You’ve been successfully breastfeeding for months – but now you have to return to work and need to bottle feed some of the time. Or maybe you simply want a night out with your partner eventually. Or perhaps you (or your baby) are sick and you need to substitute bottle feeding for breastfeeding. How hard could it be, right?
You research bottles to find the best brand, flow rate, nipple shape and more. You think you’ve found the perfect product. You read as much as you can about the right formula, or you pump like crazy so that you have plenty of breastmilk set aside. You warm the milk, fill the bottle, settle in with baby … and they absolutely refuses to bottle feed. You try to cajole them into taking it, and they just aren't having it. Now what?
Try someone other than mom: If your baby knows you’re around, they're likely to want milk straight from the source. Have a sitter or your partner try to offer the bottle feed – you may even want to run errands or enjoy a long walk by yourself so you’re not even in the house at all!
Try different shapes and flow rates: When you were shopping for bottle feeding paraphernalia, you were likely faced with an overwhelming number of choices. If you baby refuses one shape of nipple, see what you can find that’s different – shorter, longer, wider, narrower. Pay attention to the flow rate. Keep in mind ‘preemie’ bottle nipples are not necessarily slower than those marked ‘slow flow.’ If your baby uses a pacifier, try to find a bottle nipple that is the same shape.
Try something that reminds baby of mom: Sleep with a receiving blanket or leave your nightgown unwashed. Have your sitter or your partner hold it while bottle feeding. Your scent may convince baby to give the bottle a try.
Try a temperature change: Fresh breastmilk straight from the breast is body temperature – so 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider warming the milk more than this, or even offering it cold or room temperature (if your baby is used to it warmed). For an older baby, consider making milk slushies by partially freezing it and feeding it with a spoon.
Try a breastfeeding position: Sometimes holding your baby in a cradle hold and turned in toward the caregiver can convince him to take the bottle. You might even go as far as putting the bottle under your arm so baby can latch on as if at the breast.
Try something completely opposite of a breastfeeding position: If baby objects to the cradle hold, have them sit with their back to the caregiver, or in a baby seat facing the caregiver without being cuddled. Never prop the bottle, though, and be sure to pay close attention to baby’s satiety cues.
Try movement: While feeding, walk around, bounce on an exercise ball, rock in a chair. This may comfort and distract baby enough that they're more willing to relax and attempt something new.
Try changing the timing: Catch your baby’s early feeding cues and feed them before their regular feeding time. Or consider offering a bottle after a feeding at the breast at the most relaxed time of your day. If your baby’s drowsy and mostly full, they may be more open to a bottle feed.
Try the bottle as a toy: Sometime when you’re not rushed and baby is very relaxed, provide the empty bottle as a toy. Let them explore it with his hands and mouth without the pressure of needing to complete a feeding.
Try something other than a bottle: Ultimately, if your baby absolutely refuses the bottle, you can consider using a sippy cup, an open cup (with you in charge of tipping it, of course), a medicine spoon, or a dropper.
The number one tip should be “try not to worry.” Your baby will not starve. When you are more relaxed about the event, your baby is more likely to bottle feed easily. Ultimately, and perhaps with a bit of time and patience, you will find what works best for your baby and your family.