I always thought breastfeeding was a tough job until I tried to transition my babies to a bottle. I realized that us breastfeeding moms often get all the pat on the back for all the hard work we do,but bottle-feeding is somehow perceived as an easy task.
Bottle-feeding comes with its own set of challenges and it is equally exhausting. That too, trying to transition a breastfed baby to a bottle is painstakingly hard.
I tried switching my babies who were exclusively breastfed to bottle-feeding and they freaked out at the look of the bottle. They both refused to take a bottle as their lives depend on it. If you are on the same boat and your breastfed baby refuses a bottle, don’t lose hope.
I really poured my heart into writing this post because I know how stressful it can be and I honestly hope that this helps you. If you have any questions at all, do leave a comment below and I will try my best to help you.
Why Is My Breastfed Baby Refusing The Bottle?
It is no secret that babies prefer the real deal ( boobies) than a knock-off bottle any given day. You can’t blame this for this. Breastfeeding is more than nourishment for them; it provides comfort and gives them a sense of safety.
No bottle can provide your little one that comfort and warmth that your breasts can give. That said, mommies do need a break now and then.
Getting your baby accustomed to bottle -feeding will come handy when you are traveling, when you need some ‘me’ time or when you are going back to work.
Babies are more prone to accept a bottle at the early stage of life, and it gets harder and harder as they grow up. Even when they are wee, they will make it sound and clear that they want you and will fight to take a bottle.
There are many reasons why breastfed babies hate bottle feeding; Understanding why your baby is refusing the bottle is the key because then you can focus on correcting it.
1: Age of the Baby:
Experts say that babies less than three months have ‘Suck Reflex.’ Newborn babies have an inherent nature to suck on a nipple, a finger or a pacifier when offered one. Suck Reflex is what allows the baby to start breastfeeding right after birth when put on the breasts. This means that the baby will suck on a boob or a bottle without even thinking about it.
When your baby turns two or three months old, they start to lose this reflex and would have to make babies gain more control over whether they want to suck or not.
It can be confusing for babies when they are suddenly given a bottle to feed on. They are used to get food from mom, and that’s what they except. Initially, your baby might not even understand that they are supposed to drink from the bottle. So they will view a bottle as a toy, chew on it, kick it left and right and start crying when they are hungry.
Eventually, when they do figure out how to suck on a bottle, they might not like what they are getting. Breast milk has a slightly warm temperature when fed from the breast, while the pumped milk in the bottle may be cold.
Here are the main four things that your breastfed baby may not like about the bottle
They might not like the feel, texture or the design of the nipple. Babies might even have a problem with the flow of the nipple.
Stubborn babies are slightly different from babies who have a preference or are confused. Some babies don’t mind drinking from a bottle at all, or they know how to get milk out of the bottle, but would simply refuse to do so, because they WANT mommy. In my opinion, getting a stubborn breastfed baby to take a bottle is more hard work than babies who are confused or have a different preference.
As a general rule, do not offer any new habit when your baby ill or unwell. Sick babies sometimes even refuse to breastfeed, so expecting them to accept a bottle is unreasonable. Check to see if your baby is teething, has a cold or tummy pains before introducing a bottle. I would recommend waiting until your baby starts to feel well before bottle feeding again.
Ways to Get Breastfed Baby To Take A Bottle:
It can be very stressful when your baby refuses a bottle and only wants to fee don breasts. However, when you practice these tips consistently, you make slowly transition your baby from breasts to bottle.
Even if you are not planning to bottle feed immediately, I highly recommend starting the habit as early as three months. As I said above, once babies begin to lose their suck reflex, the harder it is going to be hard to make them take a bottle. Around two to three months old is the right age to give them a bottle.
That being said, Experts do recommend waiting until you establish a solid breastfeeding routine before giving them a bottle or a pacifier. Artificial nipples, when offered to early can cause nipple confusion and babies may refuse to breastfeed altogether.
I know this advice is probably not many of you reading this. If you are actively looking for ways to bottle feed your breastfed baby, chances are your baby is old enough to fight the bottle. Anyways, I felt this is an important tip to share ( I wish someone told me this as a first-time mom).
2. Entice Your Baby:
Slowly bring the bottle near your baby’s mouth, gently touch their mouth with the nipple and encourage your baby to latch on to the bottle. You can even spill a few drops of milk on the baby’s mouth to let them know that there is food coming their way.
3. Use a Pacifier :
Babies that don’t take a bottle also struggle to take a pacifier, but sometimes it works. Sucking on a pacifier will teach them how to suck on an artificial nipple, and you can use this to make them take a bottle. This is what you would do, Offer a pacifier when they are about to drift to sleep. Let them suck on a pacifier, then take the pacifier away and offer the bottle. The key is to switch it to the bottle when your baby is relaxed but still is actively sucking, when they are too sleepy, they won’t suck on a bottle.
Breastfed babies are also finicky about the shape of the pacifier. You don’t have to every single brand in the market, but research and find one that breastfed babies are more likely to take. Don’t use pacifiers at an early age, it is recommended NOT to introduce a pacifier before 6 weeks, I would say that you should wait until your milk supply is established before giving any artificial nipple to avoid nipple confusion).
This Avent brand soothie is a great choice for breastfeeding infants or babies less than 3 months old. This is also great for babies who can hold, this pacifier has an attached soft toy that can be a sensory delight.
You can use this technique when breastfeeding as well ( if you don’t like the idea of giving your baby a pacifier). You can gently remove your breasts when your babe is relaxed and put a bottle instead. Since they are already feeding and ready to go to sleep, they most likely won’t put a fight when the milk is coming from a bottle.
If you think your how to feed form a bottle , but is turned off by the milk in the bottle, these tips might work for you.
4. Offer (Luke) Warm Milk:
The milk that comes from your breast is at body temperature. Sometimes the milk from the bottle may be cold, and your baby doesn’t like the taste of it. To warm the milk, let the bottle sit of a bowl of warm (not hot) water for ten minutes, give the bottle a swirl and then offer it to the baby.
If your baby still refuses, try checking the milk to see if it looks and tastes alright. Here are the signs that breast milk has gone bad and how to test for it.
5. Check the Nipple Flow:
It is recommended to start with the slowest nipple flow when bottle feeding breastfed babies. Breastfed babies are used to working on mama’s breasts to get their food. Breast milk is thinner and easily flow through the bottle, by using a larger flow size, your baby might get too much milk too soon. Babies can choke, gag or spit up when using a larger nipple flow.
6.Get Help from Dad:
Some babies will associate moms with breastfeeding and will refuse a bottle when mom offers one. They are more likely to take a bottle from the dad. Get dad to take on the bottle feeding duty, while you are still home or nearby.
7.The Right Bottle:
I recommend starting with a bottle that is specially designed for breastfed babies. There are so many bottles that are marketed to look and feel like breasts. Read some reviews, pick one that will suit your budget. The bottle that worked for us is this one, and this one has a lot of positive reviews from lots of moms.
But don’t go around buying a new bottle every week in hopes that they would work. Whatever bottle you do buy, stick with it and be consistent. It usually takes a week to good ten days for babies to get accustomed to the feel of the bottle. If you change bottles too often, it might confuse your baby.
If you think that your baby knows how to use a bottle but is too stubborn to take a bottle, then there are ways to trick them into taking a bottle. You should be prepared to play along with them to make this work.
8. Take It Out:
Stubborn babies refuse the bottle because they have decided not to take the bottle. The best way to trick them to a bottle is by distracting them. When it is usually time for a feed, take them out for a walk, wear them in a sling or a front-facing carrier, or a stroller and let their surroundings divert them.
Try feeding them when you are walking or pushing the stroller ( someone else will have to push the stroller while you are giving the bottle). Choose a place that is calm and not overcrowded, you want your baby to calm down not get over stimulated.
9. Time It Right:
Babies don’t tend to starve themselves. Even the most stubborn baby is most likely to take the bottle when they are hungry. The key is to offer the bottle when they are just hungry enough and not when they are hangry (angry and hungry).
I know you have a tiny window to work here, so be pro-active. Sit on a comfortable chair, where there are no distractions, choose a calm atmosphere, make use of a white noise machine if you have one, read a book and when your baby is just hungry enough, give them a bottle.
No matter how frustrating it gets, please be consistent. You can win over your stubborn baby by doing it over and over again. As I said, it takes at least a week to ten days for babies to get used to a bottle. I struggled with my son for a month. If you give up early, remember you will have to start all over again. Don’t be deceived that one day your baby will magically take a bottle. It is going to take a lot of patience and practice.
Be consistent on what time of the day you are giving the bottle. Is it the first feed in the day or the feed before bed or some time in between. Choose a time slot when your baby will happily feed. I tried to bottle feed my son before his afternoon nap; I would sit on my chair, read a book, and give him a bottle when he is ready to sleep.
If you have a confused and stubborn baby, I’m not going to sugar coat this for you. It is going to be very hard. I know it can be stressful for parents when your baby doesn’t take a bottle. You might be panicking as your return to work date is nearing. I understand how it feels. I don’t want you to be discouraged; there are work arounds and you can get by with it.
Talk to your pediatrician and get educated with using these alternative methods. If possible, when dealing with younger babies, practice with professional help before trying it yourselves. There are different alternatives to bottle feeding like using a syringe, finger feeding etc., Check this video below on how to finger feed the baby.
If your baby is eating solid food, then you can thicken the milk with fruit or cereal and give it to them. Once the mom is back, you can breastfeed the baby. Many babies go without taking milk all day and end up nursing all night when mom is present.
What To Do When Breastfed Baby Suddenly Starts Refusing The Bottle:
Is your breastfed baby suddenly starts to refuse a bottle, I would think suspect three things :
- Is your Baby Sick? Check to see whether your baby is teething, or is coming down with a cold. Soreness due to teething, stuffy nose, ear infection or thrush, can make a baby refuse a bottle.
- Nursing Strike: Nursing strike happens when a regular breastfeeding baby refuses to breastfed (or bottle feed) anymore. There is no apparent reason why babies refuse eating and a nursing strike usually resolve itself with two to four days. It could be because of a new perfume that you tried, change in the taste of the breast milk or change of place. Don’t panic. Continue offering the bottle and follow the routine you have been doing. If your baby is eating absolutely nothing talk to your doctor about some of the alternative feeding methods mentioned above.
- Nipple Flow: If your baby is only rejecting the bottle but is breastfeeding as he used to, then the problem might be the nipple flow size. If you have been using a ‘slow’ nipple flow, try transitioning to a ‘medium’ flow nipple and see if that works.
It might drive you insane when your baby is not eating; you might feel helpless not knowing what to do. Try and remain calm. Don’t stress yourselves out. Babies can sense stress, and it will only make them more nervous. Be consistent and keep up with your routine. Your baby will eventually give in and take the bottle.
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