Wondering what to do when your breastfed baby won’t take bottles?
This can be a frustrating problem for parents, but don’t worry there are lots of strategies to get your baby to take a bottle!
To be proactive, start giving your baby a bottle early. Parents walk a fine line when introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby. It is generally recommended to wait until breastfeeding is well established, usually around 4 weeks, before giving a bottle.
Starting too early can increase breastfeeding difficulties, but waiting too long can increase the chances that baby rejects the bottle. It can be tough to find the sweet spot.
I’m guessing if you’re looking for a solution to get your baby to take a bottle, the “start early” advice comes too late. This happened to me with my second, and despite my best intentions he refused to take a bottle. This led me down a rabbit hole of trying pretty much all of the different ways I could possibly find to get my baby to take a bottle.
So if your baby is refusing a bottle, don’t beat yourself up or stress yourself out!
Instead, try these strategies below. Some babies want bottle feeding to be like breastfeeding and some want it to be totally different, and then there’s a wide range of preferences in between. It can take a lot of trial and error plus mixing and matching, but just keep trying!
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What To Do When Your Breastfed Baby Won’t Take A Bottle
Get Someone Else To Help
Perhaps understandably, lots of babies will refuse a bottle when their typical food source is literally right there. Enlist help from your partner, family, or friends to give the baby a bottle instead.
Many breastfeeding moms find that it is helpful to not only let someone else give the bottle, but also to leave the immediate area.
Hovering around can frustrate baby and you too, especially if it’s not going well. Getting out of the room and even out of the house can be helpful for everyone.
Time It Right
Timing is everything and finding the hungry, but not too hungry sweet spot for your baby is the ideal time to try a bottle.
A baby that isn’t hungry enough will simply refuse the bottle, a baby that is too hungry will throw a fit as they refuse the bottle.
Let Baby Latch
Try getting baby to latch on the bottle nipple instead of popping it in their mouth.
Treating the bottle more like you would when breastfeeding and waiting for baby to latch can help. Try rubbing the bottle on the baby’s nose or lip, let them smell the milk, and wait for them to latch.
Try Different Positions
Your baby might prefer to be held in a similar position to how they breastfeed, but they may want to be held in a totally different position, like sitting up. There’s really no way to know your baby’s preferences until you try out some different positions.
Some parents have success with bottle feeding while moving, like walking, rocking, swaying, or even being worn in a carrier. The movement may help distract the baby from refusing the bottle by providing other sensory input or feeling different.
Try Different Temperatures
Your baby is used to breastmilk at a nice consistent body temperature. Heating the milk to match body temperature might help your baby accept the bottle.
That said, some babies actually will prefer the bottle to be cooler like room temperature or even cold. Test out different temperatures to see if your baby has a preference.
Try Feeding A Sleepy Baby
A sleepy baby may be more likely to accept a bottle.
Some parents find that when breastfeeding a sleepy baby they can switch to a bottle mid-feed. I can’t vouch for this method as I ended up with a super cranky sleepy baby, but it appears to work for some.
Alternatively, try giving a bottle when the baby is just waking up and still a little sleepy and mellow. Baby might be chill enough to take the bottle, though the timing here seems tricky.
Use Mom’s Smell
For some babies, the smell of breastmilk and mom will help them accept a bottle. You can have the person giving the bottle wear one of mom’s shirts or wrap their arm or even the bottle.
Try Different Nipple Flow
It is generally recommended to start babies with a newborn or slow flow nipple. A flow that’s too fast could overwhelm a breastfed baby that is used to having to suck for milk.
On the flip side, if you have a very strong letdown, your baby might be accustomed to a faster flow and get frustrated by the slow flow nipples.
Try Different Bottles
If you have tried everything else first and nothing has worked, consider trying out some different bottles. I wouldn’t jump right to switching bottles since it can quickly become a very expensive endeavor. Also, some think that consistency is more helpful than continually trying new options.
That said, if you’re at your wits end and want to give another bottle a try these are our favorite bottles for breastfed babies:
- Comotomo Baby Bottles – These soft, wide nipple bottles are supposed to feel more like breastfeeding and lots of parents swear by them!
- Philips Avent Natural Bottles – These bottle nipples are made to mimic the shape and feel of a breast and allow the baby to control the flow of milk.
- Tommee Tippee Bottles – These bottles have a breast-like shape for easy latching, a sloped area for parents and babies to hold, and are very popular with breastfed babies!
Last Resort – Skip The Bottle
If you’ve tried everything and your baby just still will not take a bottle, try giving milk in something else.
At 6 months, your baby may be ready for a sippy cup and can skip bottles altogether. This is honestly what I ended up doing for my second baby.
Some parents have success giving baby a real cup. They can model how to drink which can get baby interested and then obviously help the baby drink from the cup too.
For younger infants, as a last resort, try giving milk or formula with a spoon, dropper, or medicine syringe. These definitely aren’t ideal methods as they can be super slow and cumbersome, but they may work in a pinch.
I know it can be frustrating and anxiety-inducing when your breastfed baby won’t take a bottle. Don’t give up! Keep offering the bottle, stay calm, and continue to try the strategies above!
Did we miss anything? Did you struggle to get your baby to take a bottle? What worked for your baby? Share your tips in the comments!