How to get your baby to take a bottle

I can’t even begin to tell you the stress I was going through knowing that I was about to go to work and my baby wasn’t taking a bottle.  I had searched the internet, reached out to other mamas that had the same struggles, asked doctors, and took every advice or recommendation that anyone would give me.  I was desperate.  I know there are other mamas out there who are in the same situation with their baby not taking a bottle and the anxiety that comes along with it.  Whether you are planning on going back to work, leaving for a few hours, going on a date night, or want some middle of the night relief, you are going to need your baby to take a bottle.  Below are ways how to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle!

How to get your breastfed baby to take a bottle.

  1. Have someone else give baby the bottle. Babies can sense when mama is in same room and I’ve heard it’s best for mama to be completely out of the house.
  2. Try different bottles.  Does you baby take a pacifier? Usually the same brand of pacifier makes bottle nipples same shape and texture as the pacifier.  My second baby loved the MAM pacifier so towards the end, I was consistent with the MAM bottle and it eventually worked!  Also, I had a lot of recommendations to use the bottles most similar to the boob, such as Comotomo.
  3. Try different milk flows. Each bottle has nipples that are different flows.
  4. Distract baby while trying to feed.  Go outside, look at lights, play music, whatever you think will distract the baby and try giving baby the bottle.  Walking around while trying to feed the baby (with baby in front carrier facing forward) seemed that this was the most recommended way to get baby to take the bottle from my research.  The steps help relax the baby and hopefully trigger their natural sucking reflex.
  5. Try a sleep feed. Sometimes, they are so sleepy they don’t really notice or care what’s in their mouth.
  6. Have someone feeding your baby have mama’s scent.  A mom had recommended to me that whoever trying to feed the baby wear something of the mother’s (shirt, blanket, etc…)  so the baby can still smell mother’s scent.
  7. Switch-a-roo.  Switch from boob to bottle or pacifier to bottle.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  8. Use freshly expressed milk. Sometimes the perfect temperature comes straight from the source itself.  Plus, your milk may contain extra lipase activity causing your milk to taste and smell differently.  See below to read more.
  9. Go on a boob strike.  Pump into bottles and do not feed him boob until he finally caves in. This is SO hard.  My dad made a few good points while I was crying because I thought I was torturing my baby: “What happens to babies whose mothers just leave their baby or who pass away… does the baby just not eat, ever?”  Such a harsh depiction but also a reality.  “A baby can’t be starving if there’s food in front of them, right?”  Tough love but a reality.  I went to Nashville for a weekend and while I was boot-scoot-N-pumping, my baby was giving my mother in law and hubby a tough bottle strike.  I thought for sure after 30 hours of not eating little bubs would cave in, but it didn’t happen.
  10. Don’t give up and hang in there. It’s SO hard.  What works for some babies on’t work for others.  I’ve cried and cried because it was so stressful.  The biggest challenge for me was knowing how hard my baby made it for anyone watching him.  This was always my biggest concern and I’ve even had a nanny text me saying that my child was starving and I should come home.  It makes it hard on anyone watching your baby.

How Parker FINALLY took the bottle.

Most lactation consultants and doctors recommend establishing breastfeeding before introducing a bottle to avoid nipple confusion at 4 to 6 weeks of age.  I had this ingrained in my head and I was so nervous to give my baby the bottle because I was afraid that my baby would reject my boob.  The things we mamas have to worry about, right?  We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  I would give him a bottle and formula here and there with no issues, however, when I was in Minnesota for a month during my maternity leave, I took a two-week time out of not giving him a bottle and after that, he wouldn’t take a bottle.

I LOVED breastfeeding and the cuddle time I got with my little man, so stopping this to pump made it really hard. (To read about things I forgot about breastfeeding, READ HERE.)  I would 10,000 x rather breastfeed than pump into a bottle.  The fact that he wasn’t even drinking my pumped milk from the bottle, also made it seem like too much work for how tired we were.

The days, weeks, and months following my baby’s first anti-bottle antics, we tried about everything to get him to take the bottle.  I had it in my head that he would eventually cave in but he didn’t.  When time started nearing my going back to work date, we made it a point to try every single day and sometimes, several times a day.  Every night my husband would give a bottle attempt. We eventually caved in because baby needed his food and we needed our sleep.

After about a month of having Parker at daycare and not taking a bottle, his daycare told me that Parker needed to start taking a bottle and he couldn’t come back until he did.  I didn’t really know how to react to that because this had been something that we had been trying to do for MONTHS since he decided to protest bottles. The doctor wasn’t worried about him not eating during the day because he was still having wet diapers and poops.  If this wasn’t the case, there would be reason for concern.  But in hindsight, this was the exact push I needed because as pessimistic as I was about my baby taking a bottle, it forced me to do it.

Boob Strike.

They kicked Parker out of daycare on Monday (I’m saying this dramatically because now looking back, it’s kind of funny).  I breastfed him at 5 PM and decided I wasn’t going to feed him my boob until he took the bottle.  As hard and as impossible this sounded to me, I was determined to do it.

We decided to stick with the MAM bottle because it was similar nipple as his pacifier and we needed some consistency.  My husband tried giving him the bottle before he went to bed, no success, but Parker did fall asleep.  My husband got up with him at 3am and tried feeding him bottle.  He resisted but was able to suck about 2 ounces down. Something he hasn’t done since he was 6 weeks old!  That morning I pumped into bottles and tried feeding him.  I put him in a Boppy propped up, facing me.  I took turns with his pacifier and the bottle with breastmilk in it. He would immediately get upset once the bottle nipple was in his mouth, but I would switch back to the pacifier until he calmed down.  There’d be times he would be so upset that he would turn purple.  I’d use the pacifier, walk around with him and it would calm him down.  But then, after being persistent around 11AM (18 hours of not eating), HE EVENTUALLY TOOK THE BOTTLE!  I couldn’t believe it.  I videoed him because I needed proof to show my family who also had seen this struggle first hand and to show daycare.  HALLELUAH!  I brought him to daycare that afternoon and showed them the video.  I explained to them how I did it, so they could do the exact same thing.  I went to work and daycare was able to repeat the exact same thing I did and from there on out, Parker was a bottle taking champ!

When we went to the doctor’s appointment for his 5-month appointment, Parker went from 65% in weight at his 4 month appointment went down to 19% in weight at his 5 month.  My poor little baby.  Doctor wasn’t concerned because we know the reasoning behind it and he is not drinking from the bottle during the day.


Things I would’ve done differently.

I would’ve given my baby a bottle at least once every 3 days from day 1.  However, because I didn’t and needed him to take the bottle, I would’ve done the exact thing (boob strike)  MUCH earlier.

I hope this helps any other mamas who are struggling with this.  I researched high and low for any information I could and here is everything that I uncovered but the most important thing to know is to not give up and eventually it will be a thing of the past.  I’ve also heard from other mamas and pediatricians that some babies never took the bottle.  Most of the time, these babies had stay at home moms, or night shift moms, or the baby was old enough to start supplementing with food.

Now that Parker takes a bottle, we are trying to get him to take formula and start sleep training.  It’s always something, right?

Thanks for reading and following along! What are the ways you have gotten your baby to take a bottle? Have you ever noticed your breastmilk smelling funny?

Xoxo, Rachael

(1) Comment

  1. […] ever have a funny smell to it?  If so, keep reading, if not, be sure to check out my post on other ways to get your baby to take a bottle! Sometimes my breastmilk would smell different.  Almost like it was spoiled but I knew it wasn’t […]

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