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How to Get Your Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle (And What to Do When They Absolutely Refuse)

Anxious about going back to work because your breastfed baby won’t take a bottle? Looking for some helpful tips and tricks to get your baby to eat while you’re away? 

Babies will eventually eat if they’re hungry enough, but that may lead to them reverse cycling. And, the last thing you want is to be working all day and then having to nurse your baby all night long. That would just be utterly exhausting. So, how can you get your baby to accept a bottle, so you can continue your routine with confidence? 

In this post, we’ll give you 10 tips to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle and cover what you can do if they just absolutely refuse. 

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Top 10 Tips to Get Your Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle

Does your breastfed baby act like she doesn’t know what to do with a bottle? Does she just gag, play with it, or push the nipple out of her mouth? Use these top 10 tips to ease the frustration and get your baby to accept that bottle:

1.) Have Someone Else Give the Bottle

Babies aren’t going to want to take a bottle when they have the “real thing” right in their face. It’s very common for breastfed babies to refuse a bottle when mom is the one giving it, so try having your hubby, mom, or close friend offer the bottle instead. 

2.) Leave the House

Babies are smart! They know when mom is around or anywhere nearby. You may have to leave the house completely in order to see some results.

So, go for a walk or head to Target and get some “me time” while your partner does the feeding. Don’t head too far away though, in case baby or dad just gets too frustrated. 

3.) Use Your Scent

Leave a “dirty” t-shirt that has your scent on it with whoever will be feeding your baby. They can try placing it on their shoulder when offering a bottle. Your familiar smell will help keep baby calm, and they may associate it with feeding time. 

4.) Do Skin-to-Skin

This may not be a feasible option for daycare providers, but my hubby had great success getting our first baby to take a bottle when doing skin-to-skin. He would take his shirt off, and place baby girl’s cheek against his chest, and she would willing take the bottle that way. 

5.) Try a Few Different Bottles

You may need to try a few different bottles, as every baby has different preferences. You may also want to try out a few various nipple sizes as well, in case the flow is a factor. I wouldn’t try out too many though, as that just might create more confusion.

I know many moms have had luck with MAM, Dr. Brown’s Slow Flow, and Lansinoh Momma. We preferred the benefits of glass though and had much success with LifeFactory glass bottles, as well as Joovy Boob

6.) Be Consistent

After trying 2-3 different bottles, choose the one your baby even remotely took, and just stick to it. Sometimes, consistency and practice will be much more helpful then finding the “perfect” bottle.

It’s also important to keep offering on a consistent schedule. Maybe you can pick out one feeding a day to let your partner try and stick to that schedule. Sometimes it just takes time. 

7.) Get the Timing Right

When offering a bottle, you need to make sure your baby is in the right mood. Your baby should be hungry, but not too hungry. It’s also not a good idea to try a bottle when your baby is fussy for any other reason, such as being tired, overly stimulated, having a wet diaper, etc. If you get the timing right, you’re more likely to see some progress. 

8.) Switch Up the Environment

Sometimes breastfed babies just have to be distracted enough to where they forget about being angry about the bottle. Sometimes being held reminds them too much of mom to accept an alternative. 

Try placing your baby in their bouncer chair, swing, or taking them outside. My second baby took a total of 3 bottles during his first year of life, and one of those he just randomly chugged down when we had him outside in the stroller. 

9.) Play with the Temperature

If nothing else has worked so far, you could try adjusting the temperature of the milk. Some babies just prefer VERY warm breast milk. 

If your baby is refusing to eat because of an illness or teething, you could try giving your baby cold breast milk. It may feel good against their teeth or sores. You could even try making breast milk popsicles.

10.) Give a Taste of What's Coming

Try squeezing a little bit or your milk onto the end of the nipple, and place it against your baby’s lips to give them a taste of what’s coming. Sometimes they just need an immediate sip to let them know that it’s your yummy breast milk inside that bottle. 

What if My Breastfed Baby Is Still Refusing the Bottle?

If you have a stubborn baby that just prefers his mama, then there is no need to fret. There are still a few things you can try to get your baby to eat while you’re away:

  • Sippy cup: If your baby is a little older (around 5-6 months), then you could try introducing a sippy cup, and see if your baby takes to that. 
  • Open cup: A small open baby cup is another great alternative to try if your breastfed baby continues to refuse bottles. Just give small sips at a time. 
  • Syringe: My second baby refused bottles 99.9% of the time, but he sure would suck down a syringe. I found 12 mL curved tip syringes to work best. They weren’t annoyingly small to where we had to be constantly refilling it, and they weren’t too large to where they’d be difficult to push. It was easy to squirt a little bit at a time into baby’s cheek pocket. 
  • Medicine Dropper: If you don’t have any syringes handy, but you have an old school medicine dropper, you could try that instead. Medicine droppers are also great to use for newborns that are having trouble feeding. 

Stay Positive Mama

I know getting your breastfed baby to take a bottle can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you have to return to work soon, but try to stay calm and positive. The last thing you need is for your baby to have a negative association with the bottle. 

Leave the house and have someone else try giving your baby a bottle. Let them try out various environments, temperatures, and even a few different bottles to see if anything flips a switch.

Sometimes consistency is just all it takes though, so just keeping offering your baby that bottle. If your baby just absolutely refuses, try not to stress out. There are plenty of other options you can try to get your baby to eat something, such as a sippy cup, syringe, or even just an open cup. 

Try and keep cool mama! You and your baby will figure this out! 

Did You Find This Post Helpful?

Did any of these tricks work to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle? Share your best tips in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other breastfeeding moms. 

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