Many parents use bottles at some point, whether just for the occasional night out or because they will be returning to work, and send their pumped milk bottles for the caregiver to feed the baby. But what do you do if your baby refuses to take the bottle? Have you tried to give your baby a bottle, and they are just not having it? Getting your baby used to a bottle can be very stressful when they refuse. Don’t worry; there are strategies to help you when your baby has bottle refusal. Also, remember that what your baby does or doesn’t do gives you clues into how well they are able to feed and challenges with it. (3) It can take some experimenting and diving deeper looking into why they are having a hard time, but when you uncover the why, it often holds the solution for how to help them.
Babies use different muscles when they nurse compared to how they drink from a bottle.
- For nursing, a baby opens their mouth wide with their tongue coming out over the bottom gum line and the tongue draws the nipple and a portion of the areola tissue into their mouth. Their lips flange and form a seal on the breast. The tongue needs to be able to remain extended, cup the breast tissue and move in a wave like motion to move milk from further back in the ducts towards the nipple as well as help create suction.
- At the bottle, a baby uses their tongue in a different way which helps control the flow of milk. Instead of a wave-like motion, we see a movement more like a piston firing forward and back with the back of the tongue rising and thrusting forward.(1)
If your baby still has difficulty taking a bottle after trying these strategies, more may be going on. Get in touch with your IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to take a deeper look at what the root of the issue may be. They can also help co-create a care plan specifically for your baby, their feeding needs, and your goals.
Bottle refusal can be a challenging situation for both parents and babies. Understanding the differences between breastfeeding and bottle feeding can help bridge the gap and make the transition smoother. By implementing strategies such as choosing the right bottle nipple, offering the bottle at the right time, using distractions, and practicing patience, parents can help their baby become more comfortable with bottle feeding. However, if the problem persists, it is advisable to seek assistance from an IBCLC who can provide further guidance and support tailored to your baby's specific needs and feeding goals. Remember, with time, patience, and persistence, your baby can overcome bottle refusal.