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Whether you have decided to exclusively bottle feed or switch between breast and bottle, there is  nothing more frustrating and confusing than when your baby decides they won’t feed from a  bottle. If you’re currently struggling with this, you are not alone. Many parents encounter this  challenge in the first year of their baby’s life. This post has some simple tried and tested tips and tricks that I have used during my maternity nurse and nanny career to overcome the battle of the  bottle.  

Consider the Type of Bottle and Teat You Are Using

Regardless of your baby’s age, when introducing a bottle, you’ll need to consider the size and  shape of the teat. There are a huge range of bottles on the market and unfortunately some babies can be rather fussy with the type that they prefer. The brand of bottle you choose should have information regarding which teat would suit your baby best.

As a general rule, as your baby  grows, you will need to gradually change the teat to allow an increase in milk flow. A teat that  restricts the flow of milk too much will lead to baby becoming tired and frustrated whilst feeding.  On the other hand, a teat that allows milk to flow too fast can cause baby to take in air whilst feeding, subsequently causing bloating and discomfort.

Unsure whether your baby is currently using the correct teat? Consider the following points; 

  • Is your baby taking an appropriate amount of time to feed or does feeding seem to last forever?
  • Is your baby becoming fussy, pulling on and off the bottle or biting the teat?
  • Is baby able to easily feed from the bottle and do they seem comfortable?
  • Is the teat becoming indented whilst baby is feeding? If so, the next size teat may be needed. 
  • Is baby coughing or allowing milk to flow out the sides of their mouth? If so, the flow may be too  fast. 

Refusing a bottle altogether

If your baby is refusing the bottle altogether, it is worth considering trying some different brands of  bottle. This has the potential to be an expensive process, so I would suggest starting with a cheaper bottle and working your way up to the more expensive brands.

It may seem completely ridiculous that your baby will have such strong preference for bottles which all seem the same to  you, but often by trying different bottle types, baby will select the bottle that allows them to feed most comfortably and effectively for their individual needs.  

Who should be offering the bottle?  

If baby has been breastfeeding, then it is likely that they have a strong association with their mother and breastfeeding. In some cases, it may help to have someone else offer the bottle initially. Rather than putting the teat straight into baby’s mouth, try allowing some of the milk to dribble onto baby’s lips so that they taste the milk and understand that they are going to be fed. 

Consider when you are offering the bottle

Although feeding may seem like an innate skill, changing from breast to bottle can require a lot of energy and concentration for a baby. If you are having difficulties getting your baby to take the bottle, ensure that you are trying at a time when they are not tired or overly hungry. If baby is struggling to grasp feeding from the bottle and can’t get the milk they need easily, they will quickly  become overtired and upset. 

Consider the temperature of the bottle milk

Similarly to preference for bottle and teat, babies can also be particular about the temperature of  the milk they drink. Although most parents don’t want their child to become dependant on milk always being a particular temperature, if you’re struggling with getting your baby to take a bottle, it can initially help to consider whether the temperature may be slightly too hot or cold.

Bottle warmers or freshly made formula milk can make the milk extremely hot, whereas breastmilk comes from the breast at body temperature (which will feel the same as lukewarm water). Overheating breastmilk can also damage its nutritional value so be sure to take care when reheating.  

Ensure you are allowing baby frequent breaks for winding  

The process of feeding from a bottle can feel very different to breastfeeding. You may find that your baby takes in more air whilst they are bottle feeding due to the way the bottle is made up (any shaking will incorporate air bubbles) and the teat flow, so be sure to give them frequent winding breaks to help any wind build up that may be making them uncomfortable and irritable.  

Consider switching between breast and bottle

If baby is established with breastfeeding but you are having difficulty getting them to take a bottle, it can be helpful to initially take the edge off their hunger with a short breastfeed. Once they have had some milk, keeping them in the same position, in close contact with mother, place the teat of  the bottle covered in breast milk onto baby’s lip to see if they will take the bottle. Do not force them so that they become upset. Even if baby takes the bottle for a minute or two, you will be  making progress. You can then switch back to breast for the remainder of their feed. 

All babies want (and need!) to feed and therefore, although you may currently be having difficulties getting your baby to take their bottle happily, be reassured that at some stage they will learn to feed comfortably from a bottle. The process can sometimes take time, so be patient and do not  force your baby to take the bottle.

However, playing around with the type of bottle and teat you’re  offering, the time you try bottle feeding and who introduces it can often have significant results.  As a general tip, be sure to keep feeding time as calm as possible, with baby in close contact with the person who is offering the bottle so that your baby feels secure and comfortable.