the taste or texture bother them? Is it the temperature being different than milk from the breast?

Is it just because it’s coming from mom? And they know that the boob is only inches away?

If you’re able to pin down what exactly is causing your baby to refuse a bottle, you can jump right into solving the problem.

But sometimes you don’t know. And it could be a combination of any or all of these factors causing bottle resistance. If that’s the case, you just have to try everything until something clicks.

2. Introduce the Bottle to Your Breastfed Baby Slowly

If your reason for using a bottle is you will be spending some time away from your baby, but you have pumped breast milk, the introduction to a bottle is often easier.

Try to make the breast milk as similar to direct from the breast as possible. Warm it to about body temperature so that it tastes right.

If you’re switching to formula or supplementing, it might help to transition slowly. If you can mix a small amount of formula with mostly breastmilk the first few times your baby might more easily accept a bottle. And then slowly increase the ratio of formula to breastmilk until the bottle is only formula.

If this isn’t working, then totally ignore my advice about transitioning slowly. For some babies, breast milk comes from mom or they don’t want it. And sometimes they can be taught that breast milk comes from mom and formula comes in the bottle.

So, if the gradual transitioning isn’t getting you anywhere, then consider a cold turkey all formula and only formula in the bottle approach.

I also encourage introducing the bottle for one feeding a day at first and then building up to more. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding one day and want them to start taking all their feedings from a bottle the next, the transition might be hard for you and your baby.

3. Choose the Right Time to Offer Your Breastfed Baby a Bottle

When you’re introducing a bottle for the first time, or after repeated unsuccessful attempts, timing is everything.

If your baby is already super hungry and screaming, chances of bottle success are lower. A frustrated and starving baby isn’t going to welcome experimentation when it comes to getting some nourishment. Try giving a bottle a little earlier than when they are due for their next feeding.

Another timing tip, if your baby has been refusing a bottle, sometimes if you offer it when they first wake up, they will sleepily accept it without a struggle. And after a few successes, it gets easier to offer a bottle at other times of the day.

4. Have Someone Else (Besides Mom) Give the Bottle and You LEAVE

This is the first thing I would try when a breastfed baby won’t take a bottle. In fact, I encourage trying this with the very first bottle. It should come from someone other than mom.

If daddy is around, giving a bottle is a great way for him to bond and spend some time with baby. If he’s not, a grandma or other loving friend or family member will welcome the opportunity for a snuggle while they feed your little one.

But your baby knows when mom (and breastmilk) are around. They can smell you. So, mom, you’ve got to leave.

Prepare the bottle if you need to, give some instructions, give everyone a kiss, and LEAVE THE HOUSE.

And give everyone some time before you start anxiously texting to find out how it’s going.

5. Find the Right Position to Offer a Breastfed Baby a Bottle

Just like with breastfeeding some babies have a strong preference for how they are held during a bottle feeding. If your baby won’t take a bottle you may have to experiment to see if a different position helps.

My daughter liked to be cradled in a similar position to how she was breastfed. She even liked to lay on my nursing pillow while drinking from a bottle.

Some babies prefer to sit up more and look around while you feed them a bottle.

Especially if they prefer to breastfeed, you may have to see if a hold either similar to how they breastfeed or something completely different makes them happier with a bottle feeding.

breastfeed baby won't take a bottle6. Try Different Bottles for a Breastfed Baby

Sometimes getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle is as simple as finding the right bottle. Although it may not be simple at all depending on how many bottles you have to try before you find the right one.

My oldest daughter happily took any bottle, so we went with the cheapest bottles at the store.  

But my second baby didn’t like anything at first. And the first four bottles we tried we got nowhere. We finally had success with the Munchkin Latch Bottles.

If you’re struggling to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle, try out different bottles. I suggest only buying them one at a time to try. Bottles are not usually cheap. And if you buy 6 different kinds and your baby only likes one, the rest will be wasted money.

7. Change the Nipple Flow for Breastfed Baby Bottles

If switching bottles doesn’t seem to be working, another thing to switch up is the nipple flow. My kids both liked slow flow nipples best from the beginning to the end of their bottle-feeding days. I think it felt the closest to the flow of milk from breastfeeding. But your baby might be different. So do some experimentation.

Fortunately changing bottle nipples doesn’t add up as quickly cost-wise as changing bottles.

8. Offer a Pacifier if Your Breastfed Baby Won’t Take a Bottle 

Offering a pacifier really helped my daughter adapt to bottle feeding. She was not a pacifier baby early on and she never was as attached to a binky as my older child. But when we were trying unsuccessfully with the bottle, offering the pacifier more often helped her get used to the feel of the nipple.

Try to offer a pacifier that is the same brand and nipple shape as the bottle you’re having the most success with. This makes it more likely to help with bottle feeding success.

9. Be Persistent with Offering a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby

Like most difficult tasks that are part of parenting, persistence is key. When your baby won’t take a bottle it can be stressful.

Especially if you’re coming up to a deadline for returning to work or need to switch to formula or a million other reasons. You worry about them starving themselves when you’re away.

You just have to keep trying. Try different bottles, nipples, locations, positions, and something will eventually click. If it’s been a struggle it’s important to try at least once every day.

If you fail and then wait two weeks before trying again with the bottle you’ll lose any progress you might have made.

When your baby refuses the bottle, don’t reward them with the breast immediately after an unsuccessful bottle feeding.

Wait at least fifteen minutes or so. And do a different activity in between. The reward for refusing the bottle can’t be they instantly get the breast or they will learn to wait you out. This is another reason you don’t want to wait to try the bottle until your baby is starving.

10. Offer a Cup or Spoon if a Breastfed Baby Won’t Take a Bottle

If you’ve tried, and tried, and tried to get your baby to take a bottle without success, that is so hard. But there are options for the mom with a breastfed baby who absolutely refuses the bottle.

If you’re at the point of last resort, there are options for feeding your baby that include offering breastmilk or formula in a cup or a spoon, even a syringe. Fortunately, I never got to this point. But if you’re there, check out this list of resources to help you find something that works.

Did your breastfed baby refuse to take a bottle? What tricks worked best for your baby to successfully bottle feed? Add your tips in the comments!

Hopefully, Soon You’ll No Longer be Worrying that Your Baby Won’t Take Bottle!

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18 thoughts on “Your Breastfed Baby Won’t Take a Bottle? Here’s What to Do!”

  1. My 3 month old used to breast feed with a nipple sheild. During that time he would take a bottle with my milk on occasion with no issues. Then I weaned him off the sheild. Now that he nurses without it he completely refuses all bottles! He also will not take a pacifier. I’ve had other people try to feed him but he won’t take it’s

    1. I really sympathize, Samantha! My daughter refused to take a bottle until she was 6 months old. And she wanted no part of a pacifier either. I went through all the steps above to work with her on taking a bottle because I had no choice but to make it happen. One of the key things was to keep trying! Not every feeding. But once a day until it worked (and then after it worked to continue offering a bottle at least once a day so we didn’t have to start over from scratch!). Persistence paid off eventually. But it wasn’t easy. I hope you are able to keep trying with your little one. And that eventually you will be successful. It’s a good sign that you were able to give a bottle in the past. I was also eventually able to get my little to take a pacifier and I think it helped with the bottle. But she was never excited about it. Offering a cup or a spoon is always a last resort option but it’s worth it to keep trying with the bottle if there is a good chance you will be successful. You’re in my thoughts! Good luck!

  2. Omg just saw this post but currently going through this baby is almost 3 months and hates the bottle I’ve tried about 12 different bottles and she won’t take any of them I don’t know what to do anymore.

    1. I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this, Patty! Have you already tried having someone besides you offer the bottle? Or trying different positions and times of day? Sometimes trying when baby is almost asleep works. It sounds like you’ve been exhausting the options for different bottles. Worst case, it might be time to explore offering breastmilk in a cup, spoon, or syringe. I would continue to keep trying with the bottle even if you end up going with a cup or spoon for now. Maybe get the bottle to work once they get used to a nipple of any sort. Good luck! And please come back and update me!

  3. It’s good that you mentioned how you should decide the best time to feed your baby. My wife is pregnant and wants to learn how she can properly feed her baby. It might be a good idea to speak with a professional about keeping our baby healthy.

  4. Thank you so much for this article, Elizabeth. One of the most important tips from this article is time. Most babies will love it if the mother allows them transition at their own pace.

    Also, when it comes to timing, one little tip that usually helps with the transition is to ensure that you time your baby bottle feeding while giving yourself enough time to do it properly. Allowing your baby to feed slowly will also help her/him to explore different feeding positions and this will help the baby ease to bottle feeding. Another advantage to this is that you can try different feeding positions for your baby if you discover that your baby is disinterested but not distressed and you need to feed him/her at that point. But remember, when your baby starts to cry when you try it, it’s best to stop and try again at another time.

  5. Going through this right now! Babe is 3 months old. Hates bottles, we’ve tried 7 different ones. Doesn’t like pacifiers either. I tried the cup feeding no success 🙁 feeling super discouraged. I only have until the end of August to get him to drink a bottle!

    1. I’m sorry! That’s rough! And you’ve tried mom leaving and having someone else give the bottle? If you’re still having no success, ask your baby’s doctor about putting a little 100% pear juice or sugar water on the nipple of the bottle (and then maybe on the pacifier too). This can work. Most babies like the taste enough to keep sucking- but it’s a good idea to clear it with your pediatrician. Good luck!

  6. We’ve tried it all and he still won’t take a bottle!! He’s 6 months now and I’m fortunate to be able to work from home. That said, it can feel a little overwhelming at times to know I have to feed him every.single.time. My first two took a bottle with no issues at all. This one won’t even stand to have a pacifier in his mouth! I’m honestly wondering if we’ll have some major texture issues with food at some point?!

    1. Stefanie, that is hard. I’m sorry. It turned out my daughter did have some reflux that was contributing to the problem for us. One thing that helped my daughter take the pacifier and bottle at first was to put a little pear juice on the nipple before putting it in her mouth. You could run that by your pediatrician and give it a try? My daughter was 6 months old also before she consistently took a bottle successfully. Because she had to be weaned, I had no choice but to keep trying. Sorry, it’s been so frustrating for you!

  7. My daughter never had a problem taking the bottle but she wouldn’t take it from me. My husband or someone else would have to feed her if we were out or I had just pumped. She would only take the boob from me lol

  8. Breastfeeding can be so tough. Honestly I switched right over to just pumping and feeding via bottle. It was like the best of both worlds that I could bottlefeed my own breast milk. These are great tips!

    1. I can understand this! Although I loved breastfeeding, bottle feeding definitely has it’s upside. It gives you more flexibility and is honestly easier to deal with in public. I have no problem with moms breastfeeding anywhere they need to but that doesn’t make it easy. I am actually interested in doing a post on exclusive pumping. I may reach out to you as a resource! Thanks for reading!

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