I’m sure somewhere along the line you have heard about a mother whose baby was breastfeeding wonderfully, until it was time for her to return to work. As a mom’s maternity leave winds down, often times the first step she takes is introducing a bottle. However, some babies who have only breastfed, may have no interest in taking a bottle. Cue silently or not so silently freaking out, on top of the stress of returning to work! Bottle refusal happens, but the good news is it that we can help you work through it.

Tips to Avoid Bottle Refusal

Introduce a Bottle Early!

Many parents are concerned that if they give their baby a bottle too early that they will not want to breastfeed. This is a totally justified concern. As with anything, there is always a possibility. However, there is a much greater chance of that being the case if you just give your baby a bottle without pacing the feed. Pacing a bottle feed prevents the baby from developing a preference. This results in your baby having the ability to go back and forth between different feeding methods, happily.

When is a good time to introduce a bottle?

When you feel ready! Let’s be honest, breastfeeding can be hard! So, to feel like you and your baby are in a good nursing rhythm before introducing a bottle may feel best for you. The recommended time frame is any time from 2- 4 weeks, and most importantly, when you feel comfortable. With early introduction, it eliminates bottle refusal down the road. Another added benefit is that it lets you discover and learn if your baby favors and/or feeds better from a certain bottle versus another.

What if my baby shows bottle refusal at the recommended early stage?

If your 4 week old shows bottle refusal, hope is not lost! It just may mean that it will take them a little longer. Every baby is different. Some infants take a bottle easily, while others need more time or to try a different type of bottle. One recommendation is to have Dad or a caregiver offer the bottle, and also holding your baby in a different position than breastfeeding, such as sitting upright. Some babies may refuse if their mother is near, as they can smell her milk. Try going for a shower or leaving the room while your baby makes this transition. These tips may work for an older baby also. 

For an older baby, keep consistent and work the bottle in when your baby is half way through a feed. This helps so that they are not trying to learn something new when they are hungry, but also are still hungry enough to want more milk. If you need more support, Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny has a nurse IBCLC feeding specialist who can help you further.

For additional lactation services, such as finding the right latch for you and your baby, contact Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. If you are looking for bottle feeding and other newborn care support, we also have trained Newborn Care Experts.

About The Author

Olivia Wojcik, RN graduated Summa Cum Laude. In addition, she is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), Newborn Educator, Newborn Care Expert, Sleep Consultant, and level 2 reiki practitioner. Olivia has experience with a vast range of newborn care both in the hospital, ​outpatient, and community settings, specializing in newborn care, breastfeeding support, and education from birth through twenty-four months. Olivia is passionate about supporting family members as they welcome their baby into the world, as it is both an exciting and challenging transition. She prides herself on the compassionate, direct, and supportive role she plays in helping families find their way together. Olivia listens well to each family’s specific needs and goals, feeding related and more. It’s evident how much she truly enjoys guiding parents to achieve their goals.