Friday, January 01, 2010

Bottle Woes

I have a friend in real life who stopped giving her baby a nightly bottle when she started sleeping through the night a few weeks ago, and now the baby (who is about 3 months old) is refusing to take a bottle. My friend is going back to work in about a month, so needs to get her baby back on the bottle. Does anyone have any suggestions? Pumpkin never slept through the night until she was weaned (although she did start refusing bottles at some point- but it was well past the point where it mattered, since day care had already transitioned to cups). Petunia has recently started sleeping through some nights (YES!!!!! I'm extremely happy about this, but it is too soon to say she "sleeps through the night"), but we've kept up the bottles to avoid just this sort of problem. So I have no personal experience of any help to my friend.

I will take this opportunity to issue a public service announcement: if you are going back to work (or just want the option of giving your baby a bottle now and then), you really need to get the baby used to switching between breast and bottle early. The breastfeeding support group I go to now (the same one I went to with Pumpkin) recommends giving a bottle at about 3 weeks old. Petunia and Pumpkin both got their first bottle at about that time. Once you get your baby to take a bottle, you should keep giving a bottle every day or two, even if you don't really need to. I have never actually met anyone whose baby refused the breast after being given a single bottle a day (although I'm sure those people are out there), but I personally know many women who have struggled to get their baby to take a bottle because they waited until the baby was older or because they didn't give the bottle frequently enough. This only adds to the stress about returning to work... so don't let it happen to you!

Updated to add: Laura makes an EXCELLENT point in the comments- you can do everything "right" and still have a baby refuse to take the bottle. All you can really do is try to increase your chances of success by starting early and not stopping.

Also, here are some of the suggestions about how to try to coax a baby to take a bottle that I've heard from people in real life:
  • Try a "dream feed"- i.e., wake the baby up an hour or so after she falls asleep and try giving the bottle. Or, if the baby is still waking up in the middle of the night, try on that feeding, when the baby is really sleepy.
  • Try giving the bottle when the baby is likely to be very hungry, like at the first feeding of the day.
  • Try giving the bottle after nursing for a little while.
In general, the recommendation is to have someone other than the mom give the bottle, on the theory that the baby won't eat from the bottle if she smells mom around. However, given my counter-intuitive night weaning experience, I'd say try both ways. Maybe the baby is freaking out because she thinks she can't have Mommy anymore, and if she gets Mommy she'll take the bottle.

Another recommendation I've heard is not to be too persistent- don't try to force the bottle on the baby, or the baby may develop an aversion to the bottle, making things even harder.

And now, I'm going to count my blessings that Petunia seems happy to eat from the bottle or from me!

Another update: my friend reports success- achieved on the day before she had to go back to work! The bottle that finally did it for her baby was the Nuby Softflex Silicone Nurser. Apparently the magic trick was squeezing that nipple to show the baby that milk came out. Her baby sucked on it a bit the first time they tried it, and then after a few days, was back to taking a bottle without complaint.


  1. Babies sometimes refuse a bottle b/c it takes too much sucking effort for too little milk. (They aren't able to suck hard enough or long enough to get what they need.)

    Just make a bigger hole in the bottle's nipple. It's worth a shot.

  2. Mason never did take a bottle but after he was four months took a sippy much better. We tried all the tricks. Having Sean feed him outward so he didn't see him helped some. Maybe she can try a different bottle. Wide bottles are said to be better for breast fed babies. I hope she gets it resolved before going back to work. Bottle refusal was a nightmare for us. It was one of the reasons I became a stay at home mom. Good luck to her!

  3. paola6:06 AM

    Ah Yes! Wish I had had this information 5 years ago. I tried giving my first a bottle at 4 months for the first time and guess what? Didn't want a bar of it. But I was a SAHM and so it was no big deal(it did mean that I could only leave him alone for a couple of hours at a time, however). I didn't even bother with my daughter even though I had promised myself throughout my pregnancy I would get her used to a bottle no matter what.

  4. I also wish I had this information. We tried bottles with our twins at about 4 weeks, but then only did it a handful of other times before I returned to work at 3 months. A few days before returning to work we tried again, and one boy took it no problem, the other would not. We tried all sorts of different nipples, bottles, dad, grandma, nanny, nothing. I really stressed over it, but had the luxury of working part-time until it wasn't such an issue. Also, my MIL eventually had some success after being incredibly stubborn with him

  5. Anonymous11:37 AM

    I don't have any suggestions, unfortunately. I was adamant about wanting to make sure my little one was bottle-friendly so I followed advice I read somewhere & introduced a bottle of expressed milk when he was 5 weeks. We gave him a bottle every evening - this was a great system, because it meant that DH could come home from work and be in charge of bed time, while I got a break. So he was consistently and easily on one bottle (never given by me) until he weaned himself off bottles at 12 months (he got angry b/c I gave him formula in his bottle and took it out on the bottle!). Just anecdotally, everyone I know who ended up having trouble introducing bottles introduced them after 6 weeks old. So I totally agree with your advice and think it can't be said often enough. Besides, it's nice for a BF mom to get a break once a day or once every other day. I love BF and I loved having a break from it, even though it meant pumping later.

    Is mom offering the bottle? That could be the problem, too, since the baby can smell the (mother's) milk. Maybe if they start reintroducing the bottle in the evening, and dad (or whoever) gives the bottle in the next room with no mom, it'll work.

  6. Laura1:35 PM

    I pop over from Moxie now and then but wanted to de-lurk for this topic. I have three kids and #1 was a bottle refuser. I did everything "wrong"... waited too long to introduce the bottle, didn't offer frequently enough, etc. I was determined to not go through that again and did everything "right" with the next two. Seriously, bottles every day starting as soon as my milk came in. Both of my other two kids also fought the bottle. With #2 it was more that he wouldn't eat much from the bottle but #3 took a bottle like a champ early on and then suddenly flat-out refused them starting at 3 mos. We tried everything... no deal.

    My SIL doesn't introduce bottles until the week before she goes back to work (baby is ~10 weeks) and all her kids have taken to the bottle beautifully. No problems at all.

    All this is to say that you can do everything "right" and maybe your baby still won't take a bottle. Don't beat yourself up about it. Just like sleep, it's not an x+y=z thing. Some kids are just a pain the ass about bottles and it's not your fault.

  7. @Laura- that is an excellent point. All we can do as parents is try to avoid making things worse. Sometimes, our babies just will not do what everyone says they are "supposed" to do!


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