Is Your Baby Refusing A Bottle?

10 Steps for Solving Bottle Refusal

make-it-more-like-momI get so many emails from parents who for one reason or the other need to introduce a bottle to their baby and their baby simply flatly refuses to suck and take to the bottle. The reasons can be varied, ie. mothers health, lack of milk supply, stress within a family, return to work.

Breastfed babies who have been exclusively breastfed often don’t take well to bottles, it certainly helps if you have been able to give a bottle or two or three of milk in the early first 6 weeks of your baby’s life. Whatever the reason for needing to use a bottle the reason that your baby refuses is not your baby being difficult or wanting to be in control it really is just about security and change. Your baby has their routine and change frightens them. It is not how they get their milk. They like things done in the same way, every day.

Sometimes the refusal is about someone else other than mum or dad giving the bottle the same strategy applies if your baby refuses the bottle from anyone else. Some bottle-taking techniques work better than others. Usually you have bought lots of different brands of bottles, teats and formulas and there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the acceptance of the bottle and your baby.

How to....

Firstly your approach is really very important. You need to be firm, not forceful, firm and confident is the key. Being to softly, softly will also get you nowhere.

The best time of day to start...

Is with the first feed of the day – so the 6am – 6.30am – 7am feed.

Step by Step...

Step 1: Sit down with your baby, get comfortable, you will be there for a while and prepare yourself for what will be a long, tough challenge.

Step 2: Start with talking to your baby. Just sit with them and explain why they need to have the bottle. Say something like ‘I know you don’t want to have this bottle, but you need to... ‘ explain why, whether mummy is sick, needs medication, has to go back to work, there is stress within the family, mummy has to go to hospital etc tell your baby why.

Tell your baby that you are going to sit there for a long time until they have drunk some of the bottle and that you won’t be giving up.

 Step 3: Next put the bottle in your Baby’s mouth and talk to her the whole time, reassuring her its ok.

She may be crying and upset, scared of the bottle, not liking the feel and taste of the teat in her mouth.

 Step 4: You need to be confident and reassuring even if you don’t feel like this. Be firm about the bottle in her mouth.

You need to be calm and prepared for this to take a while.

Keep telling her it is alright and that she needs to drink the milk.

 Step 5:  Don’t take the bottle out of her mouth. It might get boring and tiring, so singing to pass the time is a great option, of talk and chat to your baby about your work, the sharemarket etc.

Your baby will feel better if you are singing and talking to her as well.

You might be surprised at how soon she starts to drink or you might have to sit there for an hour or more. The more you take the bottle in and out, the longer it seems to take.

If you are sitting more than an hour, be sure to make up a fresh bottle.

Starting to Suck...

Step 6: As soon as she is starting to suck, praise her and tell her how clever she is and how she really needs the milk, lots of smiling, calmness and eye contact.

 Step 7: When she stops sucking, then you can take the teat out of her mouth.

 Step 8: Try again a few seconds later ie. 3-4-5 seconds but do the same as before.

 My baby doesn’t drink much....

That ok, even if they have only had in total 20 mls, it’s a start.

Step 9: Give up when she won’t take anymore and continue with your normal routine. If it’s time for breakfast-solids then have them now. If it’s time for bed, then put your baby to bed, keep to your normal routine. Fill her up with solids then have a play then bedtime, try and stick to your usual routine.

She must have sucked even a little to finish the first try.

Try again...

Step 10: At the next milk feed, give another bottle the same way as the first.


Be careful not to get frustrated and angry with your baby for not sucking, this will not help and will only make your baby more scared of the bottle.

Don’t try the method of starving your baby thinking that they will not have any solids until they take the milk, this will only result in a starving and overtired baby and will be worse.


Need support or have questions?

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