How to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle
Neither of my first two kids took bottles. I think maybe once or twice but that was not the ordinary. I nursed them for 15 months and 23 months and was their pacifier as well as their source of nutrition the entire time.
I went from thinking I was golden to thinking I was doomed with baby #3. Because she spent some time in the NICU and I had a magnesium drip for 12 hours, she had taken a few bottles during her hospital stay. When we got home from the hospital, we continued to give her a bottle of pumped milk after I fed her to ensure she was getting all her calories. She had lost some weight (as most babies do) but since her sugars had been the reason for the NICU stay, we just wanted to make sure she was on the right track.
Around her 3 month mark, I was invited on a press trip to Chicago. Amazing, right?! The only issue…no baby allowed. But I could just pump and she could just drink from the frozen milk stash I had created. She had taken a bottle for my husband and my son before so we didn’t think it would be a problem.
Until it was.
We decided to do a few practice runs, once while my mom was babysitting and once while I left for a massage.
She wanted nothing to do with the bottle. Panicked, I thought maybe it was the type of bottle or nipple and purchased every bottle and nipple under the sun.
Hundreds of dollars and no luck later, I reached out to a friend of mine who is a postpartum doula. And come to find out, is also pure genius and a lifesaver.
She told me that hope wasn’t lost, and that we would just have to train her to take a bottle. That it wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to happen overnight. But it COULD be done. Hopeful, I started implementing some of the things she had told me. And since I’ve had so many mamas reach out to me and ask me how I got her to take a bottle, I wanted to share my experience with all of you.
First, pick a bottle and stick to it. For us, these Munchkin Latch bottles were the winner because they only let milk out when squeezed. So it’s closer to the way a breast works. It made her work a little for the milk vs. having the milk just shot into her mouth for her.
Next, MOM needs to be the one to try and give it to her. I was always told that mom had to be FAR away from the house because baby would smell mom and think “why would I drink this when I know she’s right over there?” But as my friend told me, this needs to be a positive experience, not a negative one. Shoving a bottle in their mouth and having them cry until there’s no other option might work for some babies but it wasn’t working for mine.
My friend had me start at the middle of the night feeding. When I would hear the baby start to wake up, I’d send my hubby downstairs to warm up the breastmilk we had in a bottle ready to go. We started with 1 oz because we didn’t want to waste milk if she didn’t end up drinking it.
So I’d take her out of her bassinet, offer her the bottle and since she was half asleep, she’d take it! So right then and there I knew, she knew HOW to take a bottle, and was just being stubborn about actually doing it any other time.
When she was finished with the expressed milk, I’d nurse her. My friend described this as “rewarding her” with the breast. Because remember, we want this to be a positive experience like, “oh great I can have a bottle or breast!” situation.
We tried again the next night and she wanted nothing to do with it. I got discouraged but my friend assured me it would just take time. So the next night, we tried again and success! Once she took 1 oz successfully, we moved up to 2 oz the next night. And once she took about 3 oz at night, we moved to try day time feedings.
This is where I almost broke down and cancelled my trip or hired a nanny so I could bring her with me. Day time feedings were MUCH harder. But we just kept trying and the minute she showed any distaste in the bottle, I switched to breast. When she would pop off for a break, I would try the bottle. And I just kept trying every single day.
I also tried to go on little outings where I could come back if she wasn’t having it. She took an ounce for my mom at one point and then started taking them for my husband. She even started taking a pacifier (which none of my kids used) and we realized we had done it! We had trained a breastfed baby to take a bottle!
She didn’t even fuss when I was on my trip! I was worried she’d be upset and then just take it because I wasn’t there but she had no problem and drank like a champ. I was also worried she wouldn’t want to nurse when I came home but she had no problem hopping back on! I think she was a little confused because I did it for the first time at midnight and she was sound asleep and was like wait.. what is going on?! But by the morning she was back to nursing and we were good to go.
SO let’s recap:
Choose a bottle and stick with it. It’s less about the bottle and more about the consistency.
Try having MOM feed baby for the middle of the night or first morning feeding if they sleep through the night.
Gradually try more milk at the night feedings. Nurse after but if not, make sure you pump since you essentially missed a feeding.
Once the nighttime feedings have been going well, introduce the bottle once a day, everyday. You can’t stop or they will forget all the progress you’ve made.
Once you’re able to get them to take it, or even if they won’t, try leaving the house but close enough where you can come back if baby needs you.
Other things to play around with:
Milk temperature. Some babies like it super hot and some like it lukewarm. We used this bottle warmer and just had to go off the recommendations and then see how easily or not easily she took it.
Nipple flow. We started at a 1 and worked up to a level two. Depending on your let down, you may need a slower or faster nipple flow.
Make sure you’re rewarding them with the breast once they’ve taken some milk and then start to fuss. You want to keep this positive!
Overall, the process took me about three weeks. I successfully pumped for 72 hours and she successfully took a bottle the entire time I was gone. It CAN be done, but you’ll need to be patient and keep trying! Consistency is key!
Any questions? Leave them below! XO
Mickie4 years ago
Omg my daughter is 10 months and I’ve tried everything to get her on a bottle! I’m going to try this tonight. Pray for me!!! Haha
Samantha4 years ago AUTHOR
I hope some of these things work for you!! It may take a few weeks so just have patience! Let me know how it goes 🙂