Are you wondering how you can help your breastfed baby take a bottle?
Use these 7 tips to figure out exactly how to bottle feed the breastfed baby and help your baby love bottles just as much as the breast.
Seven months after my baby was born, the big day was right around the corner… I was heading back to work.
If I’m perfectly honest with you, the closer it got, the more I started to worry.
To ease my nerves a little and help my baby dip his toes into this massive transition, we scheduled a trial run.
We started with a few half days the week before I went back to work to test things out before diving into the deep end of full time day care.
To say that it was horrible is a complete understatement.
When I dropped him off, he cried. I cried. Heck who knows, probably the day care lady cried too.
But by far the worst part of the day was that he completely refused to take the bottle. Not one drop the entire time.
The next day was the same.
He pursed those cute little baby lips and completely refused the breastmilk I had worked so hard to pump and the emergency formula stash I had packed just in case.
That’s just great. My baby decided to refuse his bottle juuuust before I really needed him to take it.
My baby isn’t the only one who decided to boycott bottles and profess his love for breastfeeding right as I transitioned back to work.
In fact, bottle refusal when your baby prefers breastfeeding is really common and it often kicks in the strongest with major transitions – like mom leaving to go to work all day long.
But the good news is that yes, you can help your breastfed baby to fall in love with bottles too – whether you’re making the switch to bottles full time, you need your baby to take a bottle while you’re at work, or you just need to bottle feed occasionally for a quick day trip without baby.
In this article, you’ll discover my top tips for using attachment and cuddles to finally help your breastfed baby to take a bottle.
- Before we go over tips to stop bottle refusal, it’s helpful to know – why do babies often prefer breastfeeding?
- But my baby used to take a bottle just fine. Why is she refusing it now?
- What can you do when your breastfed baby won’t take a bottle?
- 1. Take a Deep Breath to Check Your Emotions Before Giving a Bottle.
- 2. Give Your Baby Your Complete Attention and Create a Distraction Free Zone.
- 3. Make Eye Contact While You Talk or Sing to Your Baby.
- 4. Take Off Your Shirt to Mimic Bottle Feeding While Giving a Bottle.
- 5. Switch Between Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding Until You Get Started.
- A quick side note:
- 6. Cuddle With Mom’s Shirt or Introduce a Lovey.
- 7. Pauses and Breaks With the Other Caregiver
- 8. Use Paced Bottle Feeding to Mimic Breastfeeding.
- When you need to give your baby a bottle, you want to know that your baby is still getting enough milk.
- Stay calm. Be patient. And focus on deeply connecting with your baby during bottle sessions and you’ll be over this bottle refusal before you know it.
Before we go over tips to stop bottle refusal, it’s helpful to know – why do babies often prefer breastfeeding?
Probably the most common reason babies prefer breastfeeding is because they feel more connected with you.
Breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes love, nurturing, and a strong emotional bond with your baby.
If that’s not enough of a reason for your baby to love breastfeeding, nursing also stimulates several other senses by allowing your baby to touch your skin, smell your breastmilk, look into your eyes, and promote the bond between the two of you.
So it’s really no wonder that many babies prefer breastfeeding to bottles.
But my baby used to take a bottle just fine. Why is she refusing it now?
There are several reasons why your baby can suddenly start refusing the bottle.
But feeling a lack of connection is one of the most common reasons, especially as you have a big schedule change, like trying to wean from nursing or going back to work.
With these big changes, your baby often tries to make up for this loss of connection or reduced attachment in your daily routine from when you’re apart.
This often means that you’ll see your baby start to refuse the bottle during the day and then nurse very frequently in the evening and overnight.
What can you do when your breastfed baby won’t take a bottle?
If your baby is refusing the bottle because he prefers breastfeeding, here’s seven easy tips you can start using right now to stop bottle refusal once and for all with your breastfed baby.
1. Take a Deep Breath to Check Your Emotions Before Giving a Bottle.
Your baby is like a sponge soaking up all of your emotions.
If he senses that you’re calm and excited to sit down and bond during bottle time, he’s able to relax too.
But if he senses that you’re frustrated or stressed, it lights up the amygdala in his brain and signals his flight of flight response.
He can’t stop to enjoy a bottle because his brain is yelling, “Oh no! Why is my mom/dad/caregiver so stressed out right now? Something is clearly wrong so I need to be on alert.”
I literally cannot stress the importance of this step.
So before you offer a bottle, take a few deep breaths, watch a heartwarming YouTube video, listen to some babbling brook soundtrack, anything to help you feel calm and relaxed as you begin this part of your daily routine.
2. Give Your Baby Your Complete Attention and Create a Distraction Free Zone.
Remember, breastfeeding is a really unique bonding experience for your baby.
So when you or another caregiver is offering a bottle, you want to be extra intentional about bonding and creating attachments during these feedings too.
Essentially, you want to help your baby think of bottle sessions as a really special part of her daily routine where she can cuddle and bond with you.
Try to make bottle feeding become a highlight of the day.
One of the best ways to do this is to mentally commit to giving your baby your full attention while bottle feeding.
Shut off the TV, put away your phone, and step away to a quiet, private location where you can enjoy some one-on-one time with just you and your baby.
3. Make Eye Contact While You Talk or Sing to Your Baby.
Let’s take that last tip and raise it juuust a little.
While you’re bottle feeding your baby, make it your goal to connect with him as deeply as possible.
Throughout the feeding, look your baby in the eye and talk, hum, or sing to your baby while you give your baby the bottle.
I promise that your baby will love this connection with you no matter what you talk about or how great your singing voice is.
Show your baby that this time is all about you two spending some time together so she genuinely begins to look forward to bottle feeding as the special bonding time between the two of you.
4. Take Off Your Shirt to Mimic Bottle Feeding While Giving a Bottle.
While you’re breastfeeding, your skin directly touches your baby’s skin.
When this happens, you’re getting all of the great benefits of skin-to-skin contact, including releasing hormones that relieve stress, calming your baby, and creating a connection between you and your little one.
So a great way to help your breastfed baby stop refusing the bottle is to boost your skin-to-skin contact while bottle feeding too since your baby loves this special contact with you.
Take off your shirt and your baby’s shirt so you can amp up those same hormones and help your baby feel more connected during any bottle feeding sessions in your day.
Check this Out: Bottle refusal can happen for a lot of reasons. Check out this free guide to learn exactly what’s causing your baby’s bottle refusal and what you can do to stop it.
5. Switch Between Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding Until You Get Started.
When your breastfed baby wants nothing to do with the bottle and just wants to nurse, it can be really helpful to get back on track by switching back and forth from the breast and the bottle.
Try offering the breast for 20-60 seconds.
Once your baby is calm, quickly unlatch from the breast and transition to the bottle as smoothly as you can.
If your baby becomes upset, go back to breastfeeding for another 20-60 seconds and then transition again back to the bottle.
The goal is to help combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding in the same feeding session to help get your baby start taking the bottle with you and with other caregivers.
If your baby is still struggling, feel free to extend the time.
Try nursing for 2-5 minutes and then transitioning to the bottle. As your baby starts accepting the bottle more and more, you can decrease your nursing time as you go.
A quick side note:
If you’re not trying to completely wean from breastfeeding and are just trying to stop bottle refusal when you’re away from your baby, try this strategy up to a couple times per day as you’re working on overcoming bottle refusal.
But make sure that you’re still getting in several full nursing sessions, consider pumping, and don’t try this every time you breastfeed or you can accidentally decrease your milk supply and create breastfeeding challenges.
6. Cuddle With Mom’s Shirt or Introduce a Lovey.
Remember, for this specific cause of bottle refusal, your baby is missing out on the connection with mom that he normally feels while breastfeeding.
A great way to help him feel this connection while bottle feeding, especially while bottle feeding with other caregivers, is to bottle feed while snuggling with mom’s shirt or with a special lovey.
To make this as effective as possible, use a shirt that you wore for an entire day or slept with for a few nights. Or tuck a lovey in the top of your shirt for an evening or two so it starts to smell like you.
Then try to nurse with the shirt or lovey for your next few nursing sessions.
Once the shirt or lovey has had enough time to start to smell like you, go ahead and give it to the other caregiver working with your baby and encourage them to cuddle with it during their next bottle session.
7. Pauses and Breaks With the Other Caregiver
Just like switching from breastfeeding and the bottle when it’s just you, it can also be really helpful to take some pauses and breaks while working with a partner.
Start by breastfeeding for a bit, anywhere from 20 seconds to a few minutes.
Once your baby starts drinking and seems calm and relaxed, try to quickly and smoothly hand over baby to the other caregiver to transition to the bottle.
Repeat as many times as necessary.
For this step in particular, it can be helpful for the other caregiver to have their shirt off so it feels more similar to your nursing session and creates the smoothest transition possible between the two of you.
It’s also helpful to have your partner sit facing you with your knees as close as possible so that when you unlatch, you can quickly pass your baby to your partner’s arms and transition to the bottle as smoothly as possible.
8. Use Paced Bottle Feeding to Mimic Breastfeeding.
Every time you offer a bottle, I recommend using paced bottle feeding.
This mimics breastfeeding sessions as much as possible and gives your baby more control during the feeding.
While bottle feeding, it can be really easy to give the milk too quickly or offer your baby more milk even when she’s full.
This can lead to a stomach ache, increase acid reflux, and cause bottle refusal to get worse since your baby is so uncomfortable.
But paced bottle feeding helps to put your baby back in the driver’s seat to control the pace of the feeding.
And since he has more of a say in how fast and how much he’s eating, your baby is able to stay more comfortable which helps a lot with bottle refusal.
When you need to give your baby a bottle, you want to know that your baby is still getting enough milk.
After all, we all want to make sure that our babies are happy and healthy.
But bottle feeding isn’t always as easy as popping a bottle into your baby’s hungry mouth.
When your baby is refusing the bottle because he prefers breastfeeding, make it your number one goal to boost your attachment.
Add in cuddles to make bottle sessions a special highlight of the day and help your baby fall in love with bottle feeding just as much as nursing.
Make sure to take a deep breath to calm yourself before you begin offering the bottle, and take a break if you feel yourself becoming frustrated with your baby’s bottle refusal.
Give your baby your complete attention and create a distraction free zone. Then make eye contact and sing to your baby throughout the feeding session.
You can also take off your shirt and your baby’s shirt to boost your skin-to-skin bonding while offering the bottle.
Try switching between breastfeeding and bottle feeding to get your baby back on track, either by yourself or passing baby to a partner for the bottle feeding.
Give your baby a shirt that smells like you or introduce a lovey to cuddle with while bottle feeding. And always be sure to use paced bottle feeding during your bottle feeding session.
Stay calm. Be patient. And focus on deeply connecting with your baby during bottle sessions and you’ll be over this bottle refusal before you know it.
YOURS FREE: STEP BY STEP BOTTLE REFUSAL GUIDE
YOU’LL LOVE THESE TOO: