Helping baby take a bottle
May 25, 2016 2:03 PM   Subscribe

My delightful three month old doesn't know how to drink from a bottle. I'll drip milk in his mouth, and he'll get interested enough to take the bottle nipple in his mouth for a second, but it seems like his typical tongue action just pushes the nipple back out again? Is there a better nipple to try? Is there a specific way to hold the bottle that'll help him?

I've read everything I can on the topic. It didn't work to have dad give him the bottle; he's calmer and more exploratory with me. I try to make it a fun, exciting thing and stop offering it once he seems at all annoyed. He's not rejecting the bottle; he just can't figure it out.

Is the sucking mechanism the same for all bottles? We're trying Tommee Tippee (wide mouthed) now but at one point bought one of every kind, so we could switch to another. I've found lots of chat board threads about which bottle people like. Is there anything more scientific or objective on this question? Our lactation consultant said "just pick whatever and stick with it while he learns."

Any tips are welcome!
posted by slidell to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Have you tried the Playtex Nurser? It pioneered changes in bottles and I know a lot of kids who were weaned to them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Our daycare provider spent three weeks with our then three-month-old before he took to the bottle. What worked for her, in the end: lying him in the crib and hiding underneath it while holding the bottle to him, so he couldn't see her. Then instead of wondering why this human being wasn't giving him a boob already, he just drank.

Plus I guess having him be hungry. Which is much harder when Mom is there!

(She only had to hide for a few days. Now he drinks like a champ, except when he's teething.)
posted by wyzewoman at 2:11 PM on May 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

It didn't work to have dad give him the bottle; he's calmer and more exploratory with me.

I've heard that this means dad might need to spend even more time with the baby, because you're the default adult due to the breastfeeding. Stick with it til the baby learns to be calmer and exploratory around him, too.
posted by aniola at 2:30 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

My daughter had a rough time at that age too. Our daycare provider found that holding the bottle a little more firmly in her mouth helped. She tried to push it out but once she realized that the milk was only coming from the bottle, she was hooked.

That being said, the other infant at daycare will only take a bottle if she's facing away from the person feeding her. It's pretty cute to watch.
posted by checkitnice at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yup I'd try some of the other types of bottles you purchased. I'd have dad try every day on a bottle rotation with you in a different room. If you have another child, introduce the bottle at about three weeks for better luck.
posted by Kalmya at 2:45 PM on May 25, 2016

Does he still have that suckle reflex when you tickle or scratch his cheek? For both of my kids, the key was stimulating that reflex while actually pulling the nipple outward a little bit. The suckling and pulling motion it would create kind of jumpstarting the sucking and breathing patterns.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:51 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

This might not be what you're looking for, but just in case it's helpful:

A friend of mine had me watch his three-month-old for first few days that his mom went back to work. They'd tried giving him the bottle without much success. So, if he didn't take the bottle, he wouldn't eat with me! All day! Kind of a lot of pressure. What ended up working was to sit him in a seat (strapped into his car seat or a bouncy seat) with me facing him and let him taste a few drops of breastmilk from a baby spoon. This way he got used to getting food not from nursing. (If I held him in a nursing hold to give him the bottle, he was too confused to eat from it). After a few spoonfuls of breastmilk, he made more of an effort with the bottle and then we were off and running.

Good luck! I hope you find something that works soon!
posted by Pearl928 at 2:55 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I assume you've checked with his doctor and there's no physiological reason for his refusal.

My son wouldn't take a bottle without a huge fight, not from me or his dad or his grandma. If he fought long enough, he'd finally exhaust himself and then he'd eat, but it was a terrible production every time, and it made me very anxious about leaving him with anyone starting early on.
At 10 weeks, he began full-time daycare. He fought there, too, except one particular teacher. She could hold him in a particular way and if the bottle was a particular type* and heated to a particular temperature, he would acquiesce to being fed without the huge fight. But heaven help if she was off for the day or on break; that was clearly a personal insult.
And this continued until he was nine months old, at which point he finally agreed to hold his own bottle. All of a sudden all the preferences seemed to float away.
(But then he got picky about his solid food! Hooray!)

*I bought a bunch of bottles too, and then it turned out (after a lot of investment) that he hated least the Medela bottles packaged with my breast pump.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:57 PM on May 25, 2016

Buy 2 or 3 $5.00 12 pack of washcloths from Wal-Mart. Every single time that you nurse, put the washcloth under his chin, to signal that food is coming. After a few times of doing this with the boob, try it with the bottle. With one finger, stroke his cheek to trigger the suckling reflex. Try to catch him before he is screaming hungry but get him when he is hungry. Reward him by giving him extra cuddles with each feeding. He'll figure it out.

I agree with the lactation consultant that switching bottles could make the situation worse but, some babies just hate the silicone and will only use the latex, so if I tried anything else, that would be the only thing.

I didn't get too precious about temperature, they got what they got and seemed to be fine with it but, since you are moving from breast to bottle, it might be a bigger issue for you than it was for us (I couldn't nurse).
posted by myselfasme at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

My babies hated silicone bottle nipples and would only use the latex ones.
posted by cooker girl at 4:31 PM on May 25, 2016

at that age, my daughter would only drink from a bottle if the milk was super hot. I'd have to put the bottle in a bowl, then pour boiling water over it.
posted by sabh at 4:31 PM on May 25, 2016

My kids both hated the "orthodontic" nipples and preferred the straight ones. But I think it is really subjective, unfortunately. Oh, and they hated the latex and would only use the silicon, so ...
posted by freezer cake at 4:41 PM on May 25, 2016

Not to add stress to your situation, but if you're pumping, have you checked your breastmilk for lipase? (You can do this by tasting to see if it's "soapy.") If it does taste soapy after being refrigerated or frozen, you can scald it after expressing it to keep it from going soapy.
posted by instamatic at 4:47 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

The nipple has to hit the roof of his mouth far enough back that, in an adult, you'd gag. (You may recall when you learned to nurse, they really SHOVE THAT BOOB IN THERE -- it's got to hit that spot on the roof of the mouth.) If you're putting the nipple in the front of his mouth and waiting for him to suck, he's going to tongue it out, every time. Angle it up towards the roof and push it well back -- that will help him latch to the bottle nipple without accidentally pushing it out with his tongue. I mean, look how far in the breast nipple is supposed to go -- you're aiming to get the bottle nipple that far in, and most parents are a bit shy about it at first. (Here's the only bottle illustration I could find -- pretty far in still!)

I had better luck with the wide-mouth nipples when my kids were learning the bottle, but they were fine with whatever once they had it sorted.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:03 PM on May 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

My daughter didn't do well with Tommee Tippee at first, but came back around to them at about 6 months. I don't know if it was the size of the nipple or the valve always getting stuck or what. But we tried a regular mouth nipple, and she took to it much faster. We switched to Dr. Brown's regular mouth bottles and she's still rocking them at 11 months. She also did fine with the cheap Gerber bottles that come in a 3 pack. Now that she's getting ready to graduate from bottle land, I think she prefers the Tommee Tippees with the handles since they are easier for her to pick up and drink by herself.
posted by cabingirl at 5:15 PM on May 25, 2016

Thanks! A few answers:
- He happily licks his lips if I put a little milk on them [edit: dripped from the bottle], so I think I can rule out lipase and milk temp.
- He'll take the nipple into his mouth, so I don't think latex is the answer (especially as he haaaaaates a latex pacifier we tried).

What I'm thinking now is to stop with the wide-and-flat Tommee Tippee nipple and move to an old school longer and narrower one that can poke the area in Eyebrows McGee's picture. I've been tentative about letting him bring the nipple into his mouth (at the lactation consultant's suggestion), but maybe I have to try getting it further back and then hold it there more firmly. And I'll try to tickle his cheek and pull it out a bit like Ignatius J. Reilly suggested.

If anyone has other tips, they're welcome. Thanks for all the advice!
posted by slidell at 8:37 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

My babies hated anything but the old school, rubber/latex. And I had to poke extra holes in them. They were piglets.....Didn't introduce until after 4 months or so. Waited until they were very problem. Big holes, very hungry. Good luck!
posted by pearlybob at 10:18 PM on May 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Well, follow up, still no luck... We'll keep trying...
posted by slidell at 2:49 AM on June 8, 2016

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