Baby Won’t Take a Bottle

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All moms, dads, babysitters, and even midwives have been there. Baby simply will not take a bottle―and you’ve tried everything! 

I’m here to tell you that it’s not over just yet. 

Before you give up, get to know a few of the tips and tricks below that worked for me and my little ones. They resulted in calm babies, who were beyond happy to take the bottle at feeding time.

Top tips to get your baby to take a bottle include:

  • Try different bottles
  • Start early
  • Let someone else try
  • Stay calm 
  • Try to find the magic window

Change Bottles

While your first instinct may be that your baby doesn’t like the milk you’re trying to feed them, it could be something far simpler. They may just not like the feel of the bottle or nipple that you’re using.

If you’re just changing from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, your baby will not be acquainted to the difference between the bottle’s nipple and mom’s nipple. With this difference in mind, try to look for a baby bottle that closely resembles the breastfeeding experience for your baby. 

A softer nipple can mimic this feeling. Try to choose a smaller size teat, rather than a larger one that may produce a milk flow that is too fast for your baby. 

However, make sure the teat is not too small, as your baby can become too tired from the length of feeding before they have finished. In choosing the most comfortable nipple for their age, you can encourage them to take the bottle.

It’s best to try out a few different brands and designs until you find one your baby prefers. Your baby may not be a fan of the first one you try, but a different bottle might be fine.

Remember that it’s extremely important to sterilize all of your baby’s feeding equipment until they are 12 months old. This is to protect against bacteria that can affect your baby’s health while their immune system is still developing.

It’s Best to Start Early

Continuing on from the fact that your baby will not be used to a bottle, it’s best to start early.

Starting early can prevent too much attachment to feeding from mom for your baby. If you’re able to breastfeed, it’s best to do so exclusively until your baby is six to 10 weeks of age, and then begin bottle feeding. This will help to ensure that your baby receives the essential antibodies and nutrients within breast milk and will be comfortable latching on.

After this age, you can slowly begin introducing bottle feeding into your routine. Try pumping breast milk and using it in a bottle first. Then, if you desire, you can switch to age-appropriate formula for your baby. 

Starting early, but taking a slower journey, can help your baby to take a bottle by minimizing sudden changes to their feeding routine. This helps both baby and mom to transition in a more comfortable way.

It’s OK to Let Someone Else Try

It’s easy to understand that a mother would like to be the one to bottle-feed their baby; however, this is not always a successful strategy. Letting someone else take on this task for a while can be beneficial to encourage your baby to take a bottle. 

This is not because you can’t do it, but because your baby may associate your smell with milk. By allowing someone else to try, your baby will not associate the scent of a new person with that of their mother’s milk. 

Removing any reminder of mom’s milk, your baby will be encouraged by their hunger to take a bottle from someone else. Also try feeding them in a new environment, to take away any reminder of breastfeeding.

Not only is it ideal to let someone else try, but you can also try leaving the room yourself. Yes, this may seem extreme. But you never know how far away your baby can detect you from!

Stay Calm and Relaxed

This one is huge. Staying calm and relaxed to help your baby take a bottle is essential. 

Of course it’s frustrating, and sometimes upsetting, when you are just not succeeding. This is totally normal, bottle feeding—like many other things in parenthood—can be an emotional rollercoaster.

However, your baby will sense your mood and frustration, affecting their own mood. If they become anxious or concerned, they will be less likely to take the bottle, resulting in more difficulties for you. 

Remember that it’s common, all moms have been there with their babies. Keeping this in mind can help you to be more relaxed. Make sure you’re comfortable and feeling positive. As you feel this way, your baby will sense it and feel the same.

To relax yourself even further, you can try out some methods of aromatherapy with essential oils. Some of the most recommended oils for anxiety and stress relief are lavender, rose, and bergamot, which can be used in an oil burner for a beautiful calming aroma.

The Magic Window

Last but not least, let’s talk about the “magic window”. The time when your baby is just getting hungry and is no longer full from their last feed. Why is this so important?

When your baby is hungry, just like adults, their stress level rises. Their body is anxious for another feed, and they will not be in the mood to try new things, such as bottle feeding. 

This magic window is known as the perfect time to feed your baby, and especially to start with when bottle feeding. This is a transition that will be new to them, so resembling the same times as breastfeeding will help.

Most newborns feed every two to three hours, building up to every three to four hours as their stomach grows. Try to find your own feeding schedule and a happy magic window, and stick to it. 

In creating a strict feeding routine, your baby will begin to get hungry at the same time, and be stress-free to take a bottle.

The Take-Away

At least one of these five steps, if not all of them, should encourage your baby to take a bottle. 

It’s all about keeping the atmosphere and method as calm as possible for your baby, allowing them to be driven by their normal hunger to take a bottle. Keep persevering; you’ll be so happy you did once your little one suckles happily on their bottle.

Good luck as you bring this bottle-feeding rollercoaster to an end!

Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.