What to do when bub refuses bottle-feeds

Kinderling News & Features

Sometimes bottle feeding is not the success we hope it to be.

One of our Kinderling Helpline listeners, Shehara was concerned about her three-month-old daughter who is suddenly refusing the bottle (either expressed breast milk, or formula). They offer it once in a while when they’re out of the house.

Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue says this is actually quite normal for newborns. When a parent gives a one-off bottle to a young baby between six and eight weeks old, but then waits one to two weeks before offering it again, the baby doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

“The baby is just getting better and better at breastfeeding, so when the bottle goes in their mouth, they actually don‘t want it or like it. They’re not used to the texture because [bottles are] a very different texture – the silicon of the teat, [compared] to the softness of the breast.”

Chris warns that it can be tricky to turn the habit around, but she has one strategy that worked.

Listen to Chris on Kinderling Helpline:

She suggests introducing an evening routine called ‘feed, bath, feed’, whereby you give one feed, then a bath, then the other breast.

“At the end of the day, your milk supply is often at its lowest point, because you’ve been busy all day,” she explains. To re-introduce the baby to the bottle, capitalise on this time of day. “If you just get 40ml of expressed breast milk … warm it up, give it to her first - when she’s hungry enough to want to feed and your milk supply is a little bit low, so she’s a little bit eager to do it.”

Then have a bath, and give a full breast feed after bath time, so you haven’t missed a breastfeed.

“Often if you repeat that five out of seven days, suddenly it will come back on how to take a bottle. So when you want to do a one off bottle going out, the baby will take it.”

When mixed-feeding, to help them remember how to bottle-feed and keep them used to it, Chris says that you should give bottles frequently for them to sustain the ability to move between the two.

Have a question for Chris? Email your kid questions to conversation@kinderling.com.au.