This can be a huge challenge for parents and there is no simple solution.

Choosing a bottle and teat for a reluctant bottle feeder

You might try several different bottle and teat combinations until you find one that works. Many babies will do best with a teat that shape that slopes gradually from tip to base (such as the Lansinoh Natural Wave). Your baby needs to be able to grasp it deeply with an extended tongue, and be able to maintain a good seal with relaxed lips. If your baby is squirming, readjusting, sliding up and down or leaking milk, you might need an alternative teat. While a wide teat base helps some babies to keep a wide open mouth, tiny babies and those with suck problems might need a narrower base.

Teats vary in firmness and texture. Babies with tight mouths or those who collapse teats while feeding will need a firmer brand.  However, all mothers are different, and if you have soft breast tissue then consider a teat that is softer like you.

Look for a flow rate that is right for your baby.  Bottle refusing babies generally do best with a slightly faster flow teat, so that they taste milk straight away before getting cross about it!

With a older baby (over 4-6 months) consider transitioning straight to a sippy cup or beaker.

Bottle refusing babies often prefer their milk quite warm. If you have expressed milk you can be sure that your baby likes it.  To be honest though, most babies are objecting to the bottle itself rather than the contents.

Tips for the start of a feed

We find that some babies sit and play with the teat in their mouth before realising that they are hungry and howling. Other babies cry before the bottle gets anywhere near them! You might try waving a toy, bouncing on an exercise ball or even walking around with your baby to distract them while you get the bottle into their mouth. The idea is to get them sucking by instinct.  Asking someone other than mum to offer the bottle can help to reduce everyone’s stress levels.

If your baby cries while you are trying to feed, keep the teat in your baby’s mouth so that your baby learns that there is milk in it.  Try standing up and walking around with the teat still in your baby’s mouth; many babies will stop crying and start sucking.

Some parents set aside 24 hours and offer nothing but the bottle. Others find this too overwhelming and keep the process gentle, offering a bottle when baby is in a happy and slightly sleepy mood.

Responsive feeding

When bottle feeding, your baby will be most comfortable sitting up or slightly reclined, snuggled into you. Keep the bottle tilted up just off horizontal, so that your baby can drink comfortably and not be overwhelmed with milk. When your baby wants to pause, let them have a bit of a break before resuming, and be led by their hunger rather than forcing them to feed.

Good luck!