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Hints & Tips

What to do when baby won’t take to the bottle

As a parent it may seem like every day brings new challenges and getting your little one to accept their milk from a bottle can be another one.  Don’t panic. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last to find your own way to succeed with bottle feeding your little one. Here are some hints and tips to try if your baby won’t take a bottle.

Why might baby refuse a bottle?

When baby’s been used to being breastfed and getting their milk directly from mum, learning to feed from a bottle can feel like quite a different experience. Your baby may not like the way a bottle teat feels in their mouth, or may find it difficult to adapt to drinking from a bottle.

Having a teat on your bottle that closely mimics your breast is likely to help your baby accept the teat. Tommee Tippee teats are the most breast-like in shape and they move, flex and stretch just like mum’s breast, so babies are more likely to accept them.

Baby may also associate feeding with mum so strongly that they don’t understand or want the bottle as an alternative.

Steps to help your baby take to the bottle

Don’t rush it. It can take a little time, love and patience to get baby to accept their feed from a bottle. If they’re rejecting the teat and getting upset, move on and try again another time. You’ll get there in the end.

Have someone else give the bottle

Babies love boobs. They’re uniquely designed to give baby a luxury warm, comfortable feeding experience. So if you and your boobs are still around when you’re trying to feed baby from a bottle, your little one might be a little distracted by what you’ve got to offer under your top.

Bottle feeding can be a great opportunity to give mum some freedom and let partners and family enjoy a bonding experience with baby. So let them give bottle feeding a try.

Try introducing the bottle in a quiet space

You know how everything feels better when you’re relaxed and comfortable? That goes for bottle feeding baby too. Try to make a quiet and comfortable space where you can bottle feed. Somewhere away from distractions, where you can gently rock your baby to help them feel calm and relaxed. It’s not always easy especially if you have other little ones around, but it’s important for you to have some quiet time too.

Try different feeding positions

Bottle feeding your baby does allow you try holding them in different positions. Some babies like to sit more upright when bottle feeding, and this can help reduce reflux. You may find it more comfortable to sit with a pillow at your back, or use one to prop baby up as you feed them.

You can also try feeding your baby while gently walking around a room, while gently bouncing or swaying may encourage some babies to take to the bottle.

Try different positions for bottle feeding and you’ll discover which works best for you and your baby.

Try different nipple flows

All babies and mums are different and the flow of milk from a bottle may feel very different to the flow of milk from your breast. So you may need to slow down or speed up the flow through the teat you use on your bottle.

Babies do have to learn slightly different techniques to drink from a bottle and generally (but not always) milk flows more quickly through a bottle teat than through your breast. Most babies start with a slow flow teat so they can get used to the new sucking action to take their milk from a bottle without being overwhelmed. But if you had a strong flow of breast milk, they may find that slow flow is too slow and baby may prefer something with a faster flow.

Tommee Tippee offer a range of different flow teats that fit all of our bottles. They come in age ranges, but this is just a guide and you’ll soon get to know what your baby prefers.

Switch between breast and bottle

Ultimately a fed baby is a happy baby, so you’ll do what you need to keep your little one fed. If you’re trying to introduce bottle feeding alongside breast feeding, this is known as combination feeding.

If your baby is refusing the bottle, it can be a good idea to get them used to the teat on its own first. Try bringing the teat, without a bottle attached, to baby’s mouth and rub it along their gums. Make a game of it to help baby get used to the feel and texture.

Then encourage baby to suck by placing your finger inside the teat and rubbing it gently on baby’s tongue. Finally add some drops of milk to the teat and offer this to your baby.

If at any point your baby pushes the teat away or show that they’re not interested, then stop and try again another time.


Why is my baby all of a sudden refusing the bottle?

It’s like they know isn’t it? You may have been bottle feeding for a while, perhaps getting ready to go back to work, or taking some time for yourself, and then suddenly, only boobs will do. Don’t worry. It’s a pretty common challenge and this too will pass.

Continue with your feeding routine and offer your baby a bottle as you normally would. If they refuse, try not to get frustrated. This may be the time to call in help from your partner or other family members. If your baby gets the message that mum’s not around, they may be more likely to accept a bottle feed from someone else.

Also think about changing your bottle teat. Your baby may prefer a different shape or texture or be ready for one that provides a faster flow of milk.

If your baby still refuses their bottle, take it away and offer it again later.

Should I go back to work if baby won’t take a bottle

This is very much a personal decision for you and your baby. It’s recommended that you tell your workplace that you’ll be returning to work as breastfeeding mum so they can look at health and safety and what support you may need. Different employers will have different approaches but they do have a responsibility to take care of your safety.

You may be able to negotiate different start, finish and break times that will allow you to fit around your baby’s feeding schedule.

In the UK, there is not a legal right to express breastmilk at work but most employers will understand that it’s better for everyone if you’re happy and comfortable about returning to work and feeding your baby. Explain what you need clearly and give them as much notice as possible.

If you’re planning on expressing at work, you’ll need to get a breast pump and a bottle or breast milk storage bag to store your breast milk in. It’s always best to get used to your breast pump and expressing at home before you try it in a work environment.

You can store expressed breast milk in a suitable container in an insulated bag for 24 hours. So if you store it like that at work, put it in the fridge at home, then that expressed milk can be used to feed your baby the next day.

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