There are tons of articles with tips on how to get your breastfed baby to start taking a bottle. But what happens when your baby suddenly refuses to take a bottle after months of drinking from it without problems? What causes an older baby to suddenly refuse to take a bottle?

As parents, we’re constantly paying attention to what our babies eat. In fact, we often feed them much better than we feed ourselves. We are so focused on helping them to receive enough nutrients and stay as healthy as possible.

Because of this, it can be alarming when your baby suddenly refuses to drink a bottle and you don’t know why. How worried should you be and what can you do to help your baby start drinking from a bottle again?

Keep reading to learn 7 reasons why your baby might suddenly refuse to drink from a bottle. Plus get pro-tips on how to overcome these common challenges.

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1 – Your baby prefers to nurse.

If you are breastfeeding and bottle feeding, it is super common for your baby to refuse to take a bottle because she prefers to nurse.

While breastfeeding, your baby creates a special bond with you. She associates food time with this special bonding time and will often want to cuddle and nurse rather than take a bottle.

Although your baby may have taken a bottle without problems before, she could be going through a growth spurt or need a little extra love. When this happens, she is more likely to refuse the bottle because she wants to nurse and be close to you instead.

Many moms will notice that their baby seems to drink from a bottle less often at daycare then he nurses at home. Then in the evening, he will nurse much more frequently than he usually does. This can be concerning for moms, but it is completely normal. Often, your baby will drink just enough throughout the day to top off his hunger and then wait to squeeze in lots of nursing sessions once you’re together again in the evening.

Pro-Tip: If your baby starts to show a strong preference for nursing and refuses to take a bottle from you, try to have someone else give the bottle. Your baby has a great sense of smell and can smell your milk on you. Because of this, she is more likely to refuse to drink a bottle from you than when other people offer it.

2 – Your baby isn’t hungry.

We started introducing food at 6 months and instantly our baby fell in love with eating solid food. His eyes light up every time he gets to sit in his highchair and eat meals with us. But as he started eating more food, he also started to refuse his bottle.

Again, this is normal! Once your baby starts eating more solid food, she won’t need as many calories from milk. She will naturally decrease her milk consumption a bit as she takes in more food calories.

If you try to offer your baby a bottle when she’s already full, she’s much more likely to refuse it than if you offer it when she’s hungry. Don’t ever force your baby to drink from her bottle if she isn’t hungry. This can be frustrating for her and can cause stomach discomfort if she becomes overly full. Instead, take a break and offer a bottle in a little bit.

Pro-Tip: They often say that “food before one is just for fun.” Try to nurse or offer a bottle before your baby sits down for a meal. This ensures that he continues to drink enough milk before filling his stomach with new foods.

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3 – Your baby wants a different nipple flow.

I typically recommend giving your baby a bottle with the slowest flow that she will take. This helps to avoid challenges with acid reflux and better paces your baby so she isn’t drinking so quickly.

However, as your baby gets older, she may become frustrated with the “slow flow” nipples. Now that she’s older, she’s much more efficient at drinking milk and may want to take in more milk at once. Sometimes switching to a faster flow nipple can reduce her frustrations and help her to start taking a bottle better again.

Pro-Tip: Although your baby might be ready for a faster flow, continue to practice paced bottle feeding. Also, only increase your nipple flow as much as your baby needs it. Don’t immediately skip from a slow flow nipple to a fast flow one. Try the medium flow first and stick with that if your baby is doing well.

4 – The milk tastes different.

Your baby might have been drinking from a bottle without any problems but then suddenly start refusing the bottle because of differences in the milk. When you make a bottle, there are several factors that could change how much your baby enjoys the milk.

If your baby is finicky, he may like a very specific temperature for his milk. When it’s too warm or too cold, he can be more likely to refuse his bottle. (This is a great bottle warmer to make sure you always have the same bottle temperature!)

If you’re giving formula, changes in type or brand can also taste different and lead your baby to refuse to drink it. Likewise, if you’re not super precise while you measure the milk, the ratio could be a little different and your baby might refuse to drink the milk when it’s more or less diluted. (Check out this automatic formula maker! It mixes your formula so you always have the same mix and temperature.)

Finally, if you’re giving frozen breast milk, there are a number of changes that can occur during the freezing and thawing process that might cause your baby to start refusing the bottle. One common concern is having excess lipase in the milk. Over time, this breaks down the fats in milk and can cause the milk to taste “soapy,” which some babies will refuse to drink.

Pro-Tip: If your baby starts refusing to drink a bottle, think about what changes could have occurred with your formula brand or frozen breast milk. Carefully measure out your formula or experiment with the milk temperature. You can also try mixing freshly expressed milk with thawed milk to see if your baby will drink it better that way.

5 – Your baby is teething.

Teething is the worst!

Our baby got his first tooth at 4.5 months and now has 7 teeth at almost 8 months. Every time he is teething, I feel so bad for him. It’s clear that he’s feeling uncomfortable and in pain as he waits for those teeth to pop through.

Unfortunately, the sucking motion can often put extra pressure and pain on your baby’s gum. I’ve also heard from several moms that teething pain is worse when babies are laying down than when they are elevated.

This means that it’s pretty common for babies to refuse to lay down and drink from a bottle while they are teething.

The good news is that those teeth will eventually pop through and your baby will feel tons of relief once that happens. The bad news is that sometimes it feels like the teeth take ages to come in.

Try to find teething remedies that help relieve as much pain as possible for your baby. A few options include giving your baby teething toys to chew on, rubbing and massaging her gums with your finger, applying teething gel to her gums, or giving her pain medications. Also, try feeding the bottle in a more seated position to prevent extra pain from reclining your baby to eat.

If you can help minimize her pain and discomfort, she is much more likely to stop refusing the bottle and drink more milk for you.

Pro-Tip: Milk popsicles are great for relieving pain from teething while also helping your baby to take in some milk. If you’re worried your baby isn’t taking in enough milk, you can make a few milk popsicles and then offer them to your baby while she’s teething and refusing a bottle.

Click here to check out the best tools for finally overcoming bottle refusal with your baby!

6 – Your baby is sick.

When you don’t feel well, you typically don’t feel like eating as much. Likewise, when your baby isn’t feeling well, he is much more likely to suddenly start refusing a bottle.

Do your best to comfort your baby when he isn’t feeling well and try to add in lots of extra snuggles. Continue to offer a bottle as often as you can so that he doesn’t become dehydrated while he is ill. (Dehydration is very serious in babies. If you are worried about your baby’s fluid intake, please call your doctor’s office for more tips.)

Again, do what you can to minimize the symptoms. If your baby has an upset stomach, avoid solid foods or stick to a bland diet until she is feeling better.

If she’s congested, try to keep her head elevated as much as possible and give her a bottle at a more elevated angle (like you do with paced bottle feeding and to avoid acid reflux). This prevents her from being as congested and makes it much easier for her to breathe while drinking her bottle.

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    7 – Your baby is distracted.

    The older your baby gets, the more easily distracted he becomes while he is eating. He wants to be a part of the action and doesn’t want to miss anything around him.

    This often causes your baby to suddenly start to refuse to drink from a bottle because he is too distracted for milk.

    We’ve noticed that our baby is much more likely to refuse a bottle when the TV is playing, when my husband and I are chatting, or when kids are playing around us.

    In these situations, he is much more interested in looking around than drinking from his bottle.

    If your baby suddenly starts refusing to take a bottle, I highly recommend that you try to minimize distractions while you offer the bottle. Consider stepping away to a different room with no extra noise or distractions. 

    Creating a calming environment where your baby can quickly drink his bottle and then return to the fun to eat some solid food or spend time playing.

    Do you want to learn more reasons why your baby might not be drinking milk from the bottle suddenly?

    I know how scary and stressful it is when your baby starts rejecting the bottle! You constantly worry and wonder what you can do when your baby is not drinking any milk.

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    In this step-by-step guide, there 20 pages filled with specific things you can start doing right now to finally figure out how to get your baby to take a bottle again plus checklists and worksheets to help you put it all together!

    You can work your way through this checklist and try each step until you find exactly what works to help your baby start drinking from the bottle again.

    To download this free step-by-step workbook and finally fix your problems when your baby refuses the bottle, click here!

    It’s not uncommon for your baby to go through certain phases and refuse to drink from a bottle.

    When this happens, try to take a step back and relax.

    Your baby won’t starve from drinking a little less for a couple of days.

    Try to pay close attention to what is going on with your baby and then experiment to see how you can help encourage your baby to start drinking from her bottle again.

    In the meantime, you can add in extra nursing sessions if you are breastfeeding, offer a cup with milk, water, or juice, make milk popsicles, or give foods with a higher water content.

    Did your baby ever suddenly refuse to drink from the bottle? What tips helped you?

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