Skip to main content

5 easy ways to solve bottle refusal from a breastfed baby

Bottle refusal and breastfeeding: 5 tips for families looking to overcome this stressful situatiion

Breast/chestfeeding can be tricky, particularly at first. It’s challenging to get a latch and navigate near-constant feedings.

It can also be an incredible bonding experience. Breast/chestfeeding is about more than food. The snuggles, the gappy grins, and the glances only the parent and baby share are moments to treasure. Sometimes, babies love nursing so much that they don’t want a bottle.

Though flattering — especially if the baby and parent got off to a challenging start — bottle refusal can also be stressful. The lactating parent may need to return to work or want to go on a date night, and there’s no shame in either. Baby needs to eat, though.

It’s possible to work through bottle refusal in a breastfed baby gently and compassionately. Here are some tips.

a man and a bottlefeeding baby
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Practice before the big day

The first day at daycare or time with a babysitter — even if it’s another family member — will be stressful for the parent and baby. You want to avoid adding in another wrinkle by having the temporary caretaker introduce a bottle.

If you know you are returning to work or attending a wedding on a specific day, start introducing one bottle every couple of days beginning three weeks before.

Ideally, the introduction of a bottle to breastfeeding babies happens at least three to four weeks after the baby is born and direct breastfeeding is established. However, that’s not always possible, particularly in the U.S., which lacks federal paid family leave.

a woman in a pink sweatshirt paced feeding an infant
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Mimic the breast

Remember, direct breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing. An occasional (or even daily) bottle and breastfeeding can go hand-in-hand. Nursing babies have to put a little effort into eating. They stimulate the letdown by sucking, which gets the milk flowing. This act can differ from a bottle. Fast-flow nipples give instant gratification.

For a breastfed baby, this flow can also feel overwhelming. Paced feeding, also known as responsive feeding, mimics the flow of the breast. Use the slowest flow nipple possible available for your baby’s bottle, typically a premie nipple or size 0 or 1.

  • Hold the baby semi-upright, and support their head and neck with your arms.
  • Draw the nipple from the baby’s nose to their mouth, as you would when offering the breast.
  • Allow them to open their mouth to latch onto the bottle nipple.
  • Hold the bottle parallel to the floor and let the baby begin sucking.
  • As the baby sucks, fill the nipple about halfway and allow them to take about three to five swallows.
  • Then, tip it downward to give them a break.
  • Repeat this process until the bottle is half empty.
  • Then, burp and do the same on the other side.

It’s important to remember that this is not about withholding food from the baby but mimicking breastfeeding. Most importantly, paced feeding allows the baby to control the feeding instead of having a caregiver forcibly feed them at a pace much faster than usual.

If your baby isn’t having it and is older than six months, consider trying a straw cup.

Mom sitting in rocking chair holding a smiling baby
FamVeld / Shutterstock

Leave the home

Sometimes, if a baby sees the breastfeeding parent, they want the “real deal” instead of a bottle. It’s understandable — the two of you have created such a strong bond. Consider having the lactating parent out of sight so they are out of mind during the feed. You can have the caretaker text you updates and come home if it’s not working.

A parent bottle feeding a little baby.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Make it a multi-sensory experience

If possible, use your own expressed breast milk. You can remove this milk by pumping in between feedings, though you may need to do that several times to work up to a full feed if your baby is an efficient nurser. This step will allow your baby to have the milk they are used to instead of having to adapt to the taste of formula. Remember, pumping is like breastfeeding in a bottle.

Also, using something that smells like the lactating parent, such as a shirt or blanket, may help the baby associate the bottle with breastfeeding.

a baby girl with a dark red headlband breastfeeding
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Keep calm

Bottle refusal can be stressful for everyone. Babies can pick up on this stress, which can only exacerbate the issue. It’s up to the adults to remain calm and compassionate. Remember, new things can be stressful for little babies who don’t have much life experience. If you find yourself getting stressed, take a breath. Consider passing the baby off to a partner or another helper so you can leave the room and decompress before trying again.

Though bottles can be a necessary part of breastfeeding journeys, not every baby wants to take them at first. Bottle refusal in breastfed babies is challenging, but it’s possible to work on it. Practice and paced feeding to mimic the breast are two ways to help the baby get used to a bottle. It’s best to use expressed breastmilk if possible — the taste can make it seem like breastfeeding in a bottle. It’s important to stay calm. Stress won’t solve the issue, even though it’s challenging not to be worried about your baby. If you’re having trouble, ask your baby’s pediatrician for a referral to an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). These professionals have extensive experience working on infant feeding and can give you more tips. One more important step: Make sure to pump to replace every feed while you are away to ensure you maintain your supply so it’s there for your baby when you return.

BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on healthline.com and parents.com. In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
9 beautiful fantasy girl names for your baby
Get inspired with these fantasy choices
Baby girl at a birthday party

If you love all things fantasy -- from books and movies to video games and beyond, you may have considered a fantasy-inspired girl name for your baby. Thanks to the emerging popularity of this genre, fantasy names are becoming more and more common. Consider names like Arya, which took off after the premiere of Game of Thrones, or Arwen, which was popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series. Names from fantasy books and movies can be an endless list to choose from.

If you've been thinking of a fantasy girl name for your little one, you have a lot of choices. We've compiled a list of nine beautiful fantasy girl names for your baby that are out of this world and that can help you narrow down your options.
Aurora
Meaning "dawn," Aurora is well known for being Sleeping Beauty's given name. It is also the name of the mystical aurora borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights, which much of the U.S. was able to witness recently.
Guinevere
The name alone evokes images of fair maidens and fantastical settings and was also the name of King Arthur's Queen. The name was often translated into Jennifer, but we think Guinevere is a beautiful option for someone looking for a fantasy-inspired name.
Juno
From Latin meaning "youthful" or "queen of the gods," this name would be ideal for any little girl. Despite the name being around for centuries, it has grown in popularity over the last two decades or so.
Seraphine
A fantastical take on the traditional Sarah, Seraphine is less common than Seraphina, which is also a stunning name option, making it a great name choice for those who want something unique but not unheard of.
Eowyn
Another name popularized in The Lord of the Rings books, Eowyn, pronounced "ay-oh-wyn" is a nontraditional name rooted in the fantasy genre.
Melisande
Another name that gained attention is Melisandre, which is of Old German and Old French origin and means strong in work and brave strength. The fantasy series Game of Thrones featured a character named Melisandre.
Sorsha
Fans of the 1988 movie Willow will recognize the name Sorsha as the name of the princess in the film. Meaning "bright" or "freedom," this is a beautiful fantasy name for a girl.
Dauphine
Evoking images of royalty, Dauphine is the name you're looking for if you want a fantasy name with some French flavor.
Luna
Give your little girl the moon with the name Luna, the choice of Chrissy Teigen and John Legend for their eldest daughter.

Read more
When do babies start walking? This is what you should expect
This is when you should have the house baby-proofed
Toddler boy walking around

We bribe. We beg. We will set that baby up for those first steps any way we can. But your little one will not start walking before they're ready. When is that? When do babies start walking? It's the next major milestone after crawling, and parents cannot wait to capture the moment their baby discovers they have two feet that will take them anywhere. If you have a baby who's about to become a walker, this is what you should expect before the first step is attempted.
Look for clues to tell when your baby will start walking

First things first — there are markers to watch out for to know your baby is about to walk. If you keep an eye on that little human of yours, they give hints as to when they're ready to start walking. By then, you can obsessively watch them so you don't miss a step.
Your baby will hit these milestones when it's almost time to walk

Read more
Unisex baby names: These are our top picks
Take the stress out of baby naming with these unisex name options
Baby girl with a "hello my name sign is" on her onesie

Unisex baby names are gaining in popularity as parents realize they have more options than ever when it comes to naming their baby. Some parents choose a unisex baby name because they love the name regardless of the gender of their baby, while others choose a unisex name because they are looking to distance themselves from those traditional "boy" or "girl" naming conventions.
Why we love unisex names

Although gender reveals are still incredibly popular, choosing a unisex baby name allows parents to give their baby a name they love, regardless of their sex. Many unisex baby names fall into the less traditional category, which is perfect for parents looking for something a little more unique for their child. If you're making a list of potential names for your baby, here are our favorite unisex baby names for consideration.
Atlas
Atlas is the ideal name for any parent who wants their child to travel the world! This name of Greek origin has swiftly begun to climb the ranks of popularity in the U.S. since 2015. Celebrities like Edward Norton and Shay Mitchell have used this unisex name for their children.
Blair
Although Blair originated as a Scottish surname, it has grown popular as a unisex name in North America.
Chase
This name was more popular among boy names, but now Chase is often used by parents looking for a cool, unique unisex name for their daughters. Chase is giving us those athletic vibes.
Dylan
Like Chase, Dylan was once primarily used as a boy name but has grown in popularity in recent years as a common choice for girls. The Welsh name means "son of the sea," but we can all agree that this is the perfect unisex name for any water baby.
Kai
Kai, often seen as a form of Kaia, is a name of Hawaiian origin dominating unisex name charts. It's simplistic but far from basic and is a beautiful choice for any parent looking for a dreamy unisex name.
Mackenzie
Mackenzie is another name of Scottish origin that has been adopted from the surname and is almost equally popular as a name for both boys and girls.
Paris
Paris is known as the City of Love, making it the perfect name for your baby. Thanks to public figures like Paris Hilton, it may be known more commonly as a girl's name, but it is commonly used for both genders.
Morgan
Morgan is one of the most traditional unisex names, making it great for parents who want a combination of the two. You could probably name as many girls as you could boys Morgan, making it a very popular unisex baby name choice.

Read more