How to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle

by Whitney Moss on July 1, 2013

in Breastfeeding,Month 2,Picky kids

Dad giving baby a bottle

My two children never would take a bottle, and it wasn’t for any lack of trying on my part. When our friend Crystal asked about any magic strategies that would get her third baby to accept a bottle, I sent her a list of ideas in hopes that at least one of mine would be one that she had not yet tried.

My bottle-refusal story

My husband Ryan got traumatized by trying to give the baby the bottle and having him scream his head off, so after many consecutive attempts in our process of getting ready for me to go back to work, he sort of gave up and then later blamed himself for this no-bottle-taking baby problem which lasted for 8 months. While he blamed himself, it was actually my problem to solve, because who was taking the boobs to work with her everyday?

Yep, at 4 months old, I went back to work for half-days, five days a week, and left my nanny to try all methods of bottle feeding for four hours. She ended up spoon-feeding him breast milk from a bowl with a tiny infant spoon. She was able to get about an ounce in him that way. By 5 months old, we agreed to sprinkle a little rice cereal into it so that it had more calories and stayed on the spoon better. At 6 months old, I extended my work hours to a 6 hour day, and she’d give him rice cereal in a bowl, attempt the bottle ordeal, and then a little actual food, ie avocado or banana.  At 8 months, he was eating solids just fine and I told her to forget about the bottle and let’s just move towards the sippy cup.

Bottle-feeding strategies worth trying for breast-obsessed infants

  • non-breastfeeding parent gives bottle in cradle position
  • breastfeeding parent gives bottle in cradle position
  • non-breastfeeding caregiver tries while mom leaves house with other children
  • while driving/carseat (mom drives, parent #2 sits in back and gives bottle)
  • while facing out in a front carrier
  • facing out in a front carrier outdoors
  • when baby is very hungry
  • when baby is not at all hungry, ie right after nursing
  • different nipples, including latex and silicon, symmetrical like avent and mouth-shaped like mam/nuk
  • while baby is sleeping, shove it in her mouth and see if you can activate sucking reflex
  • bottle of formula if you’re normally offering breast milk
  • rub breast milk on the nipple before putting it to her lips
  • future: for older baby like 5-7 months, soft transitional sippy cup top

The happy ending: Siblings give a bottle

I was so happy to get an update from Crystal this week, letting us know that her daughter had finally begun accepting a bottle.

What worked? A trick I didn’t have access to with my rookie baby: Crystal’s six-year old son gave his baby sister a bottle. Her middle son got a chance as well.

Here’s what she said about Baby Vivian’s experience taking a bottle from her brothers:

She was so distracted and fascinated by them that she forgot to fight it and took her first bottle from them. That helped her get over the initial hump and indicated to us that she could do it.

Then getting to her with the bottle before she was the least bit cranky. If she was fussy in the slightest there was no way she was taking it.

She refused for a long time to take it from Daddy but we tried at the same time everyday. For weeks she fussed, took two sips then refused the rest.  Then one day she drank the whole thing. I think it was the consistency? She eventually got used to the idea?

We tried a few different models but of course, she took to the Playtex nurser.

Photo Credit: Stephen Poff via Compfight cc

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.

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