Understanding the baby who won’t take a bottle

One of the concerns that breastfeeding families have is will my baby take a bottle? Or more worrisome, what happens if they won’t take a bottle. This is especially true when the breastfeeding parent is returning to work.
When parents find that their little one will not take a bottle they often berate themselves for either not having started a bottle at some specific time or not having been consistent in giving a bottle and now they need or want their little one to and understandably they are quite distraught.
I think that it is important to know that despite what you may have been told or may have read there is no, to the best of my knowledge, research that shows that if you start with a bottle at any prescribed time, and give them with any set frequency or not that there is a guarantee that your little one will always take a bottle.
Let’s look at what we do know –
Bottle feeding and breastfeeding are different and require different skills – this is why almost all Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC’s) recommend waiting to start a bottle until breastfeeding is going well. Most of us are better able to learn a second skill once we are comfortable and confident in the first one – your baby included.
Having said this, there are babies that go back and forth without a problem.    We also know babies who after one bottle or a pacifier struggle at the breast. Some easily become overwhelmed when asked to do two things at once, shut down and then won’t do either.
Many babies will not take a bottle from the breastfeeding parent and some will not do so if the breastfeeding parent is in the vicinity – babies are smart – why would they eat from something hard and plastic when there is a soft warm human with milk around?
The next piece that is important to understand is that for the first months of life, babies will suck on anything that is placed in their mouth – it is a reflex. Somewhere during the 3-6 month time period “the motor area of your baby’s is developing and taking control, so the reflex is not needed.” (1) This means that your little one can now choose not to suck on the bottle that you are offering!
Although generally not thought of until closer to a year of age, I regularly recommend to parents that cup feeding maybe a more acceptable option for their until now exclusively breastfed infant. Sandra Lang’s article explains this very well.
http://adc.bmj.com/content/71/4/365.full.pdf (2)
For Instruction on how to cup feed see: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/cup-feeding
Remember that your child is an individual; he or she did not read the book!
1.Bahr, D. (2010) Nobody Ever told me (or my mother) That! Sensory World. Arlington, Tx p 49
2.Lang, S et al. (1994) “Cup feeding: an alternative method of infant feeding” published in the Archives of Diseases of Childhood. 71: 365-369

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