When Your Baby Refuses to Bottle-Feed
During the early weeks of life, your baby is feeding reflexively and is likely to go back and forth between breast and bottle without trouble. However, once your baby becomes self-aware in the second month, he or she can make decisions – and the first decision may be to refuse all bottles, even if he or she has been taking one daily!
There is no easy solution to this frustrating problem, but your baby will return to bottle-feeding if you are patient and consistent. Here are some ideas to help you:
- Continue with the same bottle. Your baby is not refusing that particular nipple – he or she just would much prefer a breast. If your baby has never taken a bottle, and he or she is about to start with a nanny or in day care, check with these people and see which bottles they feel confident with. You may find that the nanny or day-care provider is happy to take care of the problem for you.
- If your baby takes a pacifier, you can look for a nipple with a similar shape. Some parents have found they can start the baby on the pacifier and then transfer him or her to the bottle.
- Your baby is more likely to accept a bottle if someone other than Mom offers it. The mother should not be seen or heard when the bottle is offered, as this will remind your baby that Mom's breast is available.
- Timing can make a difference. Generally, babies are least likely to accept a bottle in the evening, as they seem more dependent on the comfort of breast-feeding at that time.
- It may be better to offer the bottle in a place that does not remind the baby of breast-feeding.
- Offer the bottle as if it is a special treat. Look and act happy and confident, and talk calmly, or even sing.
- Try distracting your baby. Position the baby facing out (back against your chest) and looking out of a window, at a mobile or at a TV, or walk outside.
- Expect your baby to reject your initial attempts and be prepared for this reaction. Persist with the bottle held gently, but firmly, to your baby's lips even though he or she may shake his or her head and arch away. After several minutes, put down your baby and the bottle, and move out of sight. Return a few moments later, cuddle with your baby and again happily offer the bottle.
- Do not breast-feed as soon as your baby rejects the bottle, as this may prolong your baby's refusal.
- If your baby is over three months of age, try apple juice in the bottle. If your baby takes this successfully, then try breast milk or formula again. Sometimes a baby will refuse formula but take a mixture of half breast milk and half formula. You should quickly decrease the juice.
- It can help if a mother leaves the house and allows another family member or a competent caregiver to bottle-feed the baby, as long as the individual understands the topics addressed above. While gone, the mother should not call home and check up on the feed! This can undermine the confidence of the person bottle-feeding the baby.
- Sometimes a baby will accept the bottle if the bottle-giver places Mom's unwashed t-shirt across his or her chest and holds the bottle against this with the baby in a breast-feeding position.
- Find a trustworthy, patient and experienced caregiver to help you if family members find bottle-feeding too frustrating. Choose someone who considers this situation a challenge, not a problem.
- Try feeding the baby from a cup or spoon.
- Some mothers have found they can slip the bottle nipple into the baby's mouth while the baby is at the breast. Next, they offer the bottle held against a bare breast. Finally, the baby will accept the bottle from others.
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