When a Breastfeeding Baby Rejects the Bottle: Help!

breastfed baby refusing bottleWe all know breastfeeding is best for baby, mom and the planet, but what happens when mom goes back to work and baby decides not to take those bottles full of expressed milk?   Today my baby went ten hours without eating just because she would NOT accept any form of bottle at any temperature from anyone.  We’ve tried while she’s asleep, while happy, while she’s incredibly hungry and the result is the same. My stay-at-home husband is desperate for a solution that will make her happy and end the hours of screaming.  Any ideas?  We need all the help we can get!


  1. My daughter did the same thing. My mom eventually got her to take the bottle. We tried different nipples (which i am sure you have done). She held one of my nursing pads close to her face and maybe the smell helped to trick her? She also just held her very close. My husband had some success with the same methods. I have a friend that this happened to and she said they just had to let her be hungry and after a couple of days she gave in and took to the bottle.
    This is so frustrating and stressful! I hope you have success soon.

  2. Have you tried putting some breast milk right on her tongue when she is calm and then slip the bottle (w/ the nipple also having milk on it) in when she is starting to figure it out with her tongue?

    We had to do that with sugar water before one of our daughter’s procedures to get her to take the bottle.

    Good luck! I’ll ask around to other mom’s who know much more then I and see what they have to say.

  3. I don’t have to leave my 6mo very often, but when I do my husband says that he has to make sure the bottle is very warm. He says she won’t take it at all unless he really heats it up.

  4. The idea from my communities parent listserve was a bottle extravaganza day. Offering the bottle every hour, but only for five minutes (or less) unless it was being consumed.
    Remember worst comes to worst she will invert her schedule and want to nurse all night.
    Good luck

  5. We had exactly the same problem. I went back to work after 4 months of breastfeeding, and for a month beforehand we struggled, cried, and fought with my son to try to get him to take a bottle. He would not or could not learn from us. He started day care, and his caregiver worked with him for at least a half hour at every feeding time to try to get him to take the bottle. Gradually, he learned how to do it. The first few days, he didn’t eat anything. Eventually he would take a half ounce, the next day maybe an ounce, etc. After about 2 weeks at day care, he would suck down a bottle with no problem. I think having his day care caregiver teach him was much easier — she didn’t have the emotional baggage we did and could work him patiently and without getting upset, and at day care he had no alternatives–that was the only way he could eat. Here is what she recommended: use the same type of bottle/nipple each time, so that the baby can learn with that one type and not get confused with sucking on different types of nipples. Even when mom is home, keep trying with the bottle at some of the feedings so the baby gets more practice. She also let us know that this happens all the time, and every time the baby DOES learn how to use a bottle, it just takes persistence. I hope she figures it out quickly for you! I know how frustrating and upsetting it can be.

  6. My son was a preemie and used to the nipple he got at the hospital and my goal was to get him to breast. My story is the reverse of yours but I think some of the things I did can help. I switched him from the stiff nipples he was used to and went with the Playtex nurser with the traditional latex nipple. He wanted nothing to do with it at first but the beauty of the drop in system in that you can squirt a tiny bit of the warm breast milk in the mouth to let them know what it is that you are trying to put in their mouth. And the latex nipple is very similar to the breast in that it is very, very soft. I would hold him very close in the same position that I would eventually use to breastfeed him. And it worked! He began to take those nipples and then eventually was able to breastfeed. He went on to successfully breastfeed for 16 months.

  7. I know that you’ve probably tried everything, but the Adiri Natural Nurser bottles are pretty spectacular, if you haven’t tried them. The other thing you might want to do is consult a laction consultant. I don’t know about where you live, but where I live they also help mothers teach their babies to use a bottle after being exclusively breastfed. Goodl uck!

  8. My son will only take Breastflow bottles. We tried a zillion different kinds and nipples and that is the only one that works for us. We also had a friend try. He would take bottles from “strangers” (to him, not to us) before he would take one from my husband.

    We also discovered that he doesn’t really like ebm very warm (counter-intuitive, I know). If it’s too warm, he thinks he would rather nurse instead.

    I’m sure that you’ve tried all of that. Good luck! I hope it works out soon.

  9. My daughter went through the same thing at around 3 months. I don’t work so ultimately I just gave up and never left her side for 6 months 🙂 Kellymom has a lot of good suggestions for getting a baby to take the bottle, so maybe check that out.

  10. My soon-to-be 9month old son has never taken a bottle. We tried a little, but I think we missed that window of opportunity.

    He would take expressed milk from a dropper (this came in my first aid baby kit). Or a baby syringe.

    Now, he’ll drink from a straw or a sippy cup.

  11. I am pregnant with my first, so I hope I don’t urk anyone by posting, but I am very fearful of this happening (as well as the alternative).

    I have read a lot about the Adiri bottles, and although they are pricey they seem to work for those babies that just won’t take anything else. Parents seem to have concerns about design flaws (leaks and more intake for baby are the two that stood out the most for me.) I then started reading about The First Years Breastflow bottles that someone recommended and those aren’t quite as expensive and I haven’t been able to find as many complaints.

    Also everyone I have spoken with says it has a lot to do with how much you relax when you try the bottle. As you know I’m sure, babies have an amazing capability to pick up on how their parents are feeling, especially mommy. I think that is partly why some will take a bottle from a “stranger” just fine.

    Good luck I wish I had more advice from you.

  12. Oops…I meant more advice FOR you. 🙂

  13. My daughter had this problem at first and I just kept trying different bottles. Some she wouldn’t touch (adiri) but ultimately she gave in and took Playtex drop-in bottles – I think the nipples are softer. It’s a hard transition but keep trying – persistence pays off! I would have liked to give her glass bottles but she chose which ones to take, not me!

  14. I had the EXACT same issue with my daughter. What ended up working was during feeding time my nightshirt would be placed over his chest and her put in the same hold that I would put Emily in. We ended up going cold turkey for an entire weekend. I would not give her a feeding from my breasts at all (which is painful not just for the little one, but also for me). However, it ended up working out to where when she was hungry she would feed from the bottle within 18 hours. I basically had to hide from her for the entire weekend, but it worked out so that she would take the bottle from anyone as long as they had a shirt that smelled like me and the bottle was placed in the same area as where the breast ‘should’ be, if that makes sense.

    I truly enjoyed breastfeeding and took her to work with me (very grateful for that), but having her take the bottle for when I went on Conventions or to the new office was definitely important. After that weekend of no-breast, it worked out fine. She finally gave in to trying the bottle at about 12 hours and allowed the bottle into her mouth (I got to hear the play by play afterwards). He would gently put some milk onto her tongue with the nipple or if she wasn’t having that, with his pinky, just to see if she was hungry to eat from the bottle. Slowly, over time, she warmed up to the idea of the bottle, mostly when she realized that her only choice in food was the bottle. She gulped down a HUGE bottle of breastmilk right before bed and crashed. After another day of bonding time with her Dad over the bottle and them two figuring out what works best for them I breastfed her before bed (I was expressing milk throughout this time, but really needed to feed her, every time I heard her cry I was gushing). I think they needed the time to figure out what worked for them on how to feed her and Emily learned that there are two ways of getting breast milk. My sister went through the same thing with my niece, after an entire day with my BIL they were able to figure it out. My niece put up more of a fight than my daughter did. They went through 6 different types of bottles and many different types of nipples before one was officially picked by Delaney. She borrowed bottles from her friends to try all the different types until Delaney went for one bottle (she apparently CANNOT stand anything made of silicone) and one type of nipple.

    I hope that helps. My ex-husband says going through that entire experience has taught him a lot about patience and keeping calm while Emily was screaming her head off at him, but she was definitely Daddy’s little girl from then on. I really hope it gets better for you, it took my sister and her husband many tries to find what would work for them and I sincerely wish the best for you as well.

  15. why not try cup feeding. I supplemented with formula in the hospital due to dehydration. we used these nifty silicone cups, they hold like one ounce. it went just fine and prevented any latch issues. just be sure to go slowly. Babies don’t drink as fast as us.

  16. You might consider contacting a LLL leader in your area. They are actually really good resources for this problem since they really want you to stick with the BM in whatever form possible.

    Megan never really went for a bottle but Charlie did only to go off when teething. I know she’s still very young but Charlie started at 2.5 months so that’s a possibility.

    Some options so that she doesn’t have to go hungry all day- I’ve heard good things about the cup feeding the pp mentioned. You could also try making breast milk yogurt or making a very watery mix of BM and cereal. While it’s better to wait to introduce solids for a bit, baby does need to eat during the day.

    However, before you panic, some babies will also do what is called “reverse cycling” where they will eat only the bare minimum during the day and then tank up at night when they can get the good stuff. So, she may wind up not eating as much as you expect even when she does start eating and you may need to plan on more night nursing.

    You might also find this website helpful:


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