How to Get a Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle

How to Get a Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle

Common Issues & Solutions

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Many women come home from the hospital wanting to exclusively breastfeed and do what is best for their baby. They eagerly start breastfeeding and getting used to the routine. Many breastfeeding moms have been looking forward to this experience and want to continue breastfeeding exclusively as long as possible.


However, when moms get a few months into life with their baby, perhaps they do not want to rely exclusively on breastfeeding anymore, or would like their partner to help with night feedings. Alternatively, they might be experiencing sore nipples, exhaustion or other challenges with breastfeeding, and want the option of pumping breastmilk and feeding the baby from a bottle. Or, life being as unpredictable as it is, might require a mom to go back to work, where full-time exclusive breastfeeding is no longer an option. Things just happen.


If you are in this situation, first you need to buy a pump. There are several breastpumps on the market and you can use this guide to choose the best breastpump for your lifestyle. No matter how much or how little you want to pump, there are Medela options to make it easy and convenient.


Bottle-feeding breastmilk is a great way to get your partner more involved with feeding the baby. Your partner (hopefully) often asks, “What can I do to help?” and sometimes having someone else ready to help feed the baby a bottle of breastmilk is appealing. It gives you a bit more time to yourself away from the baby.


Learning about breast pumping takes some time, but it’s not too hard once you get used to it – and if you get an electric breastpump, the machine does most of the work for you.


There are many reasons why a mom might want to breastpump after wanting to breastfeed exclusively. It’s important to give yourself permission to embrace this part of the journey as a mother, and not to feel guilty about introducing a bottle!


It all sounds easy – but…what if a baby just won’t take a bottle?

Ironically enough, many moms get to the point of deciding that they want to have the baby do part-time bottle feeding, only to realize that the baby refuses to take a bottle! This is a common problem, so we asked our Medela Community moms for their ideas. Getting a baby to accept the bottle sometimes takes a lot of patience – so do not give up! Since this question does come up quite often, we decided to ask Christa, a Medela lactation consultant, for her advice.


Advice from a Medela lactation consultant…

  1. Make sure the baby is not “starving” when you first try to feed from a bottle. Being hungry is ok, being very hungry is counterproductive.
  2. Sit your baby in a baby rocker or baby seat.
  3. It would be much better if somebody else could feed the baby from a bottle instead of yourself. This is because your baby is used to being breastfed by you and it can be confusing for the baby to be held in your arms and not be allowed to breastfeed.
  4. Tell the baby what is going on, about the new way of getting milk. Encourage him to taste the bottle’s nipple by touching his lips with it.
  5. When the baby opens his mouth, lay the bottle’s nipple on his tongue and wait. Give the baby time to get familiar with this new taste. Don’t rush.
  6. Be patient.
  7. Be aware of the fact that everybody needs time to learn something new. Patience will help ensure that the baby will get back to the breast once he has learned to feed from a bottle.
  8. We suggest that you use Medela Calma. With this special feeding system your baby uses the same sucking action that it learned at the breast. Remember that Calma may not look like the breast, but it uses the same principle for milk extraction. Using traditional bottles means your baby needs to learn a completely new way to feed.
  9. Once your baby is used to feeding from a bottle, you can begin to bottle feed the baby by yourself, but just make sure your baby is sitting in your arms in a different position from breastfeeding.
  10. Remember, learning something new takes some time! That applies to both you and the baby. Practice makes perfect.


Advice from Medela Community Moms

The truth is that many women find the transition to bottle-feeding to be very hard. If you try to introduce bottle-feeding when your baby is used to breastfeeding, finding the right feeding solution is the secret. Although Calma is the Medela offering, moms report they have used “everything under the sun.” Here are some comments from the Medela community (without sharing people’s full names). You can go to the original Medela Facebook post to read everyone’s comments.


Joslyn and Megan both said that they went through at least 7 different types of bottles. They tried different nipples, tried other people feeding him, but nothing worked. Samantha said that she had the same problem with her two week old, but bought the Calma nipple that worked like a charm. We love to hear that! Here’s a video on how Calma works if you are interested. Kristen admitted that she tried a zillion different bottles until they found one her baby would take occasionally. She adds that he did not really take a bottle until he was 11 months old and it started with a straw sippy.


Patty said that she and her husband tried every nipple, every temperature and position. She finally found that what worked was for her mother to feed the baby. Alyssa agrees, suggesting that moms “just leave the house!” Her daughter never took a bottle from her, but took it from everyone else!


Courtney said, “My baby refused to take a bottle and he’s 9 months now. He sucks and will take drinks in a sippy cup, but as far as milk feeding, will only take my boob. For sure it makes it hard to have any freedom.”


Jenn suggests trying to go an entire day only bottle-feeding but even still, she says she had to try four nipples before finding one her baby would take.


So, the good news is that you are not alone. Every baby is different and hopefully if you are exclusively breastfeeding now, you have a plan for the transition to a bottle if that is what you want in the future.


Have you struggled to get a baby to accept bottle-feeding after exclusively breastfeeding? What tips or advice would you offer to other moms? Join the discussion on the Medela Singapore Facebook page!