Is your breastfeeding baby refusing a bottle? These breastfeeding tips with help introduce your breastfeeding baby to the bottle without too many tears!
Transitioning from exclusive breastfeeding to bottle supplementation doesn’t always go as planned. Your baby may prefer the comfort that comes with your warm, soft nipple. Some babies are also confused by the change in nipples and will stick with the one they already know how to work. Bottle nipples do function a bit different than a mother’s nipple when it comes to expressing milk, but there are some things you can do to help your baby adjust to bottle feeding.
The Best Time to Introduce a Bottle
Many breastfeeding babies refuse a bottle after breastfeeding exclusively for a long period of time with no bottle experience. There are many reasons that can happen, including the simple fact that your baby may not know how to properly express milk from a bottle. They may also notice the bottle’s nipple isn’t warm and comforting like your breast.
Babies have a natural sucking reflex in the first few months of life that allows them to take rather easily to various types of nipples. That’s the best time to introduce the bottle if you know you will need to supplement your breastfeeding in the future. Taking advantage of that early reflex will allow your baby to adjust to the nipple of a bottle so that it’s nothing new when it’s time for you to return to work, spend nights out with friends, or otherwise give yourself some time away from breastfeeding exclusively.
If your baby has already breastfed exclusively for three months or longer, they may still take easily to a bottle. You may also choose not to introduce a bottle in the first three months because you don’t intend to supplement with a bottle at any point in the future. If that changes and you find that your baby does refuse the bottle, don’t give up and assume you have to breastfeed exclusively until your baby is weaned and ready for solid foods. You can work with your little one to make bottle supplementation work.
Nipple Confusion and Bottle Refusal – Competing Views
Nipple confusion is a term that is often used when a baby refuses a bottle or starts to struggle with breastfeeding. It often occurs when a baby is offered multiple types of nipples and becomes unwilling or unable to feed effectively from one or more of those options. A baby with nipple confusion may struggle with latching onto the breast after being offered a bottle, pacifier, or other alternative nipples. They may also just seem unhappy when feeding or outright refuse to feed for a period of time.
There are competing professional opinions on how to avoid nipple confusion or deal with it after it sets in. Every new mother must make her own decision on how to handle alternative nipples. It may come down to whether you intend to supplement with a bottle or plan to breastfeeding exclusively until your baby is ready for solid foods.
Prime Your Baby for Bottle Feeding
One option is to take advantage of that early sucking reflex and give your baby some early bottle-feeding experience while still prioritizing breastfeeding. The trick is introducing a bottle after your baby has developed strong breastfeeding habits but before the three-month mark. Give your baby at least a month if not six weeks to adjust to feeding at your breast. You can then introduce a bottle with pumped breast milk two or three times a week to give your baby that experience.
You don’t have to make the bottle experiences the entire feeding. Maybe offer a bit of expressed milk rom a bottle then go back to breastfeeding to satisfy your baby. Many mothers can later offer a bottle successfully without as much risk of nipple confusion, but that isn’t a guarantee. Your baby may still refuse a bottle later when you want to rely on bottle supplementation regularly.
Avoid All Alternate Nipples
There are also professionals who believe breastfeeding mothers should avoid supplementing with bottles or giving pacifiers and other type of alternative nipple in the early months. They believe that offering those nipples early on will lead to nipple confusion. Since there’s no guarantee that a baby with early bottle experience won’t later refuse the bottle, they believe in waiting until just before you’re ready to supplement with a bottle to introduce that alternate nipple form.
The upside to this is you avoid nipple confusion by simply introducing only your breast until you’re ready to start supplementing with a bottle. If you breastfeed exclusively all the way up to weaning, then you may never have to deal with nipple confusion.
The downside is you have less time to work with your baby on accepting a bottle if your baby refuses the bottle. Most mothers introduce bottles when they return to work, so it’s stressful when a baby doesn’t want to feed from the bottle and the date of work return is coming up. That’s why some working mothers choose to follow the alternate route of giving their little ones some bottle experience after breastfeeding skills are developed.
What to Do When Your Breastfed Baby Refuses the Bottle
Whether you introduced a bottle in the first few months or not, your baby is now refusing to bottle feed. Perhaps you need to return to work or just want to hire a babysitter so you can spend an evening out with your significant other. There are many ways you can move your baby past the confusion or their deliberate refusal, whichever applies to your situation.
1. Experiment with positions
You may have one or two feeding positions that are comfortable and effective for your baby, but maybe it’s time to try something new when offering a bottle. If you have previously offered the bottle with your baby laying next to or in front of you, maybe try cuddling with skin-to-skin contact to mimic the comfort that comes with breastfeeding.
If you have tried offering a bottle in positions that are similar to your preferred breastfeeding position, maybe try a comfortable seating position or switch from sitting to standing positions. Sometimes a small change in positioning can make a difference.
2. Use Nipples Similar to Your Own
There are bottle nipples designed to feel much like a mother’s breast. Instead of having one long, thin nipple, they’re designed with a full, rounded shape that allows the nipple to press against the baby’s face in much the same way as a breast. They’re not warm and your baby will likely tell the difference, but at least they operate a bit more like your natural breast.
3. Try Slow-Flow Bottle Nipples
Most bottle nipples allow milk to flow at a much faster pace than a breast. If your baby coughs or chokes while bottle feeding or doesn’t seem to like that faster flow, you can buy slow-flow nipples that will make it easier and more comfortable for your little one. If you can find a slow-flow nipple that is designed to feel and operate more like a mother’s nipple, you may have an easy solution to the problem.
4. Delegate Bottle Feeding Duties
Some mothers find that their babies won’t accept a bottle from them but they will bottle feed for other trusted caregivers. It’s possible that just knowing your breasts are nearby is enough for your baby to refuse the bottle. Removing your nipples as a visible option could make a difference. Ask someone else to do the job a time or two to see how your baby reacts.
5. Drip Breast Milk from the Bottle
For some babies, all it takes is an awareness that breast milk is contained in the bottle. Maybe your baby feels the difference in the nipple and doesn’t know that sucking will release the same milk she receives from your breast. Dripping a bit of breast milk from the bottle into your baby’s mouth can help. Allow a drip or two go into your baby’s mouth, then try to insert the bottle nipple into your baby’s mouth. It may take a few tries for that method to work.
6. Try Bottle Feeding a Drowsy Baby
When your baby is sleepy or just waking up, they’re not as alert and aware as they are during wakeful hours. Try to take advantage of that by slipping in a bottle nipple before they realize what they’re sucking on. That may work well for a baby who is intentionally refusing the bottle, but it might not work if your baby is legitimately confused by the nipple on the bottle.
7. Make Bottle Feeding More Entertaining
Instead of just offering the bottle over and over in hopes your baby will eventually accept it, try to turn bottle feeding sessions into pure entertainment. Use toys, hand puppets, singing, or special voices to grab your baby’s attention. Work breastfeeding into the show until your little starts to take to the bottle without so much distraction.
Patience Is Critical for a Baby Refusing a Bottle
No matter what you do, don’t lose patience with your baby. Bottle refusal can happen for many reasons, and most parents eventually find a solution that allows them to enjoy some time away from their babies when needed. Aggressively forcing the bottle into your baby’s mouth or losing your temper will only make the situation worse, so stay calm and ask for help if you feel the situation is becoming too frustrating or confusing.
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