Help! Baby Won’t Take a Bottle!

A mother writes, “I have to go back to work soon and my 3-month-old baby won’t take a bottle. What can I do? Help!”

Congratulations on exclusively breastfeeding your daughter! It can be challenging to transition back to the workplace, so it’s great that you are being thoughtful about helping your baby learn another way to receive your milk. Let me assure you it is perfectly normal for a 3 month old baby to initially refuse a bottle. It is a foreign object to her. Why should she suck on a silicone nipple? Remember she doesn’t know that it is common for babies to bottle-feed in our culture.

Some professionals maintain that if you give your baby a bottle every day from birth that she will happily take a bottle throughout her baby-hood. This is not necessarily true. Even if she had been given a daily bottle since she was born, she may still refuse at about 3 months. This is the age when babies start taking more control of their world!

My best advice to you is to take it slowly, make it fun, be creative, and give her control. Babies are naturally curious and use their mouths to explore. If she sees the bottle as just another play-thing, she will be more accepting. Try other liquids. Make it surprising, novel and interesting. I sometimes use water or very diluted apple juice when introducing a bottle. (I’m not advocating “feeding” water or juice to your baby–just tiny tastes for a little surprise to spark curiosity!)  Another idea for novelty is to use breast milk—but very cold. Some babies will only take a bottle if they are distracted with TV, toys or going for a walk. Try making the bottle very UNlike the breast, and you may be more successful. (My first baby would only take a bottle facing away from the caregiver.)

There is no rule that says she has to drink from a bottle, anyway. Most babies do very well with a cup or a spoon. Your daughter may really enjoy drinking from a cup (“sippy” or regular) like a “big girl.” My clients are frequently surprised that even young babies do very well with open cup feeding. Experiment and see what works best for you and your baby.  If you need help, your lactation consultant may be able to provide some guidance. Best of luck!

4 thoughts on “Help! Baby Won’t Take a Bottle!

  1. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been trying to get my son (now 5 1/2 months) to take a bottle for some time now. I’m a breast feeding sahm but i need him to be able to eat in case i have to leave him with a babysitter. I had to do it a while back when i had the flu and it was a disaster. I just ordered a training sippy cup yesterday in hope for success.
    I do have a question. I’ve been having too many troubles pumping so I’ve been trying to get him to be okay with formula but he doesn’t like the taste. Do you know of any particular formula that babies like best or of any ways to make it taste better?

  2. You could also try a premie nipple. My (very much not premature) daughter hated the bottle until we swtiched to premie nipples. We use the Dr Brown’s ones though we have a different brand of bottles because they are softer than the ones that came with our bottles. She also much prefers it warm.

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