A baby refusing bottle feeding is a common phenomenon. Some babies refuse to feed on a bottle for the first time, while some may refuse even after being bottle-fed for some time.
It is essential to understand why they refuse bottle feeding to ensure continuous feeding. The reasons may vary from not being hungry to not feeling comfortable feeding on a bottle. You may consult a pediatrician to understand alternative ways to feed your baby to meet their energy requirements.
Read on to know why a baby may refuse bottle feeding and ways to make them feed on bottles.
Reasons For A Baby To Refuse The Bottle
Here are common reasons why a baby may refuse to bottle-feed.
- The baby has been recently weaned, and they still want to breastfeed. The baby experiences a difference in sucking action (1) (2).
- The baby isn’t hungry enough to call for a feed. Usually, a hungry baby will show hunger cues, such as sticking their tongue out, putting hands in their mouth, or crying.
- The baby is feeling uncomfortable or unwell to bottle-feed for the moment. A baby with teething troubles or colic is likely to reject bottle-feeding, just as they may refuse to breastfeed (3).
- The baby is being held in an uncomfortable position, making the baby feel irritated, hence bottle refusal.
- The baby dislikes the flavor or texture of the formula or expressed breast milk. Another reason could be that the milk being served is too warm.
- The bottle shape isn’t comfortable for the baby to hold, or the baby doesn’t like the nipple texture.
- The baby had a bad experience with a bottle earlier. For instance, excess milk flow may cause the baby to choke and cough suddenly.
Determining the reason for refusal could resolve the issue. If you are unsure why your baby is refusing a bottle, take the advice of a pediatrician or a lactation consultant.
Tips To Help The Baby Accept Bottle-Feeding
- Start bottle-feeding gradually and give your baby ample time to adjust. Several babies reject the bottle initially, but patience and persistent efforts help them accept the bottle eventually.
- Feed with a bottle when the baby is calm. Practicing bottle-feeding with a calm and rested baby is advisable than with the one who is too hungry and fussy. Trying to bottle-feed fussy babies may irritate them further and sabotage your efforts.
- Change the bottle and nipple sizes and shapes to check which ones work the best for your baby.
- Do not put the bottle’s nipple directly into the baby’s mouth. Let them latch on to the bottle nipple themselves.
- Try altering baby formula and see if your baby likes any particular formula more than others. Consult a pediatrician before making changes so that you make the right choice.
- Experiment with the feeding position and see where your baby’s comfort lies. You can try different feeding techniques and give the baby enough time to try out each method. Also, avoid distractions, such as music, television, and toys to make the baby acquaint with a feeding technique better.
- Move around while feeding the baby. Gentle movement, swaying, and bouncing may make some babies take the bottle comfortably. Also, some babies tend to like bottle-feeding with skin-to-skin contact, just like in breastfeeding.
- Let someone else feed the baby. Some babies may associate only breastfeeding with their mother and may become confused when the mother offers a bottle instead. You can enlist the help of a family member or caregiver who can bottle-feed. It may make the baby associate bottle-feeding with that person and accept the bottle more readily.
- Smell and taste your breast milk or formula. Sometimes, a baby may refuse to drink breast milk or formula due to changes in its taste. Check the odor and taste of the milk before serving it to your baby.
These methods could help the baby acquaint with the bottle better. If your baby continues to refuse the bottle, you may consult a pediatrician.
When To See A Doctor?
Temporary refusal to bottle-feeding is nothing to worry about. If the baby persistently refuses the bottle, you may consult a pediatrician to rule out eating disorders or illnesses that may have caused a loss of appetite.
Consult an expert if your baby shows any of the following symptoms along with persistent refusal to bottle-feed.
- Fussiness and anxiety
- Recurrent fever
- Constant crying or colic
- Difficulty breathing
A timely diagnosis of any eating disorders or illness can help prevent long-term effects, such as nutritional deficiencies, poor weight gain, developmental delay.
The refusal to bottle-feed is a common occurrence. Babies can temporarily reject a bottle for several reasons that you can resolve with persistent efforts, continuous support, and undivided care. In the case of older babies, you may try cup-feeding with sippy cups. If you feel the baby isn’t feeding properly, even from a bottle, consult a doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is timing so important when introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby?
Picking the right time to introduce the bottle to your breastfed baby is essential to ensure they can feed on their own to get the right amount of milk or formula to keep them full and healthy. Moreover, you must choose a period that will help you gradually familiarize your baby with the bottle before you can leave them to go to work.
2. Why might one want to introduce the bottle?
Mothers may wish to introduce the bottle to their babies if they need to return to work. In addition, they might also choose to bottle feed if the baby is old enough, and they want to start eating the foods of their choice without worrying if it might harm the baby through breastmilk.
3. Could a lactation consultant help with the baby refusing the bottle?
Yes, lactation specialists are experienced in dealing with mothers’ concerns, including bottle refusal by the baby (6). You may seek their help when in doubt.
A baby refusing bottle feeding is generally not a cause of concern. If it is their first time, they may take some time to adjust to the process. They may also refuse bottle feeding due to a difference in the taste of the milk or because they are not hungry. Regardless of the reason, once you identify it, try these effective ways to help them get comfortable with bottle feeding. Alternatively, use cup-feeding for older babies. Consult your pediatrician if the listed tips do not work and your baby still refuses bottle feeding.
- A baby with teething problems or colic is more likely to reject bottle-feeding.
- Start bottle-feeding slowly and carefully select bottle nipple sizes to help the baby accept it.
- If you think your baby may dislike the taste of formula milk, consider switching the formula and tasting it before giving it to the baby.
- Consult a physician if your baby refuses the bottle and has a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or other symptoms.
2. Nipple Confusion; La Leche League International
3. Feeding and teething: how to help them with the pain; NCT
4. Bottle Refusal; The Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education
5. Introducing the Bottle; Healthy Children; AAP
6. Lactation services and programs; Dayton Children’s