If you plan on formula feeding, your baby is definitely going to have to take a bottle. If your baby is breastfed, there’s a chance that at some point in time you’ll want to feed your baby from a bottle. It might be because you’re going back to work soon and won’t be the person primarily responsible for feeding your baby anymore or it could be because you want to leave your baby for a few hours to do something for yourself or maybe you just want your baby to have some bonding time with dad. While many babies take to bottles just fine, a surprising number of babies refuse them and need a little time and practice to find what works, while some never take a bottle at all, despite countless attempts.
The first reason that your baby may not be taking a bottle is that your baby can’t latch properly to the bottle. This is very common with breastfed babies because the breast nipple and the bottle nipple are different and if your baby has gotten used to the breast nipple, they may have a hard time adjusting to the bottle nipple. The best fix for this issue is to try multiple bottles. No matter how much you google “best bottle”, it doesn’t mean that what comes up in the search menu is going to work for you. To avoid wasting a ton of money buying bottles, try buying single bottles if possible that way you’re not stuck with a ton of bottles that you’ll never use if your baby doesn’t take them. If you’re not opposed to using pre-owned bottles, borrow an old bottle from a friend or family member that you would like to try and test it out before buying it.
Your baby prefers to feed directly from the source! What baby wouldn’t prefer cuddles with mommy while feeding? In this case, your baby knows how to drink from a bottle, they’re just choosing not to. If your baby is not taking the bottle from you out of choice, try to be as consistent as possible. If you’re constantly caving in, then your baby will catch on and know that if they hold out long enough, mommy always comes to the rescue. You should also let another caregiver be responsible for feeding your baby the bottle and to be out of the room whenever possible when you’re trying to get your baby to take a bottle. Seeing you or being able to smell you may just ignite their stubbornness to not take the bottle.
Your baby needs practice. While some babies catch on pretty fast, others need a little bit of practice and they need routine. Rather than starting with a large amount of milk, start small. Give your baby .5oz of milk around the same time every day and once they get the hang of it, increase the amount of milk that you give them at that feeding. Once you feel as if you’ve gotten the hang of that feeding, add another one until your baby is drinking enough milk from the bottle for the day.
If you’ve tried all of these tips and they still haven’t worked, the last piece advice that I would recommend for breastfed babies is to check for lipase in your milk. Lipase is an enzyme that breaks down the fats in your milk to make it easier for your baby to digest. Excess lipase can make the milk taste off when it’s not fresh and while some babies don’t mind the taste, others do. The best way to test for lipase is to taste the milk yourself. If you can clearly taste a difference between freshly expressed milk and old milk, chances are your baby can too. There are a number of ways to treat lipase in milk. If you scald your milk after expressing it and before storing it will help it retain its freshly expressed flavor. Mixing the older milk with fresh milk to get your baby used to the taste can help as well. Just make sure that you start off mixing more fresh milk to start and reducing the percentage of fresh milk as your baby gets used to the taste.
These are just a few reasons that your baby won’t take a bottle. It also could be as simple as experimenting with different feeding positions or the temperature of the milk to try to get it to just the right temperature. For formula fed babies, it could be that your baby doesn’t like the taste of the milk and you just need to try a different formula. Just like everything else, every baby is different and what works for one baby will be different from what works for the next. The most important thing is to keep your cool, not give up, try everything that you can and give your baby time to learn. We often get frustrated with the baby not taking a bottle because we’re on a schedule that our baby didn’t get the memo about and we’re getting anxious and nervous while the time is ticking away which may be contributing to your baby’s inability to take the bottle. By giving yourself plenty of time to introduce your baby to the bottle, you can avoid some of these frustrations. It may also be the case that your baby is one of those babies that will never take a bottle. If that’s the case, it will get easier eventually as they’re introduced to solid foods, drink milk less often and when they’re old enough to drink from a sippy cup and on the bright side, a baby that never takes a bottle never has to be weaned from a bottle!