What do you do when your baby will not accept a bottle and you need to go back to work? You’ve seen the commercials on tv and photos on social media of babies happily sipping away on their bottles. You may not have been prepared for your baby to refuse one. But I’m here to tell you, bottle refusal is common and at times very hard to break in the breastfed baby.
If you plan to go back to work, I always recommend introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby at about 4-6 weeks old. That way, baby is in a routine and feeling comfortable at the breast but also young enough to accept a change in how they receive their milk. The bottle should be offered using the Paced Bottle Feeding method and under very low pressure conditions (not too hungry, no forcing, stop and try again later if baby gets upset).
So what happens if you missed that 4-6 week window and baby refuses the bottle? Here are a few tips I use to try and get baby to accept and drink from the bottle.
-Use a slow flow nipple. Pay attention to the shape. The shape of the nipple should be long with a gradual transition from base to tip. This is how your breast is shaped when the baby is latched and sucking. Ditch the wide based nipples.
-Allow the baby to take a few sucks of the bottle while tipping the milk back so they are just sucking air for the first few sucks and then allow the milk to flow in the nipple. This is similar to how they feed at the breast, suckling before the letdown.
-Mom should be in a different room or out of the house altogether. The caregiver should try feeding in the same room mom would feed in with a piece of her worn clothing near by. If this doesn’t work, you can try the complete opposite. Perhaps a room baby has never fed in with little to no smell of mom nearby. In both cases mom should not be present. If mom is nearby, baby is going to want their milk the typical way, from the breast.
-Offer the bottle in between feeding times where baby is not very hungry but could be interested in eating. A hungry baby has no patience to try a new feeding method.
-Try different positions and locations. I’ve had a lot of luck with the caregiver feeding the baby in a baby carrier while walking around the house or outdoors.
-Going along with the paced feeding method, let baby latch onto the bottle as opposed to putting the bottle in baby’s mouth. Touch the nipple to the lips and allow baby to open wide. Keep the bottle horizontal while feeding and give breaks often.
-Try to offer the milk at different temps. Try first with the milk warmed similar to the temp it would be coming from the breast. If that doesn’t work try room temp. Some babies will even prefer it cold especially when they may be teething.
-Try distracting baby while offering the bottle. Singing, walking around the room, telling a story, bouncing or swaying lightly.
-Taste the milk you plan to give baby. Does it taste and smell fresh? Does it have a strong soapy taste? If so, you may have high lipase and the baby could be refusing the milk due to its taste.
-Allow baby to play with an empty bottle. Let them get used to the feel of the nipple and remove the sense of stress or pressure around the bottle. This works for older babies who can grasp.
If all else fails, there are alternate feeding methods! Cup feeding is one of my favorite ways to feed a breastfed baby. Or if your babe is 6 months+, try straw cups.
Let a Lactation Professional help you get through bottle refusal. Don’t stress out, allow me to figure out what trick can make bottle feeding work for your baby!