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Help! My Baby Is Refusing Bottles

By EmilyBMalone |

Three months old and over the bottle?

Because I stay at home and take care of Cullen myself 95% of the time, I have been really lazy about pumping and bottle feeding.  At the beginning, I read all the books and followed every suggestion to the letter.  At six weeks, we introduced a bottle “just because” since I knew it was important to make sure he would take one.

He gulped it down with no problem, and we all let out a big sigh of relief.  Since then I only pump here and there, since I don’t really have any reason to be storing milk, and my supply seems to be enough.  He’s probably had about 5 bottles since, and there has never been a problem (he’s three months old now).

Until this week…

A few days ago I asked my husband to give him another bottle, since it had probably been almost two weeks since his last.  We did the same routine we always do – Casey took him to the nursery (away from me), sat in the chair where he always eats, used the Boppy, propped him up, etc.  Cullen chewed on the nipple and flicked it around with his tongue, but seemed like he couldn’t figure out how to latch onto it.  How did he just…forget?

The past three nights we have tried three more times.  Different milk (so we know it’s not spoiled or bad), different bottles, different nipples, different temperatures, different settings.  I even tried giving him one myself.  Every time he flails his head and eventually gets so upset that I end up breastfeeding him.

My in-laws arrive in town tomorrow, and my lovely visions of date nights and babysitters is quickly flying out the window.  We also go to Hawaii next week, and I was hoping for a little alone time to relax, run, and read.  As much as I clearly love him, I’m getting pretty worried that if we don’t figure this out soon, I’m going to be in a position of ever being able to leave him for more than an hour.  I plan to breastfeed him for at least a year, so that’s another seven months of being glued to my side without bottles…

Any advice?  Has this happened to anyone else?



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Emily Malone shares her adventures in cooking and parenting on her personal blog, Daily Garnish. Read bio and latest posts → Read Emily's latest posts →

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40 thoughts on “Help! My Baby Is Refusing Bottles

  1. Stephanie Pond says:

    This happened to me as well. I also stay at home and breastfeed, with occasional bottles when I am out. My LO was fine with a bottle from 6 weeks to about 3 months, then refused anything other than boobs. This lasted until he was about 5 months, at which point he would eat just enough from the bottle to last until I got home (2-3 ounces). Now he is 7 months and will still eat only 2-3 ounces from a bottle but will eat solids from a babysitter. So, I can now go out and he gets a small amount of milk and two servings of rice cereal (with breastmilk) until I get home. He seems fine with that and I get an occasional break. Good luck with this – I would love to hear if anyone else has any ideas.

  2. says:

    we used 1st years breastflow bottles because i was told they are the most like a mother’s nipple. this is the only bottle we own and have ever used so i am not sure of its comparison to others.

    also, i was told to make sure that he is hungry but not starving. if hes starving he’ll just get frustrated.

    also try a different time of the day at 1st. maybe nighttime he really wants to be with you so it is hard to take a bottle at that time. have your husband give it to him during his happiest time of day. if he takes it do that for a few days so he can get used to the bottle. then have your husband introduce it to him at night.

    good luck!

  3. Kimberly says:

    At my BF support group, one mom said she propped the bottle underneath her arm to simulate the position of nursing. She said it was the only way she could get her LO to take a bottle in the beginning. My LO struggled with the bottle but eventually took it and was fine. Once I went back to work, sadly he seemed to prefer it. Good luck!

  4. Heather says:

    My daughter Zoey is almost the same age, and we had almost the exact thing happen to us. She took it well, we were relieved, and then left it for a while. When we tried again, she hated it.

    In the end, after many failed attempts, what worked for us was feeding her before she was hungry, instead of when whe was almost starving (which we were doing with the hopes that she would just take anything as long as it was food). This made a big difference for her. It was almost like a treat instead of a meal. Also, my husband took the nipple of the bottle and rubbed it above her lip (like when learning to breastfeed) and she latched on like it was a real nipple. Those two things made her take bottles, now even in the night from me!

    Good luck!

  5. Michaela says:

    I was exactly like Cullen as a baby. I would not take ANY bottles, so my mum just had to breast-feed me, I was literally screaming if I was given bottles, so even my dad asked my mum to please breast-feed me ;)
    Fingers crossed, that you will get some alone time anyways, and Cullen will get used to at least some bottles, and have a great holiday!

  6. Jenny says:

    My son did the same thing right around 3 months (he’s 7 months now) I was nursing and would pump once a day any my husband would feed him a bottle when I did (for the same reason as you) and he was fine until one day he refused it. We were using Dr. Brown’s with a level 1 nipple. I wondered if ithe nipple was too slow for him so we tried a level 2 and that was a bit too fast so that wasn’t it and again we tried everything you did but nothing worked. I read a lot that the playtex nurser drop ins bottles helped several ppl with the same problem (but the catch was that they used the nudish/brownish latex nipples instead. Apparently the latex nipple is closest to Mom’s. So I tried it and it was an instant success! they have slow flow an fast flow both in the latex but I was only able to find the medium flow in a normal silicone nipple an he wouldn’t take it. Very partial to the latex ones still to this day. I feel like the playtex nursers are old school (I swear they had them when I was little ) but they worked for us! Keep at it and hopefully he’ll warm up to it!
    By the way did you or your husband go to UD? I Thought I saw in one of your logs that one if you did. I am a fellow flyer! Good Luck!

  7. Koreen says:

    We are 5 months into our breastfeeding journey and he still struggles with the bottle exactly the way you have described, he just bites the nipple. I also plan on breastfeeding for at least a year but cannot imagine leaving him with someone when I consider he probably won’t eat.

  8. bridget says:

    With my daughter, we had the same issue. After using different batches of milk, different formulas (there was money thrown out of the window!) different bottles and different nipples, I had all but given up hope. Then, one day, I dropped my breast pump, and it broke into about 473 little pieces. I was NOT spending a couple of hundred dollars again, but I knew that hand pumps don’t work for me. I still had hope though, so I didn’t give up. I bought a 40ish dollar pump – the evenflo simplygo. It was LOUD, but had a great suck (much better than my lasinoh had had). More importantly, it came with one bottle, THE BOTTLE!! I pumped, put the lid on the bottle, and handed it to husband, and my daughter SLUGGED it down. GASP!!! She took to that bottle so well, I was SO happy. But, alas, I could not find any more nipples in the store. And she still would not take my Dr. Browns, Avent, playtex, or other evenflos. The closet nipple I could find was the Born Free kind (had a wide, flat base where her lips go. So, I bought one bottle, and she took it… like a champ. So, I bought a couple of more bottles. And she even took formula in it! (Earth’s best organic – I hated pumping, and had little time with two kids). So, I was able to supplement my nursing with occasional bottles of formula. It was SO relieving. Again, I love my daughter, but it was nice to be able to have another option besides just latching her on! And it was nice to be able to have other people feed her!
    Good luck with Cullen. I hope you find his perfect bottle!
    Cheers- Bridget

  9. Katie KS says:

    It sucks but just keep trying. And once you get him to take them, I would say bottles twice a week minimum. (Hey, running time for you!) M was not a fan of bottles when I went back to work and still doesn’t usually love them. But I know lots of SAHM/WAHM moms whose kids refused bottles and basically they never left them. I couldn’t do that personally. But if you go away for like 8 hours, chances are good that eventually he will take a bottle! I wouldn’t get too into switching out bottles, nipples, etc. I just stuck with the one we started with (Medela with the nipples “for breastfed babies”) and eventually he adjusted (most of the time). Good luck!

  10. Adina says:

    Playtex nursers saved us! Good luck.

  11. Casey says:

    This happened to me last week, although for a different reason; we are starting to wean off breastmilk and go to formula. I gave my son a bottle of formula and he rejected it and then refused to take anykind of bottle the rest of the day even of breastmilk. I was super upset and worried. The next day my mom tried and he fussed at her for about 10 minutes before he finally took it and he has been fine ever since. So, maybe someone else; not as attached to Cullen as you are could try. I couldn’t stand listening to mine cry and seem so upset for long enough I guess :) The doctor has said it’s just that they don’t like anything different. They get set in their ways! And you know breastfeeding is tied to emotions for them, it’s their security.

  12. Chris says:

    My oldest did this as well, she had never had a bottle (I was petrified of “nipple confusion” thanks LaLeche League) but I got thrush, bleeding scabbing etc when she was 4 months old. The Pediatrician at the time told me to give her bottles till I stopped bleeding and so she woudn’t get thrush too. She absolutely refused, I tried the stuff that’s been listed here & itwas a no go. Finally a friend (who was childless ironicly)said to me, your nipples are huge (I’m an unembarassed breastfeader esp at my own house) & they go all the way in her mouth, that’s what she’s used to, why not try to find nipples like that? So I did. Cue angel choir here. :) At the time (baby girl is a strapping 13 now) Gerber made the onlyones I could find, but I’m sure there’s something out there like that now. They were about an inch in diameter & about 1 1/2 in long (the part of the nipple that went in the baby’s mouth) they were replacement bottle nipples sold in pakages of 4 or 6 and were marked medium flow for babies 6+ months. I tried them anyway & we were both much happier while I got all nice & healed up. I remember how scared/frustrationg that time was for me & I hope this helps you too. :)

  13. Stacy says:

    I am now reading The Nursing Mother’s Companion, all about breast feeding and the author recommends offering the bottle every 2-3 days I believe so that baby will keep with it. Good luck Emily! Stay calm and keep trying.

  14. elle says:

    We had a similar situation with our 5.5 month old recently. He’s been going to a sitter 3 days/week since he was 8 weeks old and we never had a problem with him taking a bottle. Well, I was off for a month during the holidays and all of a sudden he stopped taking a bottle. When I went back to work I sent him to the sitters with his regular bottles, fully expecting a call for me to come nurse him, but he did perfectly fine! So I would suggest maybe when your in-law are in town to still go out, but somewhere super close if possible, and see if he’ll take a bottle. Sometimes I tjink they really know when nursing is an option (you’re just in another room) and when its not.

  15. Diera says:

    I think we literally wound up buying one of each bottle offered by Babies R Us for our second child. What she eventually consented to take wasn’t even a bottle, it was a Nuby soft-spouted sippy cup. It was annoying, because they aren’t as robust as bottles and they’re hard to clean, but it worked.

  16. sara t says:

    maybe look into trying the Mimijumi or Comotomo bottle?

  17. TK says:

    Yes, it happened with my daughter. It took her a very long time to take a bottle, but eventually she did, and now she takes it like a pro (7mths).
    Some things that helped us:
    Don’t try to force a bottle when baby is already hungry. This just makes them mad! Try breastfeeding first, and then instead of switching sides, switch to bottle. Or, if you only feed from one breast each feeding, try slipping in the bottle about halfway through feeding.
    Try offering a bottle during a “dream feeding” – this is baby is pretty much asleep, but still wants something to suck on.
    There were kind of 2 trains of thought with getting our daughter to take a bottle. At first we tried to make it “as much like Mommy as possible”, then it became “make it as different as possible from Mommy” – this meant she was getting cold milk, sitting in her Bumbo or stroller, etc.
    You already touched on the different bottles thing, but for us, she didn’t like the Tommee Tippees. The first bottle she took (without a big fight) was a BornFree… but those suckers are EXPENSIVE. We eventually got her to take the Avent, which has a very similar nipple to the BornFree. She also hated the Nuk.
    Hope that helps!

  18. Alyssa says:

    Have Casey try feeding Cullen somewhere else. He probably associates that chair with you and your “parts”! Maybe that will help!

  19. Christy says:

    We had the same problem when I returned to work. Our amazing daycare providers finally figured out a routine that works, but she had a few days where she only took an ounce or two over 6-8 hours. She didn’t lose any weight – just nursed extra while we were together (by extra I mean constantly). What worked for us was a few things – slipping in the nipple while she was very sleepy, sometimes after she started sucking on a pacifier; wrapping in a blanket or pillowcase that I sleep with, so she has my scent with her; eating away from anyone else, and sometimes not looking at her while she is eating. It has gotten a bit easier as she is more used to it, but she still doesn’t prefer it.

  20. Monica says:

    Yes! We were in your shoes last week! It was a two-fold problem. Wrigley didn’t want a bottle, he wanted me and a warm boob. He was having some separation issues and sadly just had to get over them. And he was playing with the bottle nipple too, making me worry about his latch.

    My Mom (who he stays with while I am at work) stayed persistent and patient. We also found a fantastic glass bottle that kept the milk warmer for longer that had a smaller more natural nipple – it worked!

    The biggest thing that I learned is that babies do know how to be stubborn and you can try every bottle in the world, but they will eventually have to give in to hunger.

    Hang in there Mama, you will get to seperate soon.

  21. Sarah says:

    My middle daughter absolutely refused a bottle and we tried everything. I said I wasn’t going to let my twins refuse a bottle. So we planned that my husband would give them a bottle daily. They did ok. They would drink it but clearly didn’t prefer it and it would take a long time. Then a couple weeks ago they started really fighting it. They would get upset, he would get upset, and I would end up just nursing them. What was suppose to be a good bonding time turned into frustration from everyone.
    We started giving them a little cereal recently and they really like eating from a spoon. So we’ve decided that my husband would give them their cereal instead of a bottle. They could bond over spoon feeding instead of battling over a bottle. If I have to be away from them when they need to eat, he can give them their solids (cereal now and fruits/veggies when we introduce them) and can always spoon feed breastmilk if needed.
    Now I have at least 5 gallon size ziplock bags of frozen milk I pumped to boost my supply that I have no idea what to do with!!

  22. Angela says:

    My baby wouldn’t take the bottle for four months—including one whole month when I was working full-time! I had to drive home three times a day to feed him. I know you tried different temperatures but what eventually worked for us was getting it much warmer than we thought it would have to be. Once it was warm enough for him, he took it like a champ. We use Dr. Brown’s bottles. Hope you find a solution soon, I know how frustrating it can be!

  23. autoclave says:

    For us, nothing worked. We had to wait until our LO matured ( seven months later!). She’ll take a bottle now, but otherwise I’ve been there for every feeding. On the upside, I still don’t have my period back!

  24. Lauren says:

    Try syringe feeding or a sippee cup if no bottle works. Keep trying. Leave the house so one person has to keep trying without you being tempted to BF. It may take some time but just keep trying!

  25. JB says:

    We waited until 6 weeks to introduce the bottle to my first baby, and then he wouldn’t take it. We tried every kind of nipple, but he never really took the bottle.
    I didn’t want that to happen with our second one, so from about two days on, we gave him a bottle once a week. We never had problems getting him to take a bottle.
    With my third, I was lazy and didn’t give him a bottle until around 6 weeks. He took the first few bottles fine, but then we had trouble getting him to take it. On the bright side, he learned to drink from a sippy with a flexible straw at about 6 months.
    My third baby did best with 1st Year Breast Flow bottles fed to him by someone else.

  26. Morgan says:

    Have you tried the Adiri bottles? They feel and look kind of like the breast. It’s the best thing for breastfed babies but they aren’t very well known.

  27. Leslie says:

    We are going through this now! I just went back to work and suddenly my baby refused the bottle. She will take one from dad and grandma but not daycare. Gone are our nights of good sleep. I don’t think she’s forgotten how, we have tried many kinds of bottles. I think she’s just stubborn so we keep trying. Everyday gets better. So keep on trying! And try different bottles and different positions while feeding him. From what I have read a lot of babies refuse the bottle around 3 months.

  28. Christy says:

    I would make sure it’s pretty warm–our little one didn’t care at first, but then at about 6 weeks old (right before I returned to work) she started screaming everytime we offered the bottle. We realized it wasn’t warm enough, and now make sure it’s as warm as it would be coming out of the breast and we haven’t had problems since. We also make sure to offer at least one bottle a day even if I’m not working so it’s part of the routine. Good luck!

  29. Karen says:

    My now three-year-old did the exact same thing…and I hate to say it, but we never found a bottle she would take. I work full time as a teacher, and she got really good at waiting for me. I fed her before school, at lunch, and at 4 when I picked her up, and she was fine with that. Once she started solid foods, it was a lot easier.

  30. Rheanna Shiflet says:

    Been there… My son Landin is 7 months now and still has never taken the bottle, he has refused it since the beginning. The only way I get some time away from baby is baby foods and a sippy. We introduced him to his sippy about 1 month ago and it’s a life saver. His Docter suggested only water and juice through it but maybe you could try milk??? If he is old enough which I don’t think he is. I feel your pain though! Bless your heart.

  31. Karen L says:

    Cullen will eat without you before 12 months. Solids are coming.

    I’ve been through this with both my 2nd and 3rd babies. The second even refused solids until she could feed herself. On the upside, she was determined and she had mastered a lidless cup by 9 months.

    What helped me go on and leave them for even 5 or 6 hour stretches was
    a) I thought of it as they simply prefer/red to wait than to accept a detested bottle and
    b) My husband has a phenomenal tolerance for crying. He just wears them and goes on about his business.
    I didn’t like it (I cannot do CIO, myself) but I knew it was important because I am an irritable and resentful mom and wife if I don’t have some time away once or twice a week.

    My husband occasionally had success with a large (3 mL) medicine dropper or even a spoon.

    Good luck! Let us know what ends up working.

  32. Emily says:

    The reason may be that before 3-4 months sucking is a reflex for babies so they generally will suck on anything that stimulates that reflex, after that developmental mark it becomes a learned behavior. That is why feeding issues often arise around this age. My suggestion would be to just keep trying, but if he refuses don’t push the issue that time and try again later. I would try when he is hungry, but before he is upset. You may try in an area that is totally different from where you usually breastfeed so he won’t be expecting that. Thought it might help for you to know that it’s not random he is doing this there is a reason. I would just try to make it an enjoyable experience. Good luck!

    NICU Nurse

  33. Fran says:

    We’ve been going through the same thing – my daughter is the same age as Cullen. I think we’ve given up on bottles now because I don’t want to fight with her about this, considering we’ve got bigger battles going on (sleep!) but my health visitor has suggested giving her a sippy cup to play with and get used to in the next month or so – with nothing in it at first, just so she can get familiar with it. Then hopefully she should be able to drink from that by about 6 months. Also, when they’re onto solids they will be eating food mixed with breastmilk, so I’m hoping i’ll be able to get some time away from her then as she’ll be hydrated. Until then i’ve just kind of accepted this is how things are for us at the moment. But I’m discovering everything is a phase with babies! This too shall pass. Good luck!

  34. Andrea says:

    No advice on getting him to take bottle. I had to pump early on + nurse because my kids are slow nursers and I make milk slowly, so we are nursing a ton. I need breaks. So my newest gets 2 bottles daily or I would be nursing all day and night , even at 7 months. And she takes them happy with all the practice. But it does require pumping twice a day + nursing. Good luck!

  35. Michele @ nycrunningmama says:

    My son didn’t take a bottle until he was just 5 months old…Once he rejected it a few times, I would stop and not try again for a week to 2 weeks. Once the time passed, I would give it another try.
    To be honest, the first time he really took the bottle was one day when I needed to get out. I hadn’t been anyplace without my son since he was born and was having one of those days when I needed some alone time. My husband suggested that I pump and come back in a few hours. I ended up being gone almost 4 hours (I went to my sisters, went for a run, and then went out to lunch). I kept checking in with my husband – my son initially refused the bottle over and over again. Eventually, he got hungry and realized that was his only option. It sounds cruel – but the thing is – it’s a lot like rushing in to them in the middle of the night. I’m not a fan of letting my son cry – but I learned that there is a difference between crying and just “being fussy”…He HAPPILY drank TWO bottles while I was gone – and from that day on, we had no problems with him taking the bottle. Also, my sister had told me a similar thing – her daughter wouldn’t take the bottle until 6 months (until she went back to work) – at which point her daughter had no choice. It was either drink the bottle or be hungry! So maybe give that a try when you are on vacation ! If your son sees you, he knows where the “good stuff” is and doesn’t want the bottle. Maybe try being gone for a bit (literally leaving)!

  36. KayDee says:

    We went through this with my (now) six month old. After two weeks of me driving back and forth to her daycare to feed her, 6 different kinds of bottles, all varieties of milk temps she finally took the playtex drop-ins. I think it was less about the bottle and more about her finally giving in. Now that she’s used to the bottles she’ll use any of the various bottles/nipples. GOOD LUCK!

  37. Sara says:

    This exact same thing has happened to me! She took the bottle fine until we established breastfeeding at 5 days old. Here and there a few times just fine afterwards. Now, at 4.5 months, totally refusing! My parents watched her twice this weekend, and both times they struggled and eventually got nothing in her. She just went to sleep, and it was fine, but it looks like I can’t leave her for more than an evening until we get this solved. Totally disappointing.

  38. Maria says:

    Hi, I know you said you have tried different types of milk, but I just thought I would point out something we learned just in case. When I went back to work 3 weeks ago, my baby was absolutely refusing the bottle, which seemed strange, but we realized it was the first time she had tried my deforsted breastmilk. It turns out my breastmilk produces too much lactase which breaks down my frozen milk and creates a metallic taste. She wasn’t refusing the bottle, but instead, she was refusing the milk. Once we gave her fresh milk, she took it just fine. It is frustrating because I had almost 40 bags in the freezer! I am only working part-time, so I am able to easily provider her with fresh milk.

  39. Kay says:

    Ditto to all the comments. I had the same issue with baby no.2 and 3. I have resorted to cup feeding, spoon feeding and now a sippy cup. Works really well, and now that she is on solids, I am less fussed. Also, get someone else to give it to her…a baby can smell her mom’s milk!

  40. Cyn says:

    I exclusively breastfeed. However I am out of the home at least five days a week, 7-9 hours a day. I pump two times a day at work (every two hours), and come home for my hour lunch to nurse. My daughter wont take a bottle from me, but will from her dad. We were using the gerber first essentials bottles, but ended up with some nipple confusion and tremendous amount of spit up. I had been eyeing up some bottles for quite some time, and finally bought them. They are ‘the first years Breastflow’ bottles. They have a double nipple, and require the same ‘technique’ to get milk from the bottle as from the breast. I got a gift set from walmart for $20.00 which included: 2 – 9oz bottles, 2 — 5oz bottles, 2 — slow flow nipples, 2- fast flow nipples, 4- bottle covers, 4 – screw on caps, a snack container that attatches to the bottle, and a bottle brush. I would HIGHLY recomend these bottles to any breastfeeding mother (I even recomended them to the local WIC office). Since using them we no longer have nipple confusion, loss of meal, stuborn gas (burps), and a less fussy baby. We also have found that holding our botttles parallel to the floor have helped with bottle feeding. :]

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