Bottle refusal can be very distressing. Sucking milk from a bottle is a new experience for babies that have been previously exclusively breast fed. It requires different mouth and tongue movements than breastfeeding, so it may take your baby a little time to get used to the change. Here are a few pointers that may help
There is no perfect time of the day to introduce the bottle. Some parents find a bottle feed at the end of an evening breast feed can be a good start. Others find that their baby is more likely to want to be comforted and settled at night, so may be more successful introducing a feed earlier in the day.
Try establishing a consistent routine over a period of a few days. Your baby needs time to get used to new things, so stick with the same time, nipple, bottle, and feeding technique for a while before trying something new.
Parents are very good at sensing when their kids are unwell. Similarly, babies are very good at detecting parental anxiety, frustration or concern. Remember, feeding is supposed to be comforting and enjoyable for both of you. Smile, sing and take your time to ease everybody into it. If you find yourself stressing out, take a step back, breathe, and try again a bit later.
I. Try a slow-flow nipple. A regular nipple may discharge milk too quickly, causing your baby to gag. If this happens, replace her nipple with a slow-flow one to see if that helps.
II. Consider using a bottle nipple similar to your baby’s pacifier. If she is used to sucking on a latex pacifier, use a latex bottle nipple (rather than a silicone one). Warm the nipple with water to make it more enjoyable.
III. Put some breast milk on the nipple. When your baby tastes it, she may start sucking to get more.
IV. Let your baby play with the nipple so she can become familiar with it. If she chews, let her for now. She may start sucking on it with with time.
4. Try again
Your baby may reject the bottle initially. This is expected. Be consistent with your routine and keep trying. If your baby shakes her head or arches away from the bottle, settle your baby and move out of sight. After a few moments, return to cuddle and try again. Maintain a positive attitude. If you do need to go back to breastfeeding, try to wait about five minutes first. Going back to breastfeeding too quickly may encourage your baby to establish a pattern of crying in order to get what she wants.
Bottle milk tastes and feels different to breast milk. For babies that are old enough to have solids, introducing solids can make changing to bottle feeds easier as a baby becomes used to new textures.
6. Team (dad)
Babies are smart enough to know that you are the source of their breast milk. Babies will often refuse to drink from the bottle if Mum is holding them, as they know that they could be getting breast milk instead. Asking Dad or someone else to help may assist your baby to get past the refusal stage.
7. Talk (to your GP)
Sometimes, there may be other reasons your child is refusing the bottle. It may be worth seeing your GP for a check up if the above strategies do not work, or if you have any concerns.