How to get a stubborn breastfeeding baby to take a bottle

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As some of you may know from this post, I have been struggling for almost eight months to get Wren to take a bottle. I’m not weaning her, I just would like to have a little more flexibility with her feedings. I scoured Pinterest (and Google, of course) for solutions to my dilemma, and the only advice that came up were a bunch of expensive bottle brands (that didn’t work), or tips from mommies who had obviously started introducing their babies to the bottle when they were still newborns. (Whoops.) I was despairing. This must be a common problem! Maybe I just suck at googling, but I came up with zilch. My niece never took a bottle. My poor sister in law just had to wait until she was old enough for sippy cups. So I know I’m not alone.

Anyway, after months of trial and error, (and not telling hapless babysitters that Wren was certain to angrily refuse that bottle I left for her, sorry Mom!) I am pleased to announce we have a bottle feeding baby! Well, not entirely bottle feeding. I still plan on nursing her until she is a year at least, but the point is I can leave her side for more than three hours at a time. It has been a long seven and a half months. Without further ado, here are my tips for getting your stubborn breastfeeder to take a bottle.

1) Keep trying! Don’t give up on the bottle. You never know when your baby might stop crying and just drink the bottle. Once your baby becomes more acclimated to it, she might discover that it dispenses milk as well.

2) Don’t go crazy buying a ton of different “breastfeeding” bottles that have more parts than your average rocket engine. My rule was if it came with a blueprint on how to assemble it, then forget it. Babies are creatures of simple habits. They just want to suck some milk down. And if you are like me, your baby is way too old for you to be worrying about gas pains and colic anyway. For me, the tommee tippee bottles worked best for my two babies who preferred the breast.

My baby that hated nursing was good with whatever. Wren also seems to like these Avent bottles.

The nipple on the Avent doesn’t get sucked into the bottle while she is drinking it, which is better because it means she doesn’t have to periodically stop sucking to let the nipple pop back out. But both work fine.

3) Try sitting the baby upright. My oldest wouldn’t drink a bottle while reclining. She would only drink it sitting up.

4) Warm up the milk a bit. Now, officially I know I’m supposed to say to hold the bottle under flowing warm water. But any of us that has tried this knows it doesn’t heat up the milk at all and ain’t nobody got time for that! Try a bottle warmer instead.

5) Have someone else (other than the haggard breast milk dispenser) feed the baby the bottle. My husband has the most success giving my babies their bottles. Maybe because he is just as obstinate as they are. Do not let skittish relatives who “don’t want the baby to hate me” to even attempt this feat. It will just prove discouraging for all concerned. Choose someone with a will of iron.

6) I have heard from mothers who feel less hatred for pumping than I (I have the inexplicable feeling that I am cheating on my baby with a machine) that it helps immensely to put breast milk in the bottle. That is what the baby is used to drinking, after all.

7) Offer the bottle during the times when the baby nurses the most. For my babies, that is when they first wake up in the morning and the final nurse before bed at night. My husband also started offering it for Wren’s night feedings to try and gauge how hungry she really was at night after she was about six months old. (The answer was: not very hungry as she would fall back asleep after only one ounce.)

Well, I hope these were helpful. Not having to worry about rushing home or being stuck somewhere while my baby goes hungry is such a relief. Have any of you had this problem? What helped your babies to take a bottle?


0 thoughts on “How to get a stubborn breastfeeding baby to take a bottle

  1. Asma

    Hello mommies, I need to know what u all meant when u say KEEP TRYING!! I offer her a bottle and she starts crying and gets louder n louder how long should I try this at one time and how many times a day? And at the end I have to breastfeed her eventually because she is hungry 😔 I failed to switch my first one with bottle so I was very motivated to get my second child to bottle feeding and used to give her two or three bottles everyday but when she turned 2 months she decided to hate bottle I tried a lot but she got sick with cold and I gave up she is 5 months now and I realllyyyy want her to have bottle feeding but this is so hard

    1. sylcell Post author

      For me, it was more trying to gauge her reactions. If I tried the bottle and she was so adamant that she was having a strong negative reaction to it and was really digging in her heels, I would stop trying and wait a few days or weeks before I tried again casually. I really didn’t want it to become a power struggle between us and have her associate strong negative feelings with the bottle. So essentially, I tried to trick my baby into feeling it was no big deal to me if she took the bottle or not, but was firm about offering it to her once or twice every week. I know, I might be giving babies too much credit, but I felt like my desperation might exacerbate the problem. I know it feels like an eternity when you attached by the boob, but five months is still young! There is still plenty of time to slowly but surely accustom your babe to the bottle.

  2. Hasiba

    Omg! I have the exact same problem. Except that i had heard this was a problem for some moms, plus wanting the freedom, i bottle feed my breast milk and nursed at the same time right when i brought my daughter home. After a month she just decided she hated it cuz i went a week without giving her the bottle. Its like she forgot it and didnt want it anymore.
    Persistence and A LOT of patients helped me get her back on it BUT it changed her. She became so cranky. Her night sleeping went from a wonderful 7 hrs to waking up every 4. Regardless of how much shed drink before bed. Every time id give her the bottle it was a struggle but shed eventually take it n only drink half n cry because she was still hungry. I felt bad after doing this with her for two weeks so i gave in n started exclusively nursing again. Im stuck with her all the time. I too also hate pumping, i find it so much work! I pump to feed her when i could just put her there n let her feed on her own. To get her used to the bottle, I strictly bottle fed for 3 days straight which reduces my breast milk by a lot.
    I love her to death but i cant do anything without her. And i time my outings with her according to her feeding schedule because not all places are nursing friendly.
    My daughter is 3.5 months old and she gets smarter each day. I feel like the older she gets the harder it will be to get her to bottle feed. Im also going to Europe with her in 3 months. It would be sooo helpful if she bottle fed by then.
    Should i try again and keep at it? Prehaps having my husband do the bottle feeding rather than me?

    1. sylcell Post author

      Keep trying! She is only 3 months, so it is pretty normal for her to prefer the breast. But don’t overly exhaust yourself pumping and trying to force it. Just casually have someone else offer her a bottle every now and then for one feeding and see how it goes. I have heard that if you use formula and put a (teeny tiny) droplet of vanilla extract in it, they really like it and will drink it. You should ask your pediatrician if it is ok to add a little droplet of vanilla to the bottle, though, since she is so young. Just tossing an idea out there that you might not have tried. I know it is so frustrating feeling like you have a baby dangling from your boob at all times, but try not to stress about it! She will get there with persistence and time (and trial and error!)

      1. Hasiba

        Oh i will definitely try that! Could i add the vanilla to my breast milk as well? Id rather not have to use formula.

    2. sylcell Post author

      Ugh, my reply got deleted for some reason. So I will try to sum up. Keep trying! And yes, try someone else offering the bottle. She can smell your milk and nothing else will do if you try to feed her a bottle. I have heard from another mom that putting a teeny tiny droplet of vanilla extract to formula will help them accept a bottle. But she is so young, you should ask your pediatrician if that is ok before doing that. But don’t exhaust yourself with all that pumping and trying to force it. Just casually offer her a bottle every now and then. She will get there with some persistence and a whole lot of trial and error. I know it is so frustrating feeling like you have a baby dangling from your boob all day and all night, but it is only temporary. Hang in there! And have fun on your trip to Europe!

  3. Sarah

    My daughter is 6 months old. She has had a bottle before, from the sitter twice a week, while I was at work. It took 3 bottle brands b4 she accepted one. And even then, it was hit or miss if she would take it. She would hold out for me to get off of work. A smart mom probably would have offered her a bottle then and tried to break the refusal, but I nursed her. I have since quit working, so J has not had a bottle in a month. She now has two bottom teeth poked through and it starting to hurt me – which she thinks is funny. I want to continue nursing, but would like her to take a bottle, for the same reason you stated. I don’t even feel like I can leave her, as she won’t take a bottle from someone. My husband is not a patient person and not wanting to take part in the standoff. I feel it is all up to me. I am thinking of trying a sippy cup. She has started drinking water from a sippy cup, but she is still figuring it out…at rate she is going, she would never finish a cup of milk. But also confused as to when to pump for the milk for the cup. Guess I have to pump, offer her the cup and if she does not take it, listen to her cry bc Mom has not milk left to nurse her with? For all of these reasons, I have become almost scared to tackle this…but know I need to. This is my 4th child – you would think I would be better at this, lol. Did not have this issue with my others. Also did not nurse the others this long. hmmm.

    1. sylcell Post author

      Just keep trying and hang in there, mama. My husband did not seem to want to force the bottle on the apoplectic baby either. (I can’t imagine why, lol). With Wren, the second it became a power struggle was when she dug in her heels, so I just started casually offering her a bottle every now and then, and if she refused it, I would act like it was no big deal. But of course, your children might not be as willfully stubborn as mine;) You can try a sippy and see! Ugh, I just hate pumping so much, I never even tried it. You can try different formulas too. My girls seem to prefer the type you don’t have to add water to that come in separate bottles.

  4. morgan

    I’ve got a strong déjà vu on this one – I think we had that topic already, maybe only in the comment section?
    Congrats for mastering that challenge!
    Our success story with our daughter was starting out with sippy cups (I saw in one of you pictures that you also have the nuby sippy cups. I LOVE them, they were the only ones my kids accepted – unfortunately they are hard to come by here, I had to drive to a toys ‘r us every time to get them), cause she already drank water out of them, then we switched to bottles with huge holes in the sucker part and then we went to medium until we finally got her to drink out of the small-sized ones.
    In hindsight I think it had a lot to do with the fact that they didn’t have to work hard to get to the breast milk, cause usually once they suckled a couple times, the milk just shot out and with every bottle or those leak-proof baby cups they had to really work for the good stuff. 😉

    1. sylcell Post author

      Yeah poor Wren sweats and sweats while she is nursing. Even if it is perfectly cool and I’m not wearing a nursing cover. But that might be due to her heart condition. It is such a relief to see her drink milk and not have to work so hard.

  5. Siné

    I am fairly sure holy water sprinkled in the bottle of my bottle refusing son who was failing to thrive was what turned the tides for us. It took an 11.5 hour standoff with him, but considering he was losing weight and my supply had tanked with pregnancy, it was necessary. I am so glad Wren will take the bottle now. Enjoy a bit of freedom!

    1. sylcell Post author

      What a good idea! I never thought of that! Although I have been using all my water from Lourdes to put over her little heart so she won’t need surgery:/ Thank God you both pulled through!

  6. rachandboys

    Well done Wren and you, not an easy thing I know. My 8 month old is refusing the bottle. I tried him with one about a month ago as I was hoping a bottle before bed would help him sleep longer than 2 hours at a time. He refused it, refused it some more, eventually took some and threw it straight back up. Now he totally refuses it and wakes every 2 hours. Ah well only 4 months to go tell he can have cows milk, I will survive lol x

    1. sylcell Post author

      Yeah, she would get livid if we tried as well. She would drink one ounce angrily and just scream and scream after that. So I quit trying for a couple months and then started up again when I didn’t feel so desperate about it (I had just resigned myself to a year and then cow’s milk too, lol)