Why Some Breastfed Babies Refuse The Bottle And What To Do About It

Why Some Breastfed Babies Refuse The Bottle And What To Do About It

So, perhaps breastfeeding is now going really well for you and your baby.

You’ve got through the very common challenges many mothers face in the early months.

You’ve mastered positioning and attachment, your nipples are healed after being damaged early on, and you’ve survived all those unsettled periods and the wicked sleep deprivation.

Why Some Breastfed Babies Refuse The Bottle And What To Do About It

Now, in just a little while, perhaps you’re returning to work, or just want a night out with friends without your little cherub.

But…..boom! You try offering your baby a bottle but she outright refuses to drink from it! What now?

Well, fortunately it’s not all doom and gloom. Before we get into some tips about how to deal with this situation, let’s first explore why some breastfed babies refuse bottles.

Here are 3 reasons why your baby might refuse the bottle:

#1: Suck Reflex Disappears

In the early months, when something is inserted into a baby’s mouth, it typically stimulates them to suck on it.

This is why most young babies, when a bottle teat is inserted into their mouth, it provides them with a strong stimulus to suck. It’s also why a baby taking more milk from a bottle after a breastfeed is an unreliable indicator of your baby getting enough breastmilk.

However, once the early months have passed and the suck reflex disappears, if a bottle teat is inserted into a breastfed baby’s mouth, she may not automatically suck on it.

#2: More Control Over Their Body

An older baby has more control over their own body movements. You may have noticed your baby is more purposefully using her hands to explore as she feeds. Perhaps you’ve had a finger inserted into your nose or been poked in the eye while nursing?

As a baby becomes more mobile, they will be able to simply move themselves if they don’t want to drink from a bottle, such as push the bottle away, or turn their head away.

#3: Sucking On A Bottle Teat Is Very Different To Sucking At The Breast

A baby who has breastfed for weeks or months will have formed many brain connections to firmly establish in their mind how they are fed.

Hence, it’s not really surprising that some breastfed babies, when presented with a bottle teat to suck on, may not actually know what to do with it.

So now you have some ideas about why your baby may be refusing a bottle, but what can you do about it?

Here are 7 tips to help:

#1: Try Getting Someone Else To Try

It can be confusing for your baby if you, the breastfeeding mother, are the one trying to offer her a bottle feed.

Some babies might accept a bottle when it’s offered by someone other than the breastfeeding mother. It can help if you aren’t visibly present, which may help your baby accept the bottle.

#2: Try Offering The Bottle In Different Feeding Positions

It can sometimes help to experiment with offering the bottle in different feeding positions. Some babies might be more accepting of a bottle if positioned in a way to mimic breastfeeding.

While for other babies they may be less likely to refuse a bottle if positioned in a completely different way such as being held upright on the caregiver’s lap.

#3: Try Walking Around

It might help to try offering your baby the bottle while walking around.

The walking around may provide a distraction and be soothing to your baby while attempting to offer something she is not used to. You could try this with your baby in a sling or baby carrier too.

#4: Try Different Bottle Teats

Some parents have had success with getting their baby to accept a bottle by trying different teats and finally finding one which seemed to suit their baby.

This is really tricky, because you may find you try several different teats without any luck. But, on the other hand, you might find that your baby does prefer one teat over another!

#5: Try Offering The Bottle When Your Baby Is Sleepy

Offering your baby a bottle when she is half asleep may make it more likely for her to drink from it. You could wait until she has just woken from a sleep and is still half asleep.

In addition, trying to offer the bottle in a darkened room or at night time may help too.

#6: Try Offering The Bottle In The Bath

Yes! How relaxing for both of you. Your baby may be more likely to drink from a bottle if you are both relaxed.

This is why a bath may be the answer! Give it a try.

#7: Try A Cup Or Spoon

It’s important to know there are alternatives to bottles, many of which are more compatible with breastfeeding.

For example, you could try offering your baby a small cup or spoon. You could even try removing the teat off the bottle and trying using the bottle as a cup.

For older babies, you could try a sippy cup or even a cup with a straw. For babies who have begun solids, you could trying mixing your milk with solid food and get your baby to consume it that way.

It can be very stressful and take a lot of patience to try to get your baby to accept milk in a bottle. Hopefully the tips in this article will help makes things easier.

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Renee Kam IBCLC CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


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