bottle feeding refusal

Bottle Feeding Refusal for Breastfed Babies [And Solutions]

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While bottle feeding babies might seem simple, that is not always the case! We work with families on the daily that are struggling to feed their baby in one way or another. We have put together some tips for breastfeeding parents dealing with bottle refusal. Since we work primarily with newborns, these problems and solutions are focused on ages 0-6 months of age [assuming the baby has not yet started solids].

You might be going back to work, your supply might be dwindling, or you might simply want to have someone else be able to participate in feeding the baby. When a baby refuses a bottle it can be extremely frustrating! We’re here to help!

Problem: The baby might not be used to the shape of the bottle.

Babies have to open their mouths and suck differently from a bottle vs breast. The ideal time to offer a baby their first bottle is around 2 weeks old. The longer you wait often the more difficult it becomes!


Try different bottles! You might want to try wide mouth and narrow mouth, and different shaped nipples. Some top choices are: Dr. Browns, Avent and Lanisoh. Generally it’s best to avoid bottles that are made to mimic breastfeeding [emulait, comotomo] as we haven’t found any to be effective so far.

Problem: The baby might not be used to the flow of the bottle.

The flow might be too slow or too fast compared to what they are used to. Bottles typically come with one option for flow, and that might not be the right one for your baby.


Try different flows! This might unfortunately require some trial and error with different bottle flows and sizes, as not all are created equal.

The ideal flow bottle offers a baby a 10-15 minute feeding. If the baby is choking and leaking it’s too fast, and if they are crying, collapsing the nipple or getting frustrated it’s likely too slow.

Problem: The baby might generally just associate milk with the breastfeeding parent.

They might not understand what is happening or that milk is even being offered!


Have mom leave. Not just the room but the house entirely. Babies know when their moms are near and will hold out! Try the bottle feeding with mom out of the picture. You also will want to stimulate the baby’s lips and try to get some of the milk into the baby’s mouth so they can taste what is happening.

Problem: The baby might not like the taste of the milk.

Did you know that freezing milk can change the flavor? Especially if the breastfeeding parent has high lipase, the milk will take on a soapy flavor.


Try fresh breastmilk and see if that makes a difference!

Other tips:

  • Try the milk at different temperatures [as warm as tolerable, fridge cold and everything in between]
  • Try the baby at different stages. Sleeping, a little hungry, a lot hungry, and in between. [Generally a little hungry is the best starting off place. Before crying/frustration sets in.]
  • Try the milk in different positions. Ideally positions that you wouldn’t breastfed a baby in.
bottle feeding on knees
  • Finally, the caregiver might want to have mom sleep with a lovey that you use for feedings, or use the mom’s shirt during the feeding to offer comfort to the baby.

If none of these tips are working, you might consider asking an expert! We often have team members go into homes for a 4-8 hour day shift and teach parents all of their tricks on how to get a breastfed baby to drink a bottle! Please feel free to reach out and see if this might be an option for you.