Seen this face before?
Good luck trying to get a bottle in this mouth!
So, breastfeeding has been going well! Your little one feeds like a champ. You have stored a bunch of breast milk in your freezer. You have found a caregiver that will love your sweet, little muffin almost as much as you do. Now, it is time to make sure your baby will be fed right while you are back at work and suddenly you run into a hiccup..... your adorable, lovely little one has decided that she is not interested in a bottle and downright refuses it!
WHAT? How can this happen?
This is precious breast milk that you pumped with love! How can she be that stubborn at such an early age?
If it brings you any consolation, I see this all of the time at our breastfeeding center. I have seen the stress in a parent's eyes when she has to return to work and her baby refuses everything, but the breast. Well, I am here to alleviate that stress with a bunch of tricks to help your sweet, albeit opinionated, infant take a bottle before you return to work.
List of Tricks to Help your Breastfed Baby Take a Bottle
Have dad/partner try to give the bottle, not the breastfeeding mom. If he/she is not completely successful, have an experienced bottle feeder (grandma/grandpa, aunt/uncle, friend, nanny, daycare provider, etc.) give it a try. They may also not be as offended as dad/partner may be:)
Patience is key! If your baby isn't interested, try at a different time of day. My kids were usually more calm in the morning than in the afternoon, so I would always try new things at the beginning of the day.
Be playful! Rest the nipple on your baby's philtrum (the crease that connects her upper lip to her nose) and let her decide when she will take it in her mouth. This mimics what goes on during breastfeeding.
Try different feeding techniques. Try feeding your baby with a bottle in a cradle hold. If that doesn't work, try feeding her facing you, either on your lap or in a bouncy chair. You can also try walking around.
Some babies like to smell their moms while bottle feeding, so let her snuggle in one of mom's t-shirts or with her pillow case while bottle feeding.
Choose a bottle nipple that looks most like your anatomy. Start with the slow-flow nipple. This will give your baby more sucking time, just like at breast. If your baby is a little older, or if you have a really fast-flow, your baby may prefer a faster flow nipple. Choose what most resembles you and your baby's breastfeeding experience.
Use baby-led bottle feeding techniques to make bottle feeding more like breastfeeding. You can check out our YouTube channel for a video on how to do this!
Experiment with different bottles and nipples. Babies have preferences, so give yours an opportunity to choose her bottle and nipple....without breaking the bank, of course!
Warm the nipple under running water before offering it to your baby. She might have a temperature preference, too.
You can always try a cup. Yes, even infants can drink from a cup. They usually lap it up rather than actually gulping. For more info on cup-feeding, check out Dr. Sear's article on alternatives to bottle feeding
Try and try again! Something that didn't work the first time around may work on another day. It is like introducing avocado to your baby for the first time. Some babies love it. Others need to taste it over 10 times before they enjoy it.
If all else fails, call a lactation consultant! We often can identify the root cause of why a baby isn’t taking a bottle and can offer suggestions for other bottles or other feeding methods. At the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, we also have a variety of bottles to try in our office that we can try during a bottle-feeding consult! You can make an appointment for one of those consultations HERE.
Hopefully this list has put your mind at ease and offered some advice to help you get through this challenge. If the first trick doesn't work, just keep on going down the list. If you have one that has worked for you, please add it to the comments. Let's share our advice so that all parents can use this as a resource!