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Tips To Help With Bottle Refusal

You may have tried and tried again when it comes to getting your breastfed baby to take a bottle. This can be very frustrating for new parents, especially if you need a good night’s sleep or if you’re going to return to work. Bottle refusal is a lot more common than you think, whether you are using expressed milk or artificial formula.

So why do babies refuse the bottle?

Babies may refuse the bottle from mum for several reasons but the main reason that I have found is because they know she has something better. If your baby has previously been exclusively breastfed then feeding can feel like a very different experience for them.

If you think about it, breastfeeding is a lot more comfortable as the breast is so soft, they are used to the amount that they need to draw into their mouth and the flow starts slowly and increases as the letdown reflex kicks in.

With a bottle the flow can be fast from the start and this may be very confusing for babies. Babies are so used to snuggling into your breasts and finding their comfortable position to feed.

It may seem like you’re on an uphill battle with your baby refusing the bottle but rest assured they will take the bottle once you have tried a few tricks.

How to get your baby to take a bottle. You may only need to try one of these tricks but some babies may need more.

Have someone else feed baby

Your baby associates you with breastfeeding so will usually play up more for you if you offer a bottle. So try getting dad, auntie, or grandparents involved and make sure that you’re not anywhere in sight.

Mum feeds baby

This may sound strange and contradictory but some babies only like mum feeding them. So if dad or other helpers cannot get baby to feed from the bottle, then mum will need to try. Try snuggling as you normally would for a feed and offer the bottle, if possible try and get your baby to self latch.


Your baby is used to having milk at 37 degrees which is your bodies natural temperature. So make sure that the milk in the bottle is as close to 37 degrees so there aren’t as many variables for them to refuse the bottle.


The flow depends on how old your baby is, if you are feeding a newborn then you will need a slower flow. However, if you offer an older baby a slow flow teat they will get annoyed very easily. I have found the Dr Browns bottles have a lot more success as they also reduce the amount of air that is inhaled whilst feeding. Therefore the less air ingested the less gas in their little tummy.

Dip the teat in expressed milk

By dipping the teat in breast milk the baby will be more inclined to latch on and not refuse the bottle. If all they can smell is the teat and sterilising solution then you will instantly have bottle refusal.


Position your baby the same way as when you breastfeed them, that way they will still have the snuggles and closeness that they are used too. Saying that, some people find that with newborns, positioning them so that they can see your face helps, so try which works best for you.


Your baby may be used to feeding in the same chair or the same environment. Try switching it up and feed baby in a different chair, or room to see if it helps. Some babies prefer to still feed in the same place that mum breastfeeds, it’s just trying out different ways to see which works for you.

Self latch

Instead of forcing the baby to feed, try massaging the teat on the top of their lip and gum, let your baby smell the milk. By encouraging them to self latch you will reduce the risk of bottle refusal. This will enable a more positive experience for all.


If you baby has allowed the teat into their mouth, but won’t suck, then try massaging the teat on the roof of their mouth. This will stimulate the sucking reflex and fingers crossed get them to suck.

You may notice that your baby gags when you put the bottle in their mouth, you may want to try a teat that is more like the size and shape of your nipple. This can be hard to find as there isn’t anything like your own nipple, try asking your friends which one worked best for them.


Let your baby have a play with the bottles and get used to having the bottle around. The more they get used to it, the more they will be intrigued to try and see what it does.


Try different teats. Many parents will advise you that a certain brand is best. But you need to try a variation and find the one that works for your baby. Both Mam and Dr. Browns is a good starting point.

When is the best time to try bottle feeding?

The best time to try your baby with a bottle to avoid bottle refusal is the trickiest. You will need to offer the bottle when your baby is hungry but not ravenous, otherwise they will be way past it and just scream. So when you see your baby starting to look tired and hungry that is the perfect time.

As you can see bottle refusal may have many variables that you have to figure out. The biggest hurdle is to relax and take your time, if you try over and over again in a short time period then your baby may get annoyed. Offer the bottle at 30 minute intervals and your little one will soon realise what to do.

Introduce slowly and make the process fun for all of you, life can be so chaotic with a baby that you don’t want to add more to your plate. You are both learning a new skill together so it’s a different experience for both of you.

If you have tried everything and your baby is still struggling with bottle refusal, then consider getting professional help. The maternity nurse can come to to your home and help your baby transition from breast to bottle. Contact us for more information

Read more informative pregnancy, birth and baby articles at Maternity Mum.


Unknown member
Jan 05, 2022

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