A lot of moms have been asking the question, “What should I do if my baby doesn’t like formula?” The answer to this question is not so simple.
If you’re having trouble bottle-feeding your infant, rest assured that you are far from alone.
Around 25 per cent of parents report feeding-related problems with their child at some point in their development.
If your baby has been breastfeeding, trying to introduce a bottle can also present some challenges.
Likewise, changes to the formula or breast milk you’re giving them or the bottle you’re using can lead to difficulties even for experienced bottle-fed babies.
Additionally, Formula isn’t the only reason to use a bottle.
Many breastfeeding parents want to incorporate bottle-feeding of breast milk for flexibility. It is suggested to wait until your breastfeeding baby is 3 to 4 weeks old before introducing a bottle.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying the introduction of foods other than breast milk until your baby is around six months old, suggesting exclusive breastfeeding before that time.
However, that’s not always realistic, and you may find yourself introducing the bottle at any time during the first year.
Whenever you begin using bottles, it can be highly frustrating to feed a baby who stubbornly refuses to provide. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
But with dedication, experimentation, patience, and love, you can eventually acclimate your baby to bottle-feeding.
What Are the Reasons for a Baby Refusing the Bottle?
Since babies can’t communicate clearly, parents and caregivers are left wondering why their baby refuses bottle-feeding. The following reasons are some of the most common things to look out for if your baby refuses the bottle:
They Don’t Like Formula Because They’re Used to Breast Milk.
If you have recently switched from breast milk to Formula, taste and smell may be the reasons your baby hates feeding.
Mother’s milk is naturally warm and changes in flavour profile regularly based on Mom’s diet.
If your infant has already tried breast milk, he or she may refuse Formula because they prefer mother’s milk. Even if your infant has not yet tried breast milk, he or she naturally may still crave it.
If you think this is why your baby doesn’t want their Formula, make mealtime as much like breastfeeding as possible:
- Incorporate skin-to-skin contact.
- Warm the Formula.
- Try to match the bottle nipple size to your own if possible.
Their Tummies Can’t Tolerate Formula
Around 20% of babies may not tolerate the lactose in cow’s milk formula, and they can even be allergic to the proteins it contains.
Babies who are intolerant of cow’s milk will be fussy, gassy, bloated, and have loose stools.
Whether your baby is intolerant to cow’s milk-based formulas or something about a specific brand that doesn’t agree with them, their tummy also needs time to adjust.
Keep note of the names of the formulas you have tried and the duration of their use.
For example, did you try formula A for three days before switching to formula B? It’s helpful to avoid making multiple formula changes in one day, but rather to give one to three days between each formula change.
You can help your baby get through any gassy or bloated adjustment periods by increasing their tummy time, bicycling their legs to squeeze out some gas, or giving them a belly massage.
They’re Distracted During Feedings
Your baby may dislike their formula if they’re distracted during their feedings.
It may seem like your baby is refusing to drink formula because they hate it, but if they are getting older, it just might be that they’re too distracted to drink. Sometimes babies will find more excitement in exploring their surroundings than drinking, so you should avoid loud or distracting rooms to feed them in.
Babies who once breastfed but are switching to a bottle may get distracted by their old routine and avoid the bottle. Ask for help.
Let someone else try giving your baby their bottle for the first couple of formula feedings. This allows them to focus on the Formula in front of them, rather than getting distracted by the allure of potentially getting breastfed.
They’re Refusing Formula Because They’re Not Hungry
If you have recently introduced solids into your baby’s diet, they may not want to feed as much as they did before.
If your baby has started solids, they may be too full of drinking. So the fussiness you see could just be attributed to a full belly.
That’s a common thing for lots of parents and babies.
Most families are overfeeding in infancy, leading to issues with weight when solid foods are introduced. This is yet another reason that routine wellness exams for growth parameters are essential.
Your doctor can identify if importance is increasing too rapidly and help discuss portion sizes.
If this is the case, the article suggested trying to feed your baby again a little while later. Hopefully, by then, they will have more of an appetite and fuss less when drinking. Keep some notes to take to your next pediatrician appointment to learn more.
Recording the volume of Formula your baby is consuming in one feeding, along with the frequency of feeding, helps your pediatrician and dietitian estimate the amount of Formula your baby is receiving within 24 hours. If the volume your baby is consuming is too high, this may be resolved by reducing the volume offered at one time and adding an extra feeding.
They Don’t Want Formula Because They Aren’t Feeling Well.
Plenty of adults don’t feel like eating when they’re sick, and some babies feel the same. If your baby is fussing at feedings, it could be because they have a cold, a sore throat, or an ear infection. If you see that your baby is feverish, congested, coughing, or just generally fussy, they may be feeling under the weather.
Please let your pediatrician know if your infant seems ill. It is a common reaction to have less appetite when coming down with an illness.
The Flow of Their Bottle Isn’t Right.
If your baby is fussing at feeding time, it could be that they aren’t happy with the flow of the milk. If your bottle’s nipple is not the right size and speed for your baby — too short, too long, too fast, or too slow — your baby might get frustrated with feeding.
Swapping out the nipple for the correct size and speed may be the solution to your baby’s feeding fuss. Parents should try a variety of bottle nipples until their baby finds one they like.
How to Get to the Bottom of the Bottle Refusal Mystery
Signs that your baby doesn’t like the feeling of the bottle are that they spit it out the second it touches their mouth or even gag, especially when they do this in the first few months. This can happen with older babies that have learned that you’re trying the bottle again.
In this case, they will immediately communicate to you that they aren’t interested in spitting it out instantly. Babies that are bothered by the bottle texture usually refuse pacifiers too!
Signs that your baby has had a negative experience with taking a bottle are that they were taking the bottle well and then stopped suddenly. While a baby can refuse if a long period has elapsed since they were given a bottle, it’s unusual for it to happen overnight.
Depending on the baby, it can be anything from the flow being too fast, gagging/throwing up while taking a bottle, or taking a bottle from someone that keeps taking it in and out of their mouth.
Signs that your baby wants you is basically when you’ve ruled out the other two reasons, and this is probably the most common culprit for bottle refusal.
These babies will often seemingly accept the bottle for a little bit but won’t latch; they only protest once it becomes apparent that you aren’t going to quit trying.
So, while you may not be able to be sure exactly why your baby won’t take a bottle, it is worth putting some thought into because it will help you decide where to focus your efforts when you read the following list:
For most of you, this ship has already sailed. Likely, if you’re here reading, it’s because you’re already in a pickle. Still, if you happen to be reading this article in advance, it’s tremendously helpful for parents to start offering a bottle within the second or even the first week if you want to be proactive.
The bottle is often so foreign and confusing to a baby that they won’t take to it. If you offer the bottle very early on, that you don’t try again until the next day, you want to keep breastfeeding as the primary means for feeding. Keep a close eye on how much you’re using the bottle in these early days not to jeopardise breastfeeding!
Have Someone Else Give the Bottle (not You!)
It sounds simple, but it can make a HUGE difference. Your baby can smell you, and even though they are so tiny, they know that with you around, they can have what they prefer: YOU. This is an excellent opportunity for your partner or family members to bond by feeding the baby.
One caveat here, though, is that while you’re trying to establish your baby taking the bottle, you may want to have someone with a bit of experience do the job, at least at first.
Going to a quiet, non-distracting, and relaxing location can make a huge difference. Before someone attempts to give your baby a bottle, have them go to this location for a few minutes and let them be rocked or swayed for a few minutes so they are friendly and relaxed.
In a calm and gentle approach, the bottle can be offered. Online baby product directory at My Baby Nursery.
Find the Magic, “Just Hungry Enough” Window
It may make sense to try and give your baby a bottle when they are starving.
Common sense would lead us to believe that they are so desperate to eat at this point that surely they’ll give in and accept the bottle.
This often does not work. Taking the bottle is a new experience for your baby, one they need to concentrate on and allow to happen.
When they are starving, they haven’t got the time. A better time to try it when you can see they are hungry but not starving.
You won’t want to try too early, though either, because if they aren’t hungry enough, they won’t be motivated to take it.
It may take some experimenting, but finding the “just right” window of being hungry enough but not too hungry could lead to bottle success.
Get Them in Position
While some babies do well when they have held the same way to take a bottle as when you breastfeed them, you will want to try different positions if that doesn’t work.
Think outside the box here; you never know what is going to work. My second son would sometimes like to take a bottle while facing outwards away from the bottle giver.
Leave the House
Yup, you may need to leave the house or at least go to another level of your home or lock yourself in a room for some time – that doesn’t sound so bad.
You wouldn’t do this until you have had some bottle success.
Keep in mind that your baby hearing, seeing, and smelling you can sabotage anyone’s attempts to give them a bottle.
Try Different Bottles
This is usually the first thing most moms try and for a good reason, try the other suggestions first before you spend a small fortune.
However, there is something to be said for a bottle that your baby prefers.
Experiment With Flow
Sometimes you need to change the nipple flow.
Some babies need a prolonged flow to accept a bottle, and others may like something faster if you have a strong letdown, as a slow flow nipple will aggravate them.
Just be careful of your baby’s age with a fast flow nipple because while they may prefer it, they may not be able to handle it.
It takes a lot of coordination to swallow milk coming in quickly, and if they don’t get it just right, they could aspirate, which is when liquid gets into their lungs – not a good thing.
Use a Pacifier
Pacifiers get a nasty rap, especially in the breastfeeding community, and there are some valid points.
Still, when your baby is four months and under, a pacifier may help them get used to having something different being in their mouth. I wouldn’t use it all the time, but if your baby seems bothered by the feeling of a bottle, a pacifier can help desensitise them when used a couple of times during the day.
It seems obvious, but it’s so easy to throw in the towel.
Worse Case Scenario – Use a Syringe, Cup, or Spoon
I will be sincere and tell you that I have never used this technique, but I know, in some instances, it is necessary. I would only try this if all else fails, and you are left with no other choice.
More Tips to Try
In addition to the list of possible remedies above, it is essential to have a calm and consistent approach to bottle-feeding. Sometimes, your frustrations with bottle-feeding can affect the infant and make it even harder for them to change.
In general, try to follow these behavioural tips for yourself when bottle-feeding a fussy baby:
- Maintain a comforting routine around mealtime.
- Avoid distractions, such as media, music, and toys when bottle-feeding.
- Feed your child at consistent time intervals of 3 to 4 hours.
- Stay calm and consistent. Don’t become angry, anxious, or overly excited with your feeding child.
- Limit mealtimes to 30 minutes.
- Try to avoid frustration during feeds. Consider having another caregiver offer the bottle if you need a break.
- Slowly, consistently, and gradually transition from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding.
- Wait until your baby is sufficiently hungry before feeding.
- Try changing the bottle size and shape, the nipple, or other aspects of the bottle to see what your baby responds to.
- Experiment with the temperature of the milk or Formula. Breast milk is lukewarm, so make sure the bottle isn’t too warm or cool.
- If your baby is teething, try changing the temperature of the milk (teething babies sometimes prefer cold milk), massaging their gums, or otherwise helping them with the pain of new teeth poking through.
- Hold your baby in a different feeding position and see what they respond to.
- Allow someone else to handle the feeding. This can be especially helpful during a transition from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding.
Before changing the formula, you’re using it, and you may want to talk to your pediatrician.
There are different types of formula customised to different needs, but too many changes or certain kinds of Formula can cause other challenges.
When to See a Doctor
While it is normal for babies sometimes to refuse a bottle, there are some instances where chronic refusal to feed can indicate an eating disorder or an illness that requires medical attention.
About 1 to 5 per cent of very young children have a feeding disorder characterised by an inability to consume an adequate amount of food, resulting in malnutrition.
Getting enough food is essential for a growing baby. If you think your baby is experiencing a feeding disorder making it difficult for them to gain weight, you should see a doctor immediately. Feeding disorders in early childhood are an essential health issue.
In the short term, babies with feeding disorders will experience nutritional deficiency and weight loss (or inadequate weight gain). Still, in a long time, your baby can experience growth deficits, cognitive functioning problems, stunted neurodevelopment, and behavioural or emotional impairment.
Another time to talk to your baby’s doctor is if your baby refuses to eat due to an illness or pain. Call your doctor right away if, in addition to restricting the bottle, your baby is showing any of the following symptoms:
- constant crying
- difficulty breathing
Consult with a doctor to determine whether there are any illnesses or physiological issues you are unaware of that might play a part in your child’s fussy eating.
You can take many different approaches to fix the problem, and if you are nervous or worried about any of your child’s eating habits, contact your doctor immediately. Check out My Baby Nursery for all your baby product needs.
With consistency, determination, and lots of attention paid to your baby, you can help them overcome their obstacles and anxieties around bottle-feeding.