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Help! My Breastfed Baby Won't Take a Bottle!

May 31, 2018

First off, your baby is not being stubborn or "refusing" to take a bottle - they simply don't connect it with food and so whenever you offer it and they're hungry the baby gets cross that you are offering them "not food".


So if we look at this as a learning opportunity we start to approach it differently. Remember, no one (old or young) learns when they are hungry, tired or stressed - so pick your moments to teach carefully.


Next, any bottle will do - just pick a type and stick with it.  I particularly like any brand that can have the handle attachments for it so that baby can be even more in control of what happens with it.


Then make the bottle into a game (preferably when she is NOT hungry or tired to start with). Play with the teat touching her nose, head, cheeks, etc and then finally mouth.  


Since babies are curious to explore orally at this stage she will likely open up. Let her chew on it suck if she wants but without an agenda that she will take a feed. If at any point she gets upset or frustrated then stop.


Repeat as often as you (and she!) have patience for until she has a positive association with the bottle and starts to open her mouth for it as soon as she sees the bottle. Once she is consistently taking the small amounts that you've put in the bottle then try larger amounts and try shifting the game closer and closer to when she's actually hungry. Expressed milk works best for this as the taste is obviously familiar to her.


It usually takes a couple of weeks using this method for the baby to take a bottle - and obviously some will be faster and some slower, so try not to be concerned if she doesn't seem to be "getting" it. She will get there in the end as long as we are consistent in offering it to her in this way and allow her to stop if she gets stressed or bored.


Once she takes the bottles you may find that she's only interested in small portions initially - that's fine, just remember that once her mouth has touched the bottle the milk inside it (if breastmilk) is good for the next 2-3 hours only. Formula needs to be discarded within the hour.


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