"I have to get my baby to take a bottle but he won’t," says mom Sarah C. in a panic. She's worried about her upcoming six-hour work shift next week. "I've tried expressing my milk, tried formula and different bottles, but he just hates it," she says of her 15-week-old son. Shakira too, would like to give herself an occasional break from breastfeeding, but her daughter won’t take a bottle, whether it’s filled with breast milk or formula. "I breastfeed my daughter every day, all day, but I would like and really need for her to take a bottle." If you, too, like Sarah and Shakira, feel like a prisoner because your baby refuses a bottle, the following six tips from other moms may help your situation.
Click to see the tricks moms have tried that worked!
1. Make a Bottle That Feels and Tastes Like Mom
Circle of Moms members say some babies only like milk from a bottle if it’s similiar — in touch, taste, and temperature — to drinking from mom’s breast. Joyce W., for example, says her son is very particular, only wanting mommy. She notes he took breastflow bottles and nipples better and would only drink if the milk was at the right temperature. "When my sister was helping me, she would have to reheat it after he only ate a few ounces," she says.
To find out if your baby is picky about temperature, Sarah M. suggests moms pump and feed the baby the milk in a bottle immediately. If temperature isn't an issue, then perhaps your baby wants to drink from a bottle and nipple that more closely resembles a breast, Nicole N. suggests. "My little girl is breastfed as well and I had a hard time trying to give her a bottle. She refused the bottle every time and would cry and cry." Then Nicole switched to a bottle called Adiri that is shaped like a breast and soft like a breast. "It's the only bottle she will drink out of. It costs about $15 for one bottle, but it is so worth it," she adds.
Maria O. says she had a similar experience, and had to find the “right” bottle for her daughter. "I went from buying the cheapest to the most expensive bottles, then she finally took the Soothie bottles. The bottle’s nipple looks exactly like the pacifiers that the hospital gives you." Meanwhile, Sarah G. says she went through about five different types of nipples and finally her daughter took the Adiri bottle. "My son was the same, and would only take Medela nipples. So I think just finding the right nipple is the key," she shares.
2. Move Away From Mom
On the other hand, some Circle of Moms members suggest it helps if moms not bottle feed their babies, but instead put some distance from their children. "My pediatrician told me that I need to leave the house and not be anywhere near my daughter when someone tries to give her a bottle," Adisalem C. says. Previously, she had always been in the house but in another room, and her 22-month-old wouldn’t bottle feed. Once she left the house, her husband was successful in getting their daughter to drink from the bottle.
Shelley H.’s breastfeeding coach made a similar recommendation, advising that the bottle not resemble a breast, and to have daddy or someone else give the bottle instead of mom. She also suggested not to repeat your breastfeeding routine (i.e., if you breastfeed in the dark, don't bottle feed that way), Shelley reports. Alley C. says the person trying to give the bottle should have baby face away from them and sit up so that it doesn't remind the baby of breastfeeding.
3. Add a Sweetener
As long as your pediatrician approves, then some moms recommend adding something to the bottle to make it more palatable. For instance, Mallory H. says her 8-month-old refused the bottle until she mixed formula and a baby jar of applesauce in the bottle. Marcy C. admits she thinks sugar is a terrible thing, but the only method that helped her son start taking a bottle was to wet the nipple and put a little sugar on it. "We tried everything with our son. I spent a small fortune on bottles and nearly lost my mind running back and forth to day care while I was working to nurse him," she says. "The small amount [of sugar] he received was worth my sanity."
Meanwhile, Danielle suggests trying to sweeten drinking from a bottle by using breastmilk. "Try putting [baby] on your breast first, then slip the bottle in," she suggest. "He might chew on it for a bit, but then he should start sucking. It may take three or four [tries], but he can then realize what the bottle is for."
4. Be Patient
Getting a baby to drink from a bottle will take a little persistence, Circle of Moms generally agree. "It took me two months and about 10 different bottles to get my baby girl to feed out of a bottle," Victoria W. reports. "I found the flat nipples worked in the end, but it was just perseverance. Just keep trying, you will get there!" Ali B. says it took her a year to get one of her children to bottle feed. "All I can say is keep trying, be patient."
5. Skip Ahead to a Cup
If you’re not having any luck with a bottle, then by all means offer a cup. Sarah M. shares that a friend's daughter would never take a bottle, even when she was little; she would only take a Nuk sippy cup. Christina P. also chose that route, noting that her daughter won’t take a bottle but will drink out of a sippy cup, or even a regular cup. Francesca S. says she tried every make and model of bottles, but her 10-month-old daughter drinks best out of a cup with a straw. "She loves the novelty of it. She has been doing that since 4 months old," she says.
6. Ask for Help
When nothing seems to be working, then Circle of Moms suggest moms ask an expert for assistance. Doreen P. says she learned her daughter wouldn’t take a bottle around 5 months old, but then started taking it around 7 months old because she was teething. Meanwhile Vanessa S. says a speech pathologist helped to assess her son’s sucking behavior and provide exercises for his tongue, and then he was able to take a bottle all day.
Of course, as long as mom doesn’t mind breastfeeding, then there’s no reason your baby needs to drink from a bottle. Kathy B. says her third son refused a bottle — and didn’t starve. "I would nurse him before I left and he would refuse to eat until I got home eight hours later. Then he nursed like it was going out of style," she says. "The sitter said he was never fussy though; just wanted to wait for mommy."