If you have breastfed for a while and want to wean or maybe combine breastfeeding with bottle-feeding, you might be up for a surprise. Many breastfed babies completely refuse the bottle when you try to introduce it. But there are (gentle) ways to win this battle!
Read my suggestions to a mom whose baby freaks out every time she tries to bottle-feed him.
Is it even possible to get a breastfed baby to take the bottle?! My baby is 4 1/2 months old, and I am trying to get him to take a bottle of formula once a day with no luck. I am leaving on a trip in 3 weeks, and I don’t know what I am going to do if he still refuses the bottle.
He literally turns purple while screaming from the bottle and taste of the formula. Should I let him go ahead and nurse or let him get really hungry? My first two kids weaned off the breast very easily. My husband and kids try to feed him the bottle, and he still “freaks out”! Help!
Breastfed Baby Refuses Bottle, Why And What To Do
Why do breastfed babies refuse the bottle?
Mommy is More Yummy!
I’m not surprised your little boy doesn’t want to stop breastfeeding; you are much yummier than a bottle! It can be hard to wean a baby that clearly knows what he wants. I suspect he is also picking up on your stress at trying to make him take a bottle, and the pressure is making the situation worse. Very difficult when you have a deadline to go away.
Something called “nipple confusion” can also occur. Babies can develop a preference for either breast or bottle nipples. If a baby becomes used to the breast and the flow of milk from it, they might find it difficult to adjust to a different nipple shape or milk flow from a bottle.
The Breast milk vs. Formula
Breast milk is naturally warmed to body temperature, while bottled milk might be too cold or too hot for the baby’s preference. Ensuring the milk is at the right temperature can be important.
Breast milk also has a unique smell and taste that babies might associate with comfort and nourishment. Bottled milk might taste different, which could lead to refusal.
The breast vs. a bottle
Breastfed babies are used to the natural flow and pace of milk from the breast, which can be quite different from the faster flow of milk from a bottle. Some babies may struggle with this difference and become frustrated.
The type of bottle and nipple you’re using might not suit your baby’s preferences. Some babies prefer certain nipple shapes or materials.
Babies might not like the feeling of milk being forced into their mouths, which can sometimes happen with bottle-feeding if the flow is too fast.
Simply A Habit
Babies are routine lovers. If a baby is used to breastfeeding, they might resist bottle-feeding simply because it’s different from what they’re used to.
I can totally sympathize with you; two of our three children would not accept a bottle either (all breastfed). It takes some creativity!
How to get a breastfed baby to take the bottle
Here are some things you might try to get your baby to accept the bottle:
1. Feed him before he is starving or dead tired
- Firstly, I wouldn’t wait until he is starving to try to get him to take the bottle; at that time he is already hungry and grumpy and just wants you. Feed him a little bit earlier.
2. Make the Bottle Feeding a Smiley Game!
Rather than making it something you are forcing on him, try to make it more of a smiley game. Let him try to hold and grab at the bottle, play with the teat, etc. That way he sees smiles and fun with the bottle, not frowns and pressure. Just do little tastes of the formula so it becomes familiar.
3. Mimic the breastfeeding situation or better!
Create a super cosy feeding situation that resembles the breastfeeding or is even better, e.g. with skin contact and gentle rocking.
4. Feed breast milk in the bottle or mix
I would try is to express your own milk and get him used to the bottle with the good stuff in it. That way, at least the taste is familiar. You don’t have much time left, but once he gets used to the bottle, you can gradually introduce formula every second feed, or for the first couple of ounces, then swap if he complains.
You can even mix in a little bit formula with the milk to make him gradually get used to the taste.
5. Change the formula
You could also try changing the formula in case he prefers the taste of a new brand. For one of my children, what helped was to switch formula brand. She went from spitting and refusing to eat to suckling greedily when she got a formula that she liked. And to be honest, when I tasted the two, I also preferred the one she did. Maybe it had to do with this interesting fact that research has found; the taste of breast milk is affected by mom’s diet.
6. Try different nipples
Experiment with different bottle nipples to find one that closely resembles the breast and allows for a comfortable flow.(You probably have already tried that!)
7. Check the formula temperature
Try to make sure that the formula has the same temperature as breast milk (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F) or 37 degrees Celsius (C)).
Finally, check out these additional bottle-feeding tips that I have written down here. They helped another of my kids to accept bottle-feeding.
I hope it all works out in time for you to go away,
All the best,
Find comments below.
Paula Dennholt founded Easy Baby Life in 2006 and has been a passionate parenting and pregnancy writer since then. Her parenting approach and writing is based on studies in cognitive-behavioral models and therapy for children and her experience as a mother and stepmother. Life as a parent has convinced her of how crucial it is to put relationships before rules. She strongly believes in positive parenting and a science-based approach.
Paula cooperates with a team of pediatricians that you find here. They write or review all health-related articles.