When it’s time to give a bottle and your baby won’t take it, it sucks. Period! It can be super stressful and frustrating. Fortunately, I’m here to help 🙂 This post is going to be all about methods to encourage bottle acceptance and work through the reasons behind any bottle refusal.
Before we begin, let’s talk about the entire concept of bottle refusal…
A lot of people instantly get into the mindset of saying that their baby is being stubborn or “playing around”. Well, fortunately, babies aren’t really that manipulative in this regard. If there is any feeding refusal, it usually means that your baby is having difficulty with feeding. So instead of the caregiver being more aggressive or inpatient, babies really need us to be more kind and gentle in order to make this process work!
If none of these methods work for you, then I would highly recommend reaching out to local support in efforts to work on optimizing your baby’s oral function! This article does a great job of explaining oral motor function and it’s affects on feedings!
Methods to Attempt for Bottle Refusal
1 | have someone else introduce the bottle
there are tons of ways to incorporate your partner or family into assisting with feedings! this is a great way to do that! by having someone else assist with the feedings, baby will learn tons of new things and one of those things is associating bottle feeding with another person. this can also give you time for yourself to do other things. if having another person introduce the bottle doesn’t help, then try to combine this method with some of the others below! but just remember, we never want to force or coerce or associate feedings with anything negative. so if baby is cueing to stop or take a break, respect those cues!
2 | utilize paced bottle feedings
paced bottle feeding is helpful for more than just helping back go from your body to the bottle. it’s helpful for all babies!! paced bottle feeding has proven to be helpful for baby regulating their suck/swallow/breathe coordination while bottle-feeding.
3 | introduce bottle before baby is hangry
keyword: BEFORE. if baby is past the point of regular hunger levels, do not attempt to try something new. it will just end up more frustrating for you and for your baby! save everyone the stress. introduce the bottle in moments of calm- possibly when baby is sleepier or when baby is in a more playful mood!
4 | find appropriate nips for bottle feeding
whenever you’re looking for a bottle, you want one that looks like a more anatomical nipple. not one that looks like what bottle companies think that a nipple is supposed to look like! these 4 bottles mentioned encouraged a wider opened mouth and a deeper latch due to the slope of the base of the nipple. there are several bottles that are marketed to be “identical to breastfeeding” but don’t always fall for that marketing!
5 | introduce nipple a few times without intention of feeding
I consider this to be a more play-based activity and definitely something to work on prior to bottle introduction OR after taking a couple days off from bottle introduction! so what you’ll do it, take the nipple off of the bottle and allow baby to become acquainted with it! let baby latch onto without the milk (similar to a pacifier). if baby won’t do that, let baby hold the nipple or play with the nipple… you can also do some basic oral exercises with the nipple! just introduce it and make it a normal sight and occurrence for the baby!
6 | change up feeding position
instead of holding them in your arms in that cradle position in which we typically hold babies, try to hold baby in different positions. You can do sidelying on a pillow, sidelying in your lap, or completely upright and outfacing in your lap! I like trying in the sidelying positioning because they are more similar to the position that most babies nurse in.
7 | wait for an open and inviting mouth
do not force the bottle into their pursed lips! you still want to make sure that baby’s mouth is nice and wide open before latching onto the bottle! you can do this by touching the nipple of the bottle to baby’s nose or upper lip. this will elicit a response of baby’s mouth opening, head tilting backwards, and tongue extending to invite the bottle into the mouth. waiting until baby is ready can also help with acceptance of the bottle,
8 | try feeding with movement
sometimes rocking can be helpful at regulating baby’s mood and emotions. you can do this in the rocking chair or simply while swaying on the couch. some people even find success in walking around while feeding! this one can definitely take some time to fully grasp as it is a lot of movement and coordination. so just be careful.
9 | offer bottle during calm moments
as stated previously, offer during the calm… not the crazy!
10 | change the temperature of the milk
this one is interesting! while it may not seem ideal, some babies can take refrigerated human milk without any issue. some families have even stated that their baby’s prefer it. so try out different temperatures (within regular and appropriate temps) and see if baby has a preference!
11 | try nursing first and then switching to the bottle
the good ol’ switcheroo! try latching for a little appetizer, get baby nice and relaxed and try to switch over to the bottle. this one can be tricky… especially if baby has already began to have negative associations with the bottle. but it’s worth a shot!
12 | take a break and re-attempt these methods after a few days
TAKE A BREAK FROM THE HAMSTER WHEEL! for your sake and your baby’s sake, take a break from all of this and try again in a few days! some people will see better success after a break. I definitely recommend!!
so there you have it! my tips on bottle refusal! let me know if you have any additional suggestions or what methods worked for you!!