What to Do When Your Breastfed Baby Refuses a Bottle

6 tips and tricks for bottle feeding a breastfed baby

Are you trying to convince your breastfed baby to take a bottle?

Breastfed babies are notorious breast-snobs. They get so used to having their mother’s breast, when a bottle is offered they may turn their nose at it - literally.

What do I do? I need my baby to take this bottle!

We understand how frustrating and frankly, scary, this can be!

Don’t worry (we know, easier said than done)!

There are strategies you can use to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle from you - or even better, someone else!

Tips for Getting a Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle

Every baby is different. Through trial and error, you will come to find out what your baby’s bottle and feeding preferences are, so be gentle and patient with yourself!

Before we dive into the bottle feeding tips, let’s talk about you.

Feeding is an emotional experience for you and your baby. When approaching bottle feeding, especially with a baby who has been refusing it, you want to make sure the emotional atmosphere is calm and confident.

If you are nervous, your baby will be nervous.

If at any point you find yourself overly nervous or frustrated, don’t be afraid to stop and calm down or ask a loved one to step in.

Tip 1: Let Your Baby Latch on to the Bottle

Believe it or not, part of the feeding experience for a baby is the initial latch.

Imagine sitting at the table and all of a sudden someone is shoving a spoonful of food in your mouth. Would you want to eat it? That’s how your baby feels when you pop a bottle in their mouth! Allowing baby to latch on themselves lets them “control” the feeding and feel more comfortable taking a bottle.

Tip 2: Let Someone Else Feed Baby

If you had the choice between something comfortable, warm, familiar or cold, silicone, and new, which would you choose?

Breastfed babies are initially going to prefer the breast over the bottle. If you have been breastfeeding your baby, it is common for a baby to be less than willing to take a bottle from you.

Your baby is probably thinking, “Your breasts are right there, why can’t I have those?”

This is the perfect opportunity for your partner or a close family member to try to feed your baby.

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Tip 3: Try Different Positions

Your baby may not like bottle feeding in the same position they breastfeed. Experiment with different positions and bottle angles to see which feels most comfortable for your baby. You can try different breastfeeding positions with a bottle, sitting upright, slightly reclined, you name it! Just be sure to never prop your baby’s bottle and leave them unattended.

Tip 4: Try Skin-to-Skin

If you need to be able to offer your baby a bottle, you could try offering the bottle with skin-to-skin contact. This will offer your baby the comfort of your warmth and smell while trying a bottle. The goal is to make your baby recognize the familiarity of a feeding session.

Tip 5: Find a Bottle Nipple Similar To Your Nipple

You read all of the bottle marketing that says “closest to breast”, “just like mom’s nipple”, etc.

Well, the truth is…

Your baby isn’t looking for “closest to breast” ; they are looking for your breast!

When choosing bottle nipples, block out the marketing and try to pick a selection of nipples that are shaped similarly to your nipple. That’s bound to be your baby’s favorite shape.

Tip 6: Offer Your Baby a Bottle of Breastmilk

If possible, offer your baby freshly expressed breast milk in their bottle. Transitioning to a bottle, or learning to take a bottle, is tricky enough without having to adjust to the taste of a new drink, like formula.

If you are unable to offer fresh breastmilk, frozen or refrigerated is just fine! If your baby is still strongly refusing, be sure to check your milk for any smells that may indicate spoilage.

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Willow Go™ Wearable Breast Pump

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What Do I Do If I Can’t Get My Baby to Take a Bottle?

First, don’t panic.

Now, if you’ve tried these strategies and they aren’t working for you, there are other methods you can try.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to keep a slow and steady pace so your baby does not become overwhelmed or too full.

Cup feeding entails holding an open cup to your baby’s lips and gently tipping the cup and allowing the milk to fall into their mouth. Depending on your baby’s age, they may sucks on the rim of the cup, which would ultimately help the process!

Spoon feeding is exactly what it sounds like. You’ll put your breastmilk or formula in a spoon and feed it to your baby like you would solid food.

Syringe feeding is one of the better alternatives for younger babies. Using a small syringe, typically 1 ml capacity, you will squeeze the milk into baby’s mouth. When syringe feeding, you will want to be sure to push the milk into baby’s cheek to avoid accidentally squirting it straight to the back of their throat.

If none of these strategies work, be sure to talk to your pediatrician for extra advice. There may be other factors playing a role in your baby’s bottle refusal. They may also just be stubborn.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals. It should not be used to diagnose or treat medical conditions or problems. Please contact your healthcare provider with questions or concerns.
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