bottle feeding challenges

Bottle Feeding Refusal [My baby is refusing their bottle]

Has your baby been taking a bottle like a champ and then suddenly feeding them feels like a huge struggle? Bottle feeding refusal is frustrating; We are here to help! Is your baby breastfeeding and refusing to try a bottle? Check that out here.

While a baby that has been breastfeeding is usually refusing a bottle because it is new to them, a baby that has been bottle feeding and has started refusing is a little less cut and dry.

Ask yourself: Is my baby drinking too much?

The calculation for formula is 1.5x your baby’s weight. Bottle fed babies typically drink between 24-32oz regardless of their age. Some very hungry babies will go up to 35oz or so. Consider that your baby simply might not be hungry enough for their next bottle!

Ask yourself: Am I watching the clock?

This is similar to is my baby drinking too much. It’s possible that your baby is ready to have their feedings spaced out more. If their stomach has time to empty more then they are presented the opportunity to feel hungry! We prefer a 3 hour schedule during the day.

Ask yourself: Does my baby seem uncomfortable?

Does your baby cry when presented the bottle? Do they cry during feedings? It’s possible that drinking might hurt them. They might have reflux. They might have had a cold and swallowing might have caused discomfort. The flow may be too fast and they are swallowing too quickly.

If your baby is showing signs of fear or pain, contact your doctor. If your baby associates bottle feeding with pain then this has the potential to become a serious aversion. This is the most difficult of all of the problems to offer a solution to. We recommend reaching out to an expert in the field to asses what might be going on.

Ask yourself: What is my baby going through developmentally?

Is your baby 4 months old? They might be having a sleep regression? These can change your baby’s patterns and behaviors of feeding, sleep and anything in between.

Is your baby 8-10 months old? They might be becoming more aware of their surroundings and simply not interested in taking time out of their busy day. We call this FOMO baby. Tips for this are to offer feedings directly after waking from nap when it’s dark and quiet. Try to minimize distractions. You also might want to grab some finger puppets or build up your arsenal of nursery rhymes to entertain your baby during feedings. Gone are the days of you scrolling on your phone while your baby drinks patiently.

Ask yourself: Is my baby sick or have they had vaccines recently?

Vaccines often will give your baby mild symptoms of illness as their body builds antibodies. If your baby isn’t feeling great they may not be as hungry as usual.

Ask yourself: Have I changed the bottles, nipples or formula recently?

I know it sounds obvious, but we have had parents not realize how differently formulas taste! Sometimes babies will refuse a formula on taste alone.

We have had parents purchase defective nipples and not realize that the milk simply was not coming through the hole!

We have had parents not realize that as their baby grows, they need to move up nipple sizes. Your baby might be so frustrated with the flow of milk that they just don’t bother!

Short term solutions:

The above offers the goal of getting to the root of each problem. However, if you aren’t there yet you might need more immediate help.

We have found the best luck with syringe feeding. It takes time and patience, but it gets calories into baby without them actively having to suck!

If your baby is older you might want to try different types of sippy cups to see if that might resolve the issue.

Straw cup

Uniquely shaped cup

Regular sippy cup

When to be concerned with bottle feeding refusal:

Thankfully most of the time bottle feeding refusal isn’t a long-term issue.

  • If your baby is losing weight- talk to your pediatrician to come up with a plan
  • If your baby is lethargic, has chapped lips, no/little wet diapers, yellow crystals in urine, sunken fontanelle or sunken eyes – call 911 immediately

If your baby still isn’t taking a bottle you might want to reach out to an expert. We are happy to set up a call to see if we might be able to help. We also recommend talking to your pediatrician, a local Lactation Educator, or an Occupational Therapist that specializes in feeding challenges.