Tips to get your baby to accept the bottle
- Ask someone else to give your baby a bottle: Sometimes babies who have been breastfed are reluctant to take a bottle from their mothers, since they may associate her smell with breastfeeding – or even smell the breast milk on her. Try having your partner, a close friend, or your caregiver introduce the bottle instead. (And keep a little distance.)
- Give yourself (and your baby) time: If you’re transitioning to bottle- or formula-feeding in order to return to work, don’t wait until the very last minute to introduce your baby to the bottle. Give your baby time to conquer a new skill by easing into it about two weeks beforehand.
- Approach it calmly: It may take a while for your baby to get the hang of bottle-feeding. Think of it as a process. It may not work the first time but it will work eventually, so try not to let it cause you too much stress.
- Experiment with different positions: Some babies bottle-feed successfully in positions that mimic those used for breastfeeding. Others prefer an entirely different position. (Some babies even like to bottle-feed while being carried from place to place.) Move around a little to find the one that works best for your baby.
- Time it right: Introduce the bottle just a little before your baby’s normal feeding time. Don’t wait until your baby is desperately hungry, or he may grow frustrated more quickly as he tries to get the hang of it.
- Experiment with different nipples: Some babies prefer one nipple over another, and it can be difficult to predict which one your baby will prefer. Buy a few different types and see which your baby likes (and sucks from) best. Make sure that the flow of milk is steady (if you turn the bottle upside down, it should drip at about one drop per second). A flow that is too fast may overwhelm your baby, causing him to gag. If it is too slow, he may grow frustrated or tire before filling his belly.
- Experiment with nipple temperature: You may want to warm the nipple by running it under warm water or putting it in the fridge to cool (especially if your baby is teething) before use.
- Get a good latch: When your baby latches onto the artificial nipple, go for a wide, open-mouthed latch, taking in as much as the nipple as possible, just as you would have him do with the breast. Tickle his mouth with the nipple and have him open his mouth wide to take it in, rather than putting just the tip in his mouth.
- Never leave your baby with a propped bottle: A propped bottle is not only a choking hazard but also heightens your baby’s risk for ear infections, tooth decay and other issues. What’s more, it’s a missed opportunity: use this time to bond with your baby – holding him close and caressing him.
- Consider other methods: If your baby refuses the bottle, there are a number of alternative feeding methods to explore. These include cup feeding, spoon feeding, feeding with an eyedropper or syringe, and finger feeding with a supplemental nutrition system.