10 Reasons Babies Refuse Bottles (And 5 Signs It Will Happen)

It is a fact universally known that babies know what they want, and what they want is mommy's liquid gold. A bottle isn't the same as the breast, and babies catch onto this fast. As is to be expected, this can be darn stressful for mom.

I've lost count of the amount of women I've heard say, ever so forlornly, 'all s/he wants is my boob,' when their babies have been wailing and throwing themselves about in temper because a bottle simply WON'T DO!

However, why a baby doesn't want to leave mom's boobs alone isn't all to do with the milk. When a baby comes out of the safety of the womb, it still wants the comfort of mom - her voice, her scent, her heartbeat. Being on the breast provides this connection and closeness. Though sometimes, all babies want to do is suck, and in this instance, providing them with a pacifier could be the best alternative to them being latched on all day.

In this article, we'll explore why your baby might be reacting so badly to the transition from boob to bottle, and provide you with some advice on what you can do to ease the transition.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

15 Doesn't Want The Bottle From Mom

Babies are smart. They know that mom has something better than what she is offering from the bottle. One of the easiest, and most common methods of introducing your baby to a bottle, and ensuring that they stick with it, is to ask your partner, a grandparent or even a friend to take over the bottle feedings until this phase passes.

It might happen that you will need to leave the room, potentially even the house during feeding times - your baby can smell you from a long distance and they need to not be able to smell the 'good stuff.'

See this as a good thing though - get those errands run or maybe make some time just for you. And never, ever see needing to hand the bottle over to someone else as a failure, because it isn't.

14 The Way Baby Is Positioned

One reason why your baby may be refusing to take the bottle is because they are not positioned just right. Many parents find that they need to try and experiment with absolutely everything until they are able to find a position that works.

Your baby might not accept the bottle if you are holding them in the traditional reclining position, because it is extremely similar to when you breastfed. They will also know how close they are to 'the real deal.' Smart babies.

You could try your partner giving the bottle in that position, though your baby may very well reach to see if they can find his 'boobs!' If your baby is really young, the best position you could do is to try and have the child at a 45-degree angle with their head cradled in the nook of your elbow.

13 It Can Be A Stressed Atmosphere

A stressed atmosphere and bottle feeding do not sit well together, especially for babies who are over four months old. This is the age when they start to become distracted. While it is not always going to be possible, the best place to breastfeed is in a boring and quiet room. The more subdued and calm the room is, the better.

At night it's best if the room is dark, as this may help your baby fall asleep quicker after the feed. A bright, loud room that is full of other people is an invitation to your baby not to finish their bottle.

Of course it won't always be possible to prevent stressful situations, but the better you can sidestep them the easier it will be on you and on baby.

12 Baby Can Be Teething

Teething is no fun for your poor little one. Sadly, your baby's primary means of comfort is sucking, but sucking can offer them little comfort as it can increase the pressure on their gums. It is an impossible situation, baby wants to suck but can't, and, as a result, they may lose some of their appetite.

There is a chance that your little one will stop and start with feeding over and over again, but try not to worry too much. However, if your baby is still 'on strike' after a few days, it would be best to call your pediatrician. When the tooth finally cuts through to the surface, their appetite will return.

Teethers are able to offer your baby some comfort, especially if the teether is cold. Try a frozen banana, a teething ring with gel that becomes cool when stored in the refrigerator.

11 It Could Be The Wrong Size

Some babies are extremely sensitive to the choice of bottle nipples - just like pacifier shapes, nipples come in a vast variety of sizes - therefore it is highly recommended that you use breastfeeding-friendly bottles and bottle nipples.

You need to be prepared that you will, more than likely, need to switch several times before you find one that is both comfortable and easy for your baby to suck from. Nipple flow is also something that you need to take into consideration. (I don't know about you, but I am feeling just a teeny tiny bit overwhelmed by everything that needs to be thought about!). You need to ensure that the 'speed' is just right for your baby's age. It may be coming out too quickly, which can be overwhelming for very young infants.

10 The Temperature Isn't Right

I do not have that many memories of when my siblings where tiny, but one image that does come to mind is when my mother used to test my youngest brother's milk on the inside of her wrist. All she would do is sprinkle a few drops on her skin and she would know if it was OK, or if it needed to go into a jug of cold water.

Milk being the right temperature isn't something you need to worry about when breastfeeding, as milk from your breast is naturally warm. When the milk in the bottle is warm, it works to mimic the experience that your baby had when they breastfed. It's comforting, soothing and easier to digest than cold milk.

Never warm your baby's milk in the microwave. The milk doesn't heat evenly and this can create 'hot spots' which could scald your baby's mouth and throat.

9 Baby Doesn't Like The Formula

If you can, it is always best to feed your baby breast pumped milk, but if you decide to formula-feed, it will come to your attention that there is a scarily vast selection of brands available, each with a different flavour. (Taste if for yourself and see! Have a swig of your own breast milk and then have a taste of the formula you will give to your baby.)

As with the nipple swapping, you will probably find yourself switching from one to another to find a flavour that your baby actually prefers. Watch closely for the nose wrinkling! Bear in mind too that babies naturally gravitate towards the formulas that taste slightly sweet, so do your research. It can also be an idea to try the formula when baby is sleepy, so with either the night or morning feed.

8 Baby Can Have A Milk Allergy

Just the same as adults, babies can also be sensitive to dairy. While your baby might not point blank refuse to take a bottle feed, you will notice things like your child frequently spitting up, having diarrhea, tummy pain, eczema and, in some cases, even hives.

If you discover that your baby is sensitive to dairy, you can switch to a soy-based formula. There's also something called a hydrolysate formula. If you are feeding baby with breast milk, it would be wise for you to cut dairy out of your diet.

Once you are able to find what the source of the problem is and have made the necessary changes, you will see an almost miraculous change in your child - they will be much more settled, comfortable and happy.

7 Baby Is Too Young

If you have breastfed your baby, you will know all about the time that it can take for baby to learn to latch onto the nipple. Sometimes it can take weeks or even months for both mom and baby to get the hang of it. (Something I didn't know before writing this piece...)

So, when the bottle comes along, it is a new challenge entirely for the both of you, and if you try and introduce the bottle before baby is ready, the challenge is a whole different level of difficult.

The nipple on a bottle is different from your own nipple. Your baby is not familiar with it and can struggle to adapt, especially if they are too young. From 6 months on is ideally when you should be weaning baby off the breast.

6 Baby Might Not Be Hungry

Sometimes, the reason your baby might not accept the bottle could be as simple as them not being hungry. Well, I say simple, it isn't really...your baby isn't able to verbalize if they are hungry or not, so you will usually have to rule out everything else on the list.

You also need to remember that baby might eat more one day than the next. This could come down to several different things; how active your baby has been, if they have been through a growth spurt and, of course, how baby is feeling overall. It's important that you try not to get too worked up about this though. Unless there is an underlying issue, your little one will be on track with their feeding again before you know it.

5 Sign: Baby Is Showing Resistance

Patience is going to be your most valuable tool when you and your baby are transitioning from breast to bottle. You are going to have to accept and appreciate that your little one will need to have time to get used to new sensations. Ensure that you take everything nice and easy, and slow. If baby starts to cry and pushes the bottle away, the best thing you can do is take it away, comfort them and then try again. If you have done this three times, put the bottle down for now.

Don't breastfeed straight away. Your little one needs to learn not to associate refusing the bottle with immediately getting mom's boob. It is best to wait five minutes and then breastfeed. Try again with the bottle an hour or so later.

4 Sign: Baby Gets Easily Distracted

When your little one is under 4 months, potential distractions aren't something you need to pay that much attention to, but once they have passed that mark you will need to step up your game. Your baby is able to see much more clearly what was out of focus just a short time before, and suddenly the world is a much more stimulating place.

If your place happens to be busy with stuff going on pretty much all the time, you need to make it a priority to find a peaceful corner where your little one can receive your full attention when they're feeding.

"Once babies get to be a few months old, they go through a social-butterfly stage where they want to see what's happening around them," says nurse practitioner and lactation consultant Stacey H. Rubin, author of The ABCs of Breastfeeding.

3 Sign: Baby Only Accepts Bottle While Sleeping

Some babies feed nearly exclusively when they are asleep. These babies typically find it much easier to take the bottle when they are in the sleep state and relaxed than when they are awake and highly strung. Sleep feeding is not a good thing though. Parents find themselves forced to put their little one down so that they can ensure they get their intake.

The majority of babies who sleep feed have been found to have symptoms of acid reflux. Babies who have recumbent posture, poor gastric emptying and liquid diets are prone to it.

While it's understandable why parents continue with sleep feeding, if their child isn't treated, they will continue to struggle to feed and it's possible that they may even develop an aversion to feeding. Sleep feeding isn't common knowledge among pediatricians, so you may find it best to consult an expert.

2 Sign: Eats/Drinks Very Slowly

When we think about babies feeding, we don't tend to think of them as being 'too slow,' but they can be, as one concerned mom speaks about.

"Sebastian is such a slow feeder, he takes an hour to get through 4-5oz, sometimes can take up to 1 1/2 hrs. Even his first feed of the day takes this long, and he is going 11 hrs between last feed at night and first feed, so you would have thought he'd be really hungry and gulp it down.

He is gaining weight fairly steadily, although he doesn't eat a lot - between 4-5oz, 5 feeds a day, so between 20-25oz a day. Sometimes he can only get through 3oz though. The HV (Health Visitor) seems happy as he's very happy and alert and weight fine. Could this just be the way he is, do I just have to grin and bear it?"

1 Sign: Baby Starts Pushing Bottle Away

If your baby is refusing their bottle and pushing it away after you have tried to feed, it would be wise to look in their mouth and check for thrush, sores or blisters, all of which could make feeding painful.

It might have to do with the teat flow. One mom was having this problem over and over again before she replaced the nipple with a faster flowing one and, like magic, her little one took to the bottle again. Also don't forget to check that temperature! The milk might not be quite warm enough for little one.

It might also just be that baby wants a breather, or perhaps baby swallowed too much air and needs to be burped. You are going to need to apply that all-important patience and rock, burp and cuddle them a little before trying again.

Sources: Parents.com, FamilyEducation.com, BabyCentre.co.uk, MadeForMums.com, WeHaveKids.com

More in What?