Bottles & Boobs

What to Do When Your Baby Refuses a Bottle


by Tory Larson Fairies, Milk Drunk Contributor

I remember the proud look on my husband’s face when both my daughters greedily sucked down their first servings of my pumped milk in his arms. For our family, introducing the bottle was uneventful, and I savored the freedom it allowed me to go to the movies, grab an occasional extra hour of sleep, and eventually, to return to work. 

But what if your baby isn’t into bottles? It is surprisingly common, and can take a toll on parents. From my sister having to drive back and forth from daycare and her office three times a day to nurse to keep her daughter’s weight up, to a mother at my baby boot camp in tears because she hadn’t been away for her son for more than an hour in the last five months, to a coworker desperately ordering 15 types of nipples looking for the holy grail that would get her son to drink, I know many who have struggled.

If your baby is rejecting the bottle mama, we got you! We’ve collected expert tips on how to navigate through bottle rejection like a pro.

Top 5 Tips When Your Baby Rejects the Bottle

  1. Try having someone else feed your baby… or don’t: one of the first things you hear when a mom is struggling with her baby to take a bottle is for her to leave the house while someone else feeds. Definitely give this a try! But if it doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to keep trying yourself. You intuitively know your baby’s feeding cues and behaviors more than anyone else, and may be the best suited to troubleshoot the methods below. 
  1. Test different temperatures: mirroring the exact temperature of your breastmilk is hard. A friend recently joked that her daughter only likes “baby lattes.” Experiment with carefully upping or dropping the temperature of the milk or formula you are serving to see what your baby likes. You can also try warming or cooling the nipple itself.
  1. Try introducing the bottle at just the right time — aka not witching hour! Picking a time of day when your baby is usually at her best temperament and hungry but not starving can help her stay relaxed and comfortable for a bottle attempt.
  1. … Or make serving active and novel: for some babies, being in a position totally different from breastfeeding can make a big difference. Having your baby face outwards, while moving around and bouncing can miraculously help some babies take a bottle (and it gives you a free workout!) A change of scene and even stepping outdoors may also help. 
  1. Mix up your bottle types: try a variety of bottle brands and nipple flows within each brand. Some babies may prefer a faster or slower flow. 

When It’s Time to Call in an Expert

If nothing seems to be working, consider calling in professional support. Many lactation consultants assist parents in introducing a bottle, and having 1:1 in person support with an expert can take your troubleshooting to the next level. This may help ease your stress, especially if you are facing a stressful deadline like returning to work.

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

Meet the Author

Tory Larson Faries

As a founding employee of Airbnb's humanitarian team, Tory has had the opportunity to create and influence social impact programming across the organization. Inspired to support Milk Drunk after experiencing supply issues during her own breastfeeding journey with daughter Sierra, Tory is excited to help us expand our reach to include women in need through philanthropic partnerships.

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