How To Get A Breastfeeding Baby To Take A Bottle

I think it’s safe to say that by this generation, all mothers now know that breastfeeding is best for our babies up to the first 2 years of their lives. According to the World Health Organization – “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.”

Amazing what our bodies could do, right? So we did just that, gave our little ones the best possible milk they could ever get, and now it’s time to give your sore breast a break and introduce freedom, I mean bottle.

But what if they refuse to take the bottle? Most babies that are exclusively breastfed develop an attachment to their mothers’ breasts and will not be comfortable (at first) feeding on an artificial nipple.

It’ll surely be a challenge to transition them, but it’s not impossible if you take some time and dedication to successfully make it happen. First, you need to understand why they are not taking the bottle. To find a solution, we must know the challenges, so here are some possible reasons.

Possible reasons why your baby won’t take a bottle

An infant boy is refusing bottled breastmilk from his mom, as he isn't used to it yet.
  • Doesn’t like artificial nipple – For babies that have been exclusively breastfeeding from the moment they were born, this reason is quite common; the feeling is different. The milk doesn’t come out as warm; the amount of milk that they suck is either too much or not enough, the artificial nipple is not soft enough. Overall, it feels weird for them, especially if they are used to their mom’s nipple.
  • Mom is food – Some babies strongly associate feeding with their mothers, and so they don’t understand or want the bottle feeding situation. Attachment is a strong feeling for babies, and considering how limited their feelings and experiences are by this point, we could understand why they will not entertain the idea at first.
  • It’s too sudden or too soon – Like every other change that we do for our babies, it needs to be gradually introduced and transitioned. Some of the reasons why they will refuse to take a bottle if you change it suddenly is because they are not familiar with it, and anything unfamiliar is scary. Just like you and me, sudden changes inflict fear, and it is something we do not want our babies to feel.
  • A combination of both or all – It could be any of those reasons or all at the same time, take a moment to observe your babies, know how to make the next move by carefully assessing the reason for you to give them the proper solution. Regardless of the reason why your baby is not taking a bottle, remember to extend your patience and just keep trying.

Tips to get your baby to take a bottle

Dad is bottle-feeding his infant daughter.
  • Start earlyLactation consultants (IBCLC) usually recommend offering a bottle when breast milk supply is established, and breastfeeding is going well (2-4 weeks) and not waiting too long (6 weeks onwards) because it occasionally leads to bottle refusal. The earlier you introduce other ways to feed them besides latching directly through mom’s breast, the easier it would be for your baby to get comfortable and familiar with feeding using a bottle.
  • Feed on demand – Wait for the “right amount of hungry” time of your baby to offer the bottle because their chances of taking it will be higher than when they are still full or in the middle of feeding with mom. Be careful not to wait too long though; we don’t want your baby crying out of hunger because they will then be stressed and would want the comfort of their moms’ skin and warmth through latching.
  • Let other people offer the bottle – Give your baby the bottle when mom is out of sight or is not in the room. Some babies associate feedings with their mother so strongly that if they see them around, they won’t take a bottle because she is food. Try letting the dad offer the bottle; it would also help their relationship and let your little one know that dad could also be a source of food and nourishment.
  • Let baby play with a bottle (empty) – Help your little one be familiar with the feeding bottle without the agenda of feeding. Let them play with the artificial nipple and get comfortable with it, so when you offer it to them to feed, they wouldn’t be completely unfamiliar with it.
  • Try different bottles – Experiment with different bottles using different types and shapes of nipples; some babies get comfortable in using a bottle if it is closely similar to the feel of latching to their mom’s breast. It is also important to note the milk flow of the artificial nipple, especially if your baby is not older than 6 months. Check if the milk flow is too little or too much for your baby.
  • Change the scene – Some babies would take a bottle in a place they’ve never been before, a new place, and a new way to feed. Try going outside where they could see trees, a new set of view; it is also a good distraction while trying to offer the bottle. Other babies would take a bottle in a more relaxed room, try dimming the lights and make sure that it is quiet or is with soothing sound.
  • Check the milk temperature – Latching with mom gives babies warm milk and warm feelings; if your baby refuses to feed on a bottle, they might be one of those babies who are very particular with the temperature of their milk. If you are giving your baby previously frozen breast milk, then you might want to double-check on the milk temperature if it is still a little cold or it is it’s too warm.
  • Sleepy or just woke up – Babies will instinctively suckle at this time when they are about to doze off, or they just woke up from sleep. This trick is closely similar to feeding your baby on demand when they are in the right amount of hungry, so they would instinctively take the bottle to feed.
  • Feed them freshly pumped milk – Some babies know exactly how their mom’s fresh milk tastes and would not drink previously frozen milk. Some breast milk changes taste after being frozen or for some other reasons. If this is a problem, you might want to consult a specialist and check if your milk has a high level of lipase, which could cause your milk to change taste and smell after being frozen.
  • Ask for professional help – If all else fails and your baby still won’t take a bottle to feed, you might want to get the experts’ advice. A speech pathologist, occupational therapist, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), or your pediatrician could give you some helpful advice on how to warm up your baby to feed using a bottle.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Mom is bottle-feeding her infant son.

What are the best bottle for breastfed babies?

Depending on your baby’s need, here are the top 3 feeding bottles that, according to reviews, work best for breastfed babies.

– Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Wide Neck Bottle – Best for anti-colic feeding.
– Como Tomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle – Best for easy transition from mom’s breast to bottle.
– Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle – Best for close to natural latch.

When is the best time to introduce a bottle to breastfed baby?

Timing is everything. That’s why most lactation consultants recommend starting as early as possible. As soon as the milk supply from mom has been established, bottle feeding can be introduced, usually between 2-4 weeks, depending on your milk supply.

How often do I offer the bottle?

For the first few attempts, you can start offering the bottle once or twice in between latching. Let your baby be familiar with how the bottle looks and feels without the intention to feed them, then gradually increase the times that you offer the bottle within the day until they start to feed through the bottle.

Summary

Any change for your baby is always challenging but this one is particularly frustrating and will require an extended amount of patience from you and everyone else in the house, quite frankly.

It’s completely fine if it doesn’t work for the first few tries, they might take one or two suckles and refuse to take the bottle again; that’s alright mommy. Take it one baby step at a time, you’ll eventually get there.

We at 1happykiddo know you will try to do your best for your baby, and we are rooting for you! Just keep trying and know that you are not alone in this challenge; as long as your baby is feeding the right amount of milk for their age and you are doing your best to introduce bottle-feeding, then you’re doing just fine. Talk to the experts and let them help you and your baby to make it happen.

Share your own stories and experiences in the comment section below, we would love to hear and learn from them too! Stay happy and healthy!

Currently located in the Philippines. Mother of an active curly boy whose energy rarely runs out. When I am not busy keeping up with my son, you'll find me reading, cooking, or most of the time keeping the house clean.

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