How to get breastfed baby taking bottles??
October 14, 2013 6:21 PM   Subscribe

I am back at work 2 days a week, and my 3 month old will not take a bottle. Have been googling non-stop, and feel like we have tried everything. What worked for your baby??

We have been trying for weeks to get our (exclusively breastfed) 3 month old daughter to drink breastmilk from a bottle. She just pushes it out with her tongue and gets mad. I started back to work last week, two 8 hour days a week, and she has barely taken an ounce each time I am gone. She is hungry and screaming, which is really stressing me and her Dad out.

Dad stays home with her while I work, and has resorted to feeding her with a medicine syringe. She swallows some milk, but mostly spits it out. I have tasted the milk, and it is fine, I don't think there is a lipase or storage issue, as it is usually freshly pumped breastmilk.

Things we have tried:
* About 8 different bottles and teats (Nuk, Mam, Tomee Tippee, cheap store brands and a few others)
* Cold milk, room temp, heated
* Different positions in the house, and different ways of holding baby, including the swing, and walking/bouncing baby, taking her outside to distract her, trying in a dark, quiet room to reduce stimulation
* Soft spout sippy cup
* Formula in the bottle
* Having other people try to feed her (Nana, Aunt, Uncle)
* Having me feed her, and obviously since I am at work, me completely out of the house

Nothing so far has worked. Of the bottles we have tried, we have had the most success with the Nuk orthodontic, and Mam anti-colic bottles and teats. I just purchased latex Nuk teats, as the only pacifier she would tolerate for brief periods was latex (but we have not tried the paci in weeks), but the latex teats were met with as much reluctance as everything else.

I am considering purchasing the Breastflow bottle, as I have read a lot of success stories for it, but am leery of spending even more money on something she will probably immediately reject - she probably owns more bottles than the average bottlefed baby. Also, we are not sure if we should keep trying different bottles/teats, or just pick one and persevere.

She is a healthy weight, and I know she won't starve to death over 8 hours, but at the end of the day the baby, her dad and myself are just overwrought and exhausted. We are trying not to make it a battle, backing off when she gets upset and calming her down before trying again, but while I am at work eventually she is too hungry to calm easily.

If possible I would rather avoid commuting home on my lunchbreak, as it would add an extra hour at least to my day, and we also have a 4 year old who we need to focus on in the evening and get fed and in bed by a reasonable hour.

I am just hoping somebody here might suggest something that worked for their child, that we haven't tried yet and will magically work for ours.
posted by dil.emma to Human Relations (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A friend with the same problem really did have good results with the Adiri Natural Nurser bottle.
posted by purpleclover at 6:27 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you also exclusively breastfeeding her when you're at home? I wonder what would happen if her only food from this point forward (at least until she's comfortable with the bottle) came from the bottle and not the breast. I have heard that babies will take a bottle when they are hungry enough, though in your daughter's case, it sounds like she's starving but won't take the bottle when you're at work. I hesitate to say make her hungrier by only offering a bottle, but I think that could do the trick. I especially think this given that you've tried so many different types of bottles, temperatures, and methods. If you decide to do this, I'd start it in the morning when she's most likely to be the hungriest.
posted by juliagulia at 6:35 PM on October 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband had this problem with our daughter on a temporary basis from time to time (daycare).

Tricks to try: feed her in places you are not associated with. Let her reverse cycle. Try daycare ---- my daughter's first daycare was the only place she ever took the bottle. When we moved her at a year, she refused the bottle at the new daycare. Our provider fed her with milk with a spoon until we got sippy cups......

Lastly, don't go home at'll suck for your husband, but eventually she'll work herself out. If she knows you'll be coming at a certain time, she'll probably keep refusing the bottle.

But, yeah, what worked for our daughter was daycare.....she didn't take the bottle anywhere else ever from anyone ever.
posted by zizzle at 6:43 PM on October 14, 2013

when you heat the milk, how hot is it? my nephew would only take a bottle that was practically burning hot (we used to dip the nipple in boiling water). my son wouldn't take a bottle at that age either. I tried every day, and one day he just decided to take it. I use the playtex nurser.
posted by sabh at 6:44 PM on October 14, 2013

It's lovely that you care so much about your baby and I can imagine how overwhelming this might be. I had to try to get my baby to take a bottle at the same age and it was very stressful for me. I don't think you have to give up your breastfeeding time in the evening and morning to get your baby to take a bottle. You might try wrapping one of your sweaters around Dad, so your babe can smell your familiar smell, but your baby might not like that at all. Have Dad take off his shirt and go for skin to skin contact. Or, maybe your baby wants things really different and Dad will have to face her out and away from him. Try walking around with a sling while feeding. You can experiment. There are also more alternatives. I ended up using a tiny cup for my baby. Maybe there's something Dad can do to make feeding time really similar to breastfeeding or else really different. It will take some experimenting. I know it's really frustrating and tiring and worrisome. But you and your baby will figure it out. You can also try calling in an experienced bottle-feeder, even a public health nurse, as they might be able to show Dad some tricks (that would be needed by a new mom too, but he's the one doing the feeding).

How long is your babe going between feedings? If you are home at lunch, maybe it's not that far between and she'll work it out? Perhaps ask your doctor if she's getting enough. You can also try weighing her - that's the gold standard for figuring out if baby is getting enough, or it was when my kids were babies not so long ago....
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 6:46 PM on October 14, 2013

Oy, I'm so sorry, we dealt with this with my daughter and it was terrible. After trying a bunch of different bottles and sippy cups, we ended up with playtex drop-ins (with the latex nipple). It took a number of weeks, but she finally started taking bottles at daycare. The daycare just kept trying and eventually she caved and started taking milk in bottles. In the meantime, I let her reverse cycle.
After the daycare providers were able to get her to take a bottle, my husband was able to. BUT, he had to be doing something different from how I nursed. So initially he would scoop her in his arms, walk around the apartment and look out windows and she would take it. Later he could stick her in the stroller, give her a bottle and go outside. She would get distracted enough that she ended up taking at least some milk.
I probably would avoid going home at lunch, because she'll just wait for you to come home and it will prolong this.
I'm so sorry, I know it is absolutely dreadful and stressful for you guys.
posted by avocado_of_merriment at 6:52 PM on October 14, 2013

We had great success with the breast flow bottles with our daughter. I know how stressful it is, I'm sorry you're having to go through it. We would have my husband give her the bottles while he sang to her, it was enough of a change in the routine (Mama in the rocking chair) that she didn't seem to mind. It took us 5-6 tries and it was miserable but we got through it.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:03 PM on October 14, 2013

For us it wasn't about the gear, it was about the technique. My wife and I used a move I call 'the switcheroo." We'd have the baby feeding on boob, then after about 5 minutes when the baby was half asleep we'd pop her off the boob and onto a bottle that we had previously wet with a little breastmilk. It took a handful of times to get this to be successful, but it worked for us. Good luck.
posted by ben242 at 7:05 PM on October 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

Oh God, this brings back so many unpleasant memories. We tried to get our kiddo to start taking a bottle about a month before I went back to work and none of it worked. We tried all the stuff you're trying--a million different bottles, a wide range of temperatures, having various people give the bottle, the tiny cups, latex, drop-ins, breastflow...etc. As long as I was only gone a few hours or it was just for a single day nothing worked at all. We finally just crossed our fingers and went with the original plan of me returning to work full time, with part-time stay-at-home-dad/ part time daycare...and the kid was bottle feeding like a champ within 3 days. We basically had to establish a "new normal".

So I have the utmost sympathy for you--I remember just how awful it was, and my poor husband was spending hours in earplugs trying to get our son to eat. But for us the only way out was through.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:10 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

You would rather not come home for lunch, but what about your husband bringing the baby to you at work or someplace nearby (or even in the car)?
posted by SandiBeech at 8:06 PM on October 14, 2013

Wow, I feel for you - feeding issues with little ones are so tough. Some friends really struggled with this same problem. After one session of their son refusing the bottle and getting very upset, they wound up waiting until he calmed down and was in a soft, almost asleep, but barely awake state, and kind of "sneak attached" him to the bottle. I guess instinct kind of took over from there, and after that feeding it became easier and easier to get him to take the bottle.
posted by handful of rain at 8:07 PM on October 14, 2013

One thing I don't see mentioned so far is nipple size or flow level - we had to use a much higher flow nipple than recommended for my son's age because he was used to my fast letdown and firehose-like flow (SORRY). He would get PISSED trying to get milk out of a size 1 or 2 nipple. It's way more work!
posted by peep at 8:30 PM on October 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

We went through exactly the same thing about 2 months ago (our boy was 5 months old then). I did some googling and found a site somewhere (sorry can't find the link right now) that suggested introducing the bottle slowly, with the less ambitious goal of just having him take the nipple in his mouth. This took about a week. Everyday I (the father) would put him the car seat or rocker chair. The first day I would just touch the bottle nipple to his mouth until he complained. I would do this a few times, but always withdrawing the offending nipple when he got upset. After about a week he was actually sucking on the nipple. We still have the problem that he doesn't take nearly as much as when my partner is breastfeeding him, but he will take at least 40-50ml at a feeding, and has taken as much as 80-100ml. (if it makes a difference we used the Philips Avent bottles). Also, once you start solids (between 4 and 6 months) this will help immensely. This is the only way I can guarantee to feed my son when mum is not around. Good luck!
posted by piyushnz at 9:05 PM on October 14, 2013

I agree on the flow - we had to try different hole sizes to get the right speed for our kid. We also briefly tried spoon feeding, but she was okay with bottles when she was hungry after a while. We have also had good luck with sleepy nursing transferred to a bottle, but not always. You might want to try a sippy cup instead of a syringe as well - ours took to cups at 3-4 months, ridiculously early. We kept pushing bottles because of the mess with a cup, but she would have preferred a cup when awake.

To this day though at nearly two, she would rather starve than have a bottle if she wants to be nursed, so sometimes I have to just leave the room or house so the option of nursing is removed. Basically, expect several miserable days for her and your husband at least until she grudgingly realises there is only a bottle.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:30 PM on October 14, 2013

We had this problem too, and it was horrible. It just took a while (like, several painful weeks), but what helped for us:

- Having the caregiver feed my son while wearing a shirt I had worn before, so it was doused in my scent (and probably the smell of old breastmilk).

- When we were desperate to get food into him, we switched to a very high flow teat and just dribbled milk into his mouth. This had the double advantage of (a) feeding him at least a little; and (b) teaching him that yummy stuff came from bottles. I think it helped him to get the point, and it also saved our sanity a bit in the meantime.

- Feeding him while he looked at the iTunes visualiser and listened to music (which he loved). Helped distract him.

- Just kept at it. Eventually he figured out that we weren't going to relent and if he wanted to eat, this was how it was going to be.

You have my sympathies. It's a hard transition, but you'll get through it.
posted by forza at 10:28 PM on October 14, 2013

I'll be watching this with interest as my baby of the same age also won't take a bottle. Early childhood nurse was most unhelpful "If she's hungry enough, she'll take it!" which to me sounds faintly of "starve your kid until they're forced to." Erm, no. Best of luck.
posted by Jubey at 11:46 PM on October 14, 2013

Ugh. I feel your pain. My oldest never took a bottle. My best friend's baby never took a bottle -- she would starve at daycare all day and then nurse ALL night. Both of them used a sippy cup by 6 months old. So you may have to go the medicine dropper/sippy cup route if all else fails.

My youngest HAD to switch to a bottle because of medical issues. The playtex drop in bottles worked best for us. (And yes, like you we bought EVERY bottle system known to man). We enlarged the nipple holes until he got the hang of it. Because it was a sudden switch, he lost weight and basically didn't eat for 4 days before he was desperate enough to do the switch. I would NOT recommend that method. I cried on the phone to the pediatrician every day. It was awful

Try the playtex drop ins. That seemed to work for a lot of people I know.
Hang in there.
If you can find a way to get home for lunch, your baby can get away with nursing before you leave, at lunch, when you get home if you can't get them to take a bottle. And then start transitioning to a sippy cup once they are sitting.
posted by LittleMy at 6:12 AM on October 15, 2013

For my 3mo old boy, daycare did it.....a brand new person in a brand new place.
posted by hollyanderbody at 8:16 AM on October 15, 2013

We never had this problem, but some moms I know managed the transition by spending a whole weekend pumping and feeding bottles - no nursing at all. Eventually the baby got hungry enough to take the bottle.
posted by yarly at 5:20 PM on October 16, 2013

My daughter got off to a tough start with breastfeeding and bottles, so I feel your stress...
If you can access the support of a lactation consultant (perhaps through a health unit, La Leche League, your doctors/pediatricians office, or the hospital where she was born...) they may be able to give you some hands on help. Some of the tricks we used for my daughter were 'finger feeding' (which she accepted when she wouldn't accept a bottle) and then 'cup feeding'. When she would eventually take a bottle, I used the 'preemie' nipples which forced her to 'suck' harder on the bottles (she preferred this to a freer flowing nipple), and she did eventually accept a Medela 'Calma' bottle, which although wickedly expensive, did seem a bit easier for her to transition between me and bottle.
Dr Jack Newman has some good material online about nursing in general, this is his link to finger/cup feeding.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 7:49 PM on October 16, 2013

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