We hear, “Why won’t my baby take a bottle?” ALL. THE. TIME.
Bottle refusal is the pits. Your baby is frustrated or sad, and you are likely in panic mode. Before you spend all your money buying different bottles, let’s look at why this happens.
The first thing to consider is your baby’s age. Babies are born with reflexes. One of these is the sucking reflex—the reason new babies try to suck on anything that comes near their mouths. Over the first three months or so, the sucking reflex integrates into controlled movements. When this happens, your baby will no longer suck on anything. FOR THIS REASON, we suggest introducing a bottle when your baby is 3-4 weeks old. Earlier is okay, too.
If you have introduced a bottle to your young baby and he is unhappy, consider the bottle. This is such an important topic that we have written an entire book on the subject! In a nutshell, consider the nipple shape. Your baby’s mouth needs to accept the nipple length and his lips should rest on a portion of the base, with the mouth slightly propped open. The flow of the nipple you choose should help your baby have a similar swallow pattern as he has at your breast; slower is not necessarily better. The way you hold the bottle can make-or-break bottle acceptance, too. Product packaging is not a reliable way to choose a bottle for your baby. You are welcome to look around the bottle section of our website for details, check out the book, or grab the Beginning Bottle Feeding class so you can confidently select and use a bottle in a way that is supportive of breastfeeding.
If your baby is older than 3 months and his sucking reflex has integrated, the bottle shape and flow still matter, but you have bigger fish to fry. Your baby enjoys breastfeeding and has no intention of sucking on a non-mom to eat. To win the battle, bottle feeding will require offering the bottle in a stealthy way, and learning to make bottle feeding a fun game. Getting your baby to take a bottle will also take persistence—plan to offer it several times a day. With the right attitude, ideas, and lots of patience, you can overcome bottle refusal. This is such a common question we receive that we have an online class dedicated to this topic called Bottle Battle.
Babies between 4 weeks and 3 months vary in their reason for bottle refusal. This is the time frame where the sucking reflex is integrating. Knowing about bottle selection and use will be important, and having some stealthy introduction techniques might be required, too.
The second area to consider is the smell/taste of your milk. The smell/taste of your milk can change during storage, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Milk that has changed in flavor is safe to drink if your baby will take it. But if your baby is objecting to the smell/taste, it doesn’t matter what bottle you put it in, your baby will refuse. In this case, you need to address why your milk has changed in flavor. Again, this topic is addressed in our book, and we have a class launching soon if this describes you.
You can overcome bottle refusal. It starts with knowing why it’s happening, and then finding the right tools to move forward. We would love to be part of your journey and help you figure it out!