How To Get A Breastfed Baby To Take A Bottle

Mothers love breastfeeding so much that it never occurs to them that baby needs to learn to drink out of a bottle too.  When the need finally arrives baby is so use to nursing he may refuse a bottle.  This often happens between 4-6 months and beyond when Mom is going back to work or just getting busy and out and about more.  As a lactation consultant I get many calls asking me how can I get my breastfed baby to take a bottle?

The best time to introduce a bottle is after breastfeeding is well established and mom and baby are past the learning curve.  This is usually around week 3 or 4 after birth. Mothers who exclusively want to breastfeed do not have to give their baby a lot of bottles or even a bottle every day.  I recommend giving an exclusively fed breast-feeding baby one bottle every other day which is around 3 or 4 per week.  Many parents choose to give one bottle per day so the partner, relative or caregiver has the opportunity to give the bottle and perhaps give Mom a break.  However, she will have to pump to keep her supply plentiful whenever she misses a feeding.  The window when baby is most receptive is short so don’t wait too long.  I have seen many infants who will refuse a bottle if parents wait till 6 weeks of age and beyond.  The older they are the harder it gets.

If you have waited too long or baby is not receptive try these tips to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle.

  1. Try several different types of bottle nipples if one doesn’t work. Some are soft some are firm.  Try one at a time for several times before switching as he may refuse the first time no matter what.
  2. Be sure to use the right size bottle nipple. The higher the number the faster the flow. Young babies 3 to 8 weeks use size 1. Around 8-10 weeks’ babies generally move up to a size 2 and older babies of 6 months and beyond use size 3.  This does vary with every baby so watch your child to make sure the speed of the flow is appropriate for him.  If it is too fast he may choke or spit up.  If it is too slow he may become frustrated as he won’t be able to get it out fast enough for his liking.
  3. Try warming the milk to room temperature or slightly warmer. Placing the bottle nipple in some warm water to make it soft and warm may also help as it seems more like a nipple.
  4. A good position for a young baby is in the same position as when you nurse or a cradle hold with bottle up close to your chest. Also a sleepy baby may take a bottle more easily.
  1. A good position for an older baby who has never taken a bottle is to have him sitting on your lap facing out or away from you. Cup your hand around his chin while holding the bottle and see if he will take it. This is similar to the breastfeeding “Dancer’s Hold” but baby faces away from you and a bottle is in hand instead of breast.  It is sometimes helpful to carry him and walk around while doing this as it is a distraction.  Also you can try gently bouncing him while doing this.

breastfed baby to take a bottle

6. When you first try a bottle have someone else give him a bottle as he may         refuse from Mom.

7. If your child is at least 7 months old and has never taken a bottle you may want to go directly to using a sippy cup and forget the bottle. For information about introducing a sippy cup go to

Keep trying several times a day and see if you can get him to at least take a partial bottle. Don’t give up too easily or he will know if he refuses you will give him the breast.  That is why it is good to have someone else do it.  If he still refuses wait about 10 minutes and then nurse him.  Don’t wait till he is really hungry to try a bottle or you will have a fussy baby.  Getting a breast-fed baby to take a bottle can be challenging for older babies but stick with it and they will eventually give in.

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