It’s late at night, and after hours of trying, your baby still won’t take a bottle. When babies are going through a growth spurt they can get cranky and want to feed more often. This can be frustrating if you are trying to wean them off the breast or bottle.
This post will go over some of the most common aspects and successful approaches to bottle feeding that families take. This includes deciding if it’s a good idea to introduce the bottle, how to introduce the bottle while breastfeeding, who should give the baby the bottle, what to do if the baby won’t finish the bottle, how to overcome challenges with bottle feeding in a childcare setting, and my recommended approach to bottle feeding.
Wondering Whether to Introduce a Bottle?
Some parents may not have a choice in whether to introduce a bottle, while others may make the decision to exclusively bottle-feed upon their baby’s arrival. If you are breastfeeding and considering whether to express breastmilk in a bottle or even supplement with formula, you may be attracted by the increased flexibility that this may offer you. Pregnancy is a time when you can connect with your baby and promote your partner/other family members’ involvement.
These things are valid and come down to personal circumstances and choices. There is no definitive right or wrong when it comes to feeding your baby, so you can feel reassured that there are options available to you and your family, just as there are options for whether or not to use a dummy for settling.
Breastfeeding & Introducing a Bottle
If feasible, try waiting for at least 4 weeks to introduce a bottle if you are breastfeeding so that you and your baby can get established with breastfeeding. If you introduce a bottle before your baby is six months old, it may cause confusion and make breastfeeding more difficult.
When purchasing your baby’s bottle, I recommend looking for a bottle that has a teat designed to resemble a breast. You may need to try different bottles and flow speeds to find the combination that works best for your baby. No two babies are the same, and each will take to bottle feeding differently. Some may take to it right away, while others may take longer to adjust.
You baby may be more used to drinking expressed/formula milk that is around body temperature, not too hot or too cold! If you have expressed milk, try dipping the bottle teat into it and then gently ‘massage’ it against your baby’s top lip to encourage them to open their mouth. Don’t force the bottle into your baby’s mouth if they’re breastfed and don’t seem interested. Let them open their mouth when they’re ready.
Why Is My Breastfed Baby Refusing The Bottle?
This is not a secret, babies prefer breasts to bottles. You can’t blame biological science for this. Not only does breastfeeding provide them with sustenance, but it also offers them a source of comfort and calming.
There is no substitute for breast milk when it comes to comforting and warming your child. In other words, mothers need a break every once in a while.
Bottle-feeding your baby will be helpful when you are traveling and need some time for yourself, or when you are returning to work. It may also just be your personal choice (and that is a-ok).
At the early stage of life, babies are more likely to accept a bottle, but it gets more difficult as they grow older. Even though they are small, they will make it sound clear that they want you and will fight to take a bottle.
Who Should Give the Bottle for the Greatest Chance of Success?
It is often easier for another person to offer the bottle other than the breastfeeding mother. The baby might not want to take the bottle if Mom is the one offering it, because the baby associates Mom with breastfeeding. Perhaps Dad or another familiar family member can try offering the bottle instead. Try the bottle without Mom present because the baby can smell her. The baby can be fed by someone else if they are not searching for their mother. It’s a good idea to stay calm and positive during the experience, as your child will likely sense your emotional state and become more relaxed if you do.
Try not to be too tough on yourself if the baby doesn’t take the bottle from Dad right away. It can be just as hard to get the baby to sleep. You may need to try it a few times, and practice definitely helps improve your ability! Try again later or even the next day. If your baby only takes a little formula from the bottle at first, don’t try to force them to drink more. They may not be thirsty or might not like the taste. You can achieve success by taking small steps and being persistent.
What if Your Baby Doesn’t Finish the Bottle?
Babies not finishing their bottles can be frustrating for parents, especially if they are newborns and need to gain weight. Try to respect your baby’s frustration, just as you would if they refused the breast or solid food. Babies’ food intake requirements can change from day to day, and they may have different appetites at different times of day, for example wanting more milk in the morning than in the afternoon.
It is easy to say that it is better to be flexible, but it is hard to do. However, if you try to be flexible, it will put less pressure on you and baby and result in less stress for all. It is important to remember that babies are very in tune with your emotions and if they sense that you are stressed it may make them feel agitated and prevent them from relaxing enough to feed.
Reasons Why Breastfed Babies Won’t Take A Bottle
There are many reasons why breastfed babies may refuse to take a bottle; understanding why your baby is refusing the bottle is the key. Once you understand the reason, you can focus on correcting it.
Age of the Baby
Newborn babies have a natural inclination to suck on a nipple, a finger, or a pacifier when offered one. This is referred to as the ‘Suck Reflex.’ The suck reflex is a natural reflex that allows babies to start breastfeeding after they are born. The baby will instinctively suck on a nipple or a bottle.
As your baby gets older (2 or 3 months old), they will start to lose the reflex and will have more control over whether or not they want to suck.
It can be confusing for babies when they are suddenly given a bottle of milk to feed on. They are used to getting food from their mother and that is what they expect. At first, your baby might not realize that they are supposed to drink from the bottle. The infants in the study would play with the bottle, chewing on it and kicking it around, and then start crying when they were hungry.
When they learn how to drink from a bottle, they might not like the what they are getting. Because breast milk is warm when it comes from the breast, some people might think that the breast milk in the bottle is cold.
There are four things that your breastfed baby may not like about the bottle. They are: 1) the change in nipple size and shape; 2) the change in milk flow; 3) the change in milk taste; and 4) the change in milk temperature.
They may not be fond of the sensation, consistency, or appearance of the nipple. Babies might even have a problem with the way the nipple flows.
Babies who are stubborn are set in their ways and do not like change, whereas babies who have a preference or are confused may be more willing to try new things. Some babies will only drink milk from a bottle if their mother is the one holding it, otherwise they will refuse. It’s harder to get a stubborn breastfed baby to take a bottle than babies who are confused or have a different preference.
Do not try to introduce new habits to your baby when they are sick or unwell. It is unreasonable to expect sick babies to accept a bottle when sometimes they refuse to breastfeed. You should check if your baby is teething, has a cold, or has tummy pains before you give them a bottle. Hold off on trying a bottle feeding until your baby feels well.
Ways to Get Breastfed Baby To Take A Bottle
When your baby only wants to breastfeed and refuses a bottle, it can be very stressful. If you follow these tips consistently, your baby will slowly transition from breasts to bottle.
Start the habit of bottle feeding as early as three months, even if you are not planning to bottle feed immediately. Once babies begin to lose their suction, it becomes more difficult to get them to take a bottle. The best time to give your baby a bottle is when they are around two to three months old.
Although it is not necessary, experts recommend waiting to give a baby a bottle or pacifier until after a breastfeeding routine is established. If artificial nipples are offered to babies too early, they may get confused and refuse to breastfeed altogether.
If you’re having trouble getting your breastfed baby to take a bottle, it’s probably because they’re old enough to know what they want.
Entice Your Baby
To feed your baby using a bottle, slowly bring the bottle near their mouth and lightly touch their mouth with the nipple. This will encourage your baby to latch on to the bottle and start drinking. If you want to let the baby know that there is food coming, you can spill a few drops of milk on their mouth.
Use a Pacifier
Babies who don’t drink from a bottle often have trouble sucking on a pacifier, but sometimes it does work. If you give your baby a pacifier, they will learn how to suck on an artificial nipple. This can be helpful when you are trying to get them to take a bottle. To get a baby to sleep, offer them a pacifier when they start to look sleepy. Give them a pacifier to suck on, then take it away and offer the bottle instead. The key is to give your baby a bottle when they are relaxed but still actively sucking. If they are too sleepy, they will not suck on a bottle.
Some breastfed babies may be fussy about the shape of their pacifier. While you don’t have to try every single brand of baby formula on the market, it is important to do your research to find one that breastfed babies are more likely to take. Introducing a pacifier before six weeks is not recommended as it can cause nipple confusion. It is better to wait until your milk supply is established before giving your baby an artificial nipple.
Some Final Words
The goal is to manage the challenges so your baby eventually will take the bottle. The importance of consistency can not be overemphasized when it comes to caring for a baby. Babies thrive on routine and predictability. They feel safe and secure when they know what to expect. small successes will give you and your baby the confidence to establish a successful bottle-feeding regime.