Battle with the bottle: persistence pays off

bottle_2When C was about 10 weeks old, she started refusing to feed from a bottle. Initial reluctance rapidly turned into violent resistance, and if I actually managed to get the teat near her mouth, it was met only by screams.

My despair at the situation was tempered only by the fact that it turned out not to be particularly unusual. Two mothers I knew had had the same experience – trouble free bottle feeding morphing into complete refusal – and several others (including, ahem, my own mother) had never managed to get their babies to feed from a bottle.

On the web, several discussion forums were devoted to the topic, and here I found a glimmer of hope: many parents who had experienced similar problems had eventually been able to get their babies to accept bottles. Reading the advice was nevertheless confusing. There were a multitude of conditions that apparently dictated whether infants would feed from a bottle: mothers needed to be around to provide comfort/mothers needed to be completely out of the house; babies shouldn’t be really hungry (they might get too upset)/babies should be really hungry (they won’t let themselves starve); silicon teats were better than rubber/rubber teats were better than silicon…

The only thing that all the success stories had in common was that the parents persisted in offering their children bottles. This in itself is not a great revelation – if a bottle isn’t offered, then it cannot be accepted – but it was reassuring to know that just because a baby resolutely refuses a bottle at one point, it doesn’t necessarily mean she always will.

Keeping this in mind, we started to offer C a bottle everyday, containing just an ounce of expressed milk to start with. I abandoned my frustration, and decided not to worry too much whether she took it or left it. Perhaps because I was no longer anxious, C stopped crying when the bottle was near her. Sometimes she drank a little bit of milk, sometimes she just chewed on the teat, sometimes she spat it out. Eventually, she became so comfortable feeding this way that she’d grab the bottle with both hands and help push it into her mouth! Whether it was decoupling the stress from the situation, the increasing familiarity of the bottle, or a sudden turnaround that would have happened regardless of what we had done is impossible to know, but for now at least, bottle refusal is thankfully in the distant past.

4 Responses to “Battle with the bottle: persistence pays off”

  1. Hazel Says:

    Thank you for this post (and this website!) – I too have a baby who was very happy to drink from a bottle for the first 7 weeks of her life, and rejected it thereafter. (She needed formula for the first few days, and after my milk came in I gave her baby tea to relieve gas pain, on my doctor’s advice.)

    I tried to get her to take a bottle everyday at the same time, for almost 2 weeks until I gave up because she learnt to start wailing the moment she saw the bottle near her. She got extremely upset, and I got increasingly frustrated.

    Having read your post, I’m determined to try again, following your suggestions. Thanks!

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Hi Hazel – this is such a common problem. It took a while, but now C’s fine with any bottle. I’m sure your daughter will come round too!

  2. shelly onnagan Says:

    I was curious as to how old was your baby when she finally accepted the bottle? Its been months now but only weeks since I’ve been consistent at one bottle a day for my 4month old.

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      It wasn’t until about 6 months that she really started taking them (when she started daycare), but then it was pretty hard to wean her off them at 2 years. Probably shouldn’t admit to that!

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