Is your baby refusing their bottle? I get questions about this often. I know that it’s not easy introducing a new habit to your baby. Since their birth, they have been snuggling quietly into their mother’s arms to breastfeed. Moreover, as you know, your baby’s smart. Between a hard, smelly bottle nipple and a warm, soft breast nipple, which one would you choose?
In reality, you can add a bottle to a baby’s diet, especially when they’re under three months of age. After that, they understand the difference, and most of the time they will choose their mother’s breast. That means that they will want it all the time. However, you have to ensure that your baby is breastfeeding correctly before offering them a bottle to avoid confusing them. Using a bottle with a baby who has only just started breastfeeding can compromise their learning by introducing poor practices too early. We usually suggest not giving a bottle to a baby under four to six weeks of age to avoid confusion between the breast and bottle nipples. This confusion can lead to difficulty in continuing breastfeeding. At this age, if they breastfeed well, the mother doesn’t have nipple wounds and the bottle is given only occasionally, you can start introducing it.
Often parents tell me that their baby cries and refuses the bottle outright, even after several tries. You can try to give them milk in different ways, using a cup, a spoon, a regular glass or sippy or 360 cup or even with a tube called a lactation aid. It depends on your baby’s age and their ability to accept one of the options. The problem is when the baby’s a bit older, and they refuse the bottle, and Mom arrives and breastfeeds them, the baby has understood!
If the baby is under three months of age, it’s usually easy to feed them with a bottle, preferably with their mother’s milk because of its high quality and to not change the taste. During a nightly feed, when they’re still sleepy, it’s a good time to try the experiment, and mom can sleep longer. The baby will likely grimace at the start, but because they’re hungry, they will feed then fall back to sleep. It’s a good idea to keep Mom away because her smell will likely confuse the baby with the bottle. To support their learning process, give them two to three bottles a week to keep the baby accustomed to drinking differently. Don’t worry, breastfeeding is the standard way you feed them, and the baby won’t have time to lose interest. That is unless you tried the experiment too early and the baby isn’t skilled enough to breastfeed correctly.
If your baby is over four months of age, don’t force them to drink a bottle because you will have to wean them off the bottle in a couple of months anyway. Use a glass instead! Yes, your can baby drink from a glass starting at four months, and you can feed them differently than from the breast if needed. You can accustom them to a glass with a bit of water during the day while playing with them, then start milk. Dad can help feed them in this case. However, don’t forget that these anti-spill cups are hard to suck, and you should remove the backflow device at the start to get them used to it. You will control the flow that you pour each time, and soon they will be able to do it on their own. A baby that occasionally uses a cup to drink allows a breastfeeding mother to rest or get out without worrying that the house will become chaotic. During one of my recent training sessions at Sainte-Justine Hospital, the nutritionist specialising in children said that parents should shift to a regular cup rather than a sippy or 360 cup for drinking water or milk. Baby’s at that age can do it, you’ll see!
I know, reading my article makes it seem so easy, while real life is different. There are many ways to do it, but what is most important is that mom and dad need to really want to give their baby a bottle (or cup) and work together to make it happen. You can watch my video dealing with the bottle to help you in your process. Be confident and persevere!
The Baby Expert
Feel free to share your experiences in the comment section.