Cup feeding baby who refuses bottle

What to Do When Baby Refuses a Bottle

What to Do When Baby Refuses a Bottle | BIDMC of Boston Skip to content Search

Find a Doctor

Search for doctors by name, specialty, hospital, or location.

Find a Doctor

For Patients

Call 1-800-667-5356, Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm or Find a Doctor

For Physicians

For help with specialty consultations, call 617-667-2020, Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5:00pm or refer to our ED


Manage your health care online.

PatientSite Login New User? Sign up now

Medical Records
Pay Hospital Bill

Now available: new PatientSite design and features for a simpler user experience.
Learn more.

Request an Appointment

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911. Please do not use this form.

New Patients


Current Patients

Schedule through PatientSite

Urgent Care

If this is an emergency, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room.

Chelsea Urgent Care
Chestnut Hill Urgent Care
Dedham Urgent Care
Quincy Urgent Care

Walk-ins are welcome or reserve your spot online.


Close Alert


Learn more: COVID-19 Resources; COVID-19 Testing; Vaccine Info; Visitor Policy; Support Us

Christine Sweeney, LICSW Program Manager, Parent Connection, BIDMC

JUNE 10, 2021

Back to All Articles

Breastfeeding moms are typically well aware of the risk of "nipple confusion," which sometimes occurs when breastfed babies are introduced to a bottle or pacifier and then reject the breast. What is not so widely known is that sometimes the reverse can happen – when babies refuse to eat from anything other than the breast. For some families, this is no big deal and poses no problems. But for those going back to work, or those who simply would like the peace of mind knowing they can spend a few hours away from baby, it can feel like a really big problem.

The non-breastfeeding parent is often the one left to struggle with a screaming, hungry baby whom they are unable to comfort. There is nothing that leaves a parent feeling more helpless and diminishes their sense of competence than being unable to provide food and comfort to their baby. It's an awful feeling, and can easily take one down a really dark road of frustration, resentment and blame.

So what's a family to do? Before I provide a listing of suggestions, let me first say that some of these are contradictory to each other. Babies are people, and not all things work the same for all people, so look over these ideas, and see if any match the little person you're trying to feed. As frustrating as it may feel, try to hang in there, offering baby a bottle one feeding per day. If baby is very fussy or frustrated stop, try again later of another day.

  • Try offering the bottle when your baby is at their best. For many, this is the mid- morning feed and for many, it is not the end of the day bewitching hour (between 5:00 - 8:00 pm). Time it according to when your baby is happiest. Also try to catch the early feeding cues and offering the bottle then instead of waiting until baby is frantically hungry.
  • For some babies, it works better if the person offering the bottle isn't the breastfeeding parent, for other babies it's the exact opposite.
  • Feeding involves more than just satisfying hunger. It is an interactive experience involving touch and eye contact. Try offering the bottle, having baby skin to skin.
  • Warm the bottle nipple by running under warm water, and then gently stoke baby's lips with the nipple from top to bottom to illicit the rooting reflex.
  • Nipples that seem to work best are those with a wide base that slope gradually toward a short nipple. Start with a slow flow nipple, made of soft, easily compressible material such as silicone (to protect baby from latex allergens).

Some babies, despite your best efforts continue to refuse a bottle, and another option to try is cup feeding:

  • Use a small cup (shot-glass size) that holds just 1 or 2 ounces of human milk or formula. Cups made of flexible plastic allow you to bend the cup into a spout shape. You can use a small cup that you may already have in your home or purchase cups made especially for infant feeding.
  • Fill the cup at least half full with the supplement. Fill several cups so you don't have to interrupt the rhythm of the feed to refill the cup.
  • Tuck a cloth diaper or small towel under baby's chin to absorb drips, or use an absorbent bib. You might want to swaddle baby in a receiving blanket to keep their hands out of the way.
  • Hold baby on you lap in an upright supported position.
  • Hold the cup to baby's lips and tilt it until the milk just reaches lips.
  • Be patient. Allow baby to lap up the milk and swallow at their own pace. Don't pour the milk into baby's mouth; they may sputter and choke. Let baby set the pace, and let them decide when they're finished.

Hang in there, and keep your pediatrician informed if you are not progressing in either bottle or cup feeding to determine if a referral to a feeding specialist is a necessary next step.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

View All Articles

Bottle Refusal - The Institute for Breastfeeding and Lactation Education (IABLE)

It can be very stressful for parents when their baby has a hard time taking a bottle. Here are some tips that have been helpful for some families, and hopefully will be helpful for yours, too.

Try having someone other than mom offer the bottle.
It makes sense that babies associate feeding with the comfort of nursing. For some babies, mom needs to be out of the house, not just in another room, for them to take the bottle from another caregiver.

Try offering the bottle when the baby is not very hungry.
When babies are having a tough time taking a bottle, it can help to offer it between feedings, or when the baby is not very hungry. Learning a new skill takes patience and effort, and we all have more of both when we feel well rested and calm.

Try feeding the baby in different positions.
Babies are unique in their preferred feeding positions. Preferred positions for breastfeeding are typically different than those preferred for bottle feeding. Try holding the baby facing out to look around the room or sitting propped up on your legs.

Try moving around while feeding the baby.
Feeding the baby while you are walking around the room and gently bouncing or swaying may help some babies take the bottle.

Try allowing the baby to latch onto the bottle nipple herself rather than putting it directly into her mouth.
You might tickle the baby’s upper lip and nose with the bottle and wait for her to open wide to latch onto the nipple, similar to how she would latch on to a breast. Be sure she latches onto the wide base of the nipple and not just the tip, with both lips flanged outward, as she would when breastfeeding.

Try wrapping the bottle in a shirt or cloth that mom has worn, so it smells like her.
Some moms sleep with a burp cloth and then wrap it around the baby’s bottle.

Try different temperatures of milk in the bottle.
Some babies prefer warmed milk, others room temperature milk, and others cold milk. Experiment a bit to see if your baby has a preference. You may also try warming the bottle nipple (holding it under warm water) before the feeding so it is not cold. For a teething baby, chill the bottle nipple in the fridge before the feeding.

Try different bottle nipples.
The extensive choice of bottle nipples available at stores can be overwhelming, and unfortunately there is not one “best” nipple. The most expensive bottle/nipple combinations aren’t necessarily better than the less costly options. Look for a long, straight nipple rather than a short, flat one, so that the baby latches deeply on the bottle like she would at the breast. Consider trying a nipple that is “newborn” or “slow flow” so the milk comes out more slowly and doesn’t overwhelm the baby. However some babies might prefer a faster flow nipple, especially if you have a fast and furious letdown. You may also try silicone versus rubber nipples.

Try tasting and smelling your breastmilk.
Many women notice that their expressed breastmilk smells strong or tastes soapy. One theory is that this is due to the lipase enzyme which naturally breaks down the fats in breastmilk. Another thought is that the altered smell and taste may be related to certain fats in your diet, particularly fish oil or other oil supplements. You may even try to stop eating fish for awhile or withhold fatty acid supplements to see if that helps. This breastmilk is perfectly safe for babies to drink, but some do not like the taste of it.

Try feeding the baby with something other than a bottle.
You may try feeding the baby with a spoon, sippy cup or regular open cup (perhaps a small medicine cup or shot glass). Hold the baby in your lap in an upright, supported position. Bring the spoon or cup to the baby's mouth and allow the baby to take the milk herself by just touching the milk in the spoon or cup to the baby’s upper lip. Let the baby set the pace. Be very careful to not dump the milk into the baby's mouth to avoid choking.

Try “introducing the mouth to the bottle” rather than trying to get the baby to drink.
Step 1: Bring the nipple (no bottle attached) to the baby's mouth and rub it along the baby’s gums and inner cheeks, allowing the baby to get used to the feeling and texture of the nipple. If the baby doesn’t like this, try again later.
Step 2: Once the baby accepts the nipple in her mouth, encourage her to suck on the nipple. Without the bottle attached, place your finger inside the nipple hole and rub the nipple gently against the baby’s tongue.
Step 3: When the baby is comfortable with the first two steps, pour some drops of milk into the nipple without attaching the nipple to the bottle. Start by offering small sips of milk, making sure to stop when the baby shows that she has had enough.

If your baby still doesn’t take the bottle after you’ve tried these tricks.
Can you shift your schedule so that you can take a break from work to go to your baby and breastfeed her there? -Can your caregiver bring the baby to you to breastfeed throughout the day? -Can you telecommute/work from home for a while?

My baby will finally take a bottle, but generally won't drink much at daycare.
Some babies do something called “reverse cycle nursing” when their moms go back to work. They spend most of the day sleeping/not eating and then at night feed frequently to make up for all of the eating they missed out on during the day. Some moms like reverse cycle nursing because it means they do not have to pump as much milk during the day. However, the interrupted sleep makes it really rough for mom to meet her own sleep needs. Some families are able to work out their own system to help the mom get as much sleep as possible while still attending to the baby’s nighttime nursing needs. Here are a few tips for getting as much rest as you can:

Sleep in, go to bed early, or sleep when the baby sleeps whenever you have the chance.

Sleep near your baby. Options include a crib in your bedroom or a co-sleeper attached to your bed.

Try to do more work early in the day so you are able to wind down and go to bed earlier in the evening.

Prioritize the things you need to get done, and enlist friends and family to help out so you can possibly spend some of that extra time sleeping.

Baby won't take the bottle | Philips Avent

search support icon

Search Keywords

Home ›› What to do when your baby refuses a bottle

↑ top

any problems. If your breastfed baby refuses a bottle, don't worry. This is a common occurrence in many babies who are used to breastfeeding. Obviously, this can create certain difficulties for moms, especially if you need to return to work in the near future.

3 Philips Avent products to help you bottle feed:

So why is your baby refusing to bottle and crying? There are many ways to quickly and easily teach a breastfed baby to a bottle. Here are important tips on what to do when your baby refuses a bottle.

Is the baby refusing the bottle? Take a step back

If your baby cries while bottle feeding, the first thing to do is to start over and rethink your feeding approach and technique. Try the following steps when bottle feeding your baby: [1]

  1. Lift and tilt your baby's head forward. Before inserting the pacifier into the baby's mouth, make sure that the baby's head is raised and tilted over his body to avoid choking: so that the baby does not choke and have the opportunity to burp during bottle feeding.
  2. Insert the pacifier. Bring the pacifier to the baby's lips and gently guide it into the baby's mouth. In no case do not try to press the nipple on the baby's lips and try to push it into his mouth. After touching the pacifier to the baby's lips, wait for the baby to open his mouth and take the pacifier.
  3. Hold the bottle at an angle. Tilt the bottle at an angle so that the nipple is only half full. So the child can eat at his own pace.
  4. Let the baby burp during and after feeding. It can be useful for a child to burp not only after feeding, but also approximately in the middle of the process. This will help reduce gas or tummy discomfort that your baby may experience from swallowing too much air.
  5. Stop in time, do not overfeed the baby. If the baby begins to turn his head away from the bottle or closes his mouth, then he is full and you need to stop feeding.
  6. Perhaps the flow of milk from the nipple to the baby is weak or, on the contrary, too fast, so he is naughty and refuses the bottle. Try changing the nipple to a nipple with a different flow.​

Other tips if your baby refuses the bottle

If you've followed the steps above and your baby still refuses the bottle, don't worry. There are other ways to help bottle feed your baby. Here are some simple tricks you can add to your bottle feeding process. [2]

1. Remind your child about mom.

Sometimes a child can be fed by someone other than his mother - dad, grandmother or, for example, a nanny. If your baby fusses while bottle feeding, try wrapping the bottle in something that smells like mommy, like a piece of clothing or some fabric. This will make it easier to feed the baby when the mother is not around.

2. Try to maintain skin contact while bottle feeding.

Some babies need contact with their mother, so try bottle feeding while leaning against you. However, some babies are better at bottle feeding when they are in the exact opposite position than when they are breastfed. For example, there is a position with bent legs. Lay the child on your bent knees, facing you, pointing the child's legs towards your stomach. During feeding, the baby will be able to look at you and contact you in this way. If your baby refuses a bottle, experiment to see which works best.

3. Move while feeding.

Sometimes all it takes to get your baby to take the bottle is a little wiggle or walk. The next time your baby starts crying while bottle feeding, try moving around a little rhythmically to calm him down.

4. Try changing the milk temperature.

If the baby still does not want to take the bottle, check if the milk in the bottle is too hot or too cold. Before feeding, put some warm breast milk on the inside of your wrist to check the temperature. Milk should be warm, but if it seemed hot to you, just place the bottle for a short while under a stream of cold water.

Choosing the right bottle for your baby If you plan to combine bottle feeding with breastfeeding, it is advisable to choose bottles with a nipple that will have a wide base as the bottle will grip closer to the breast. Also pay attention to the fact that the nipple is firm and flexible, the child must make an effort to drink from the bottle, as well as from the breast. Give preference to nipples with an anti-colic valve that vents air out of the bottle.

​Natural bottle allows you to combine breast and bottle feeding. 83.3% of babies switch from a Natural bottle to breastfeeding and back.*

If you choose a bottle for artificial feeding, traditional bottles are fine, but it is desirable that the nipple is made of a hypoallergenic material, such as silicone, has an anti-colic valve and did not stick together when bottle fed. In case your baby spit up often, then use special bottles with anti-colic and anti-reflux valve, which reduces the risk of spitting up and colic.​​

Bottle with unique AirFree valve reduces the risk of colic, gas and spitting up. With this bottle, you can feed your baby in an upright or semi-upright position to reduce spitting up. Due to the fact that the nipple is filled with milk and not air during feeding, the baby does not swallow air, which means that feeding will be more comfortable.

Both bottles are indispensable if you want to breastfeed, bottle feed or just bottle feed your baby.

“My baby refuses to breastfeed but bottle feeds – help!”

Sometimes a baby gets used to bottle feeding and refuses to breastfeed. Therefore, it is important to use bottles that are suitable for combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding. If, nevertheless, you are faced with the fact that the child refuses to take the breast, try using silicone nipple covers to make the transition from the bottle to the breast and back more imperceptible.

Remember that if you want to combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding, it is worth waiting at least a month before offering a bottle, so that you are lactating and have time to get used to each other and develop a breastfeeding regimen.​

Breastfeed and bottle feed your baby with pleasure

Remember that it takes a while for your baby to get used to bottle feeding. This is completely normal. If you have to go to work, be sure to set aside enough time to bottle train your baby beforehand.

Remember that every child is different, so what works for one may not work for another. With a little time and patience, you will find out what works best for your baby when he refuses a bottle.

You will identify your child's unique needs. However, if your baby still refuses the bottle after all the steps above, check with your pediatrician.

Articles and tips from Philips Avent


*O. L. Lukoyanova, T.E. Borovik, I.A. Belyaeva, G.V. Yatsyk; NTsZD RAMS; 1st Moscow State Medical University THEM. Sechenova, "The use of modern technological methods to maintain successful breastfeeding", RF, 10/02/2012 3 - The Baby Who Doesn't Nurse - Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby

Baby+ app

Download the app and track your child's development and growth with trackers and save those special moments forever.

Download app:

You are leaving the Philips Healthcare (“Philips”) official website. Any links to third party websites that may be included on this site are provided solely as a convenience to you. Philips makes no warranties regarding any third party websites or the information they contain.

I understand

You are about to visit a Philips global content page

You are about to visit the Philips USA website.

10 signs that your baby is ready to drink from a regular cup

When growing up, most parents have a question about when the right moment has come to instill in their baby the habit of drinking from a regular "adult" cup. Of course, some mothers prefer their baby to learn to drink from a regular cup immediately after breastfeeding, but as a rule, they still go through the stages of drinking from bottles with nipples and training mugs. As a rule, before the age of two, a child does not yet have the necessary skills to drink from an open cup. When is the best time to switch to a regular cup depends on the development of the individual child. By the age of three or four, as a rule, a child is already able to easily learn how to use an "adult" cup. Here are some signs that it's time to help your little one learn to drink from a regular cup.

1. The child asks for a regular cup.

If your child is old enough to ask for a regular cup, then they can tell the difference between a non-spill cup and a regular open-top cup. If the child is old enough to ask for an "adult" cup, then he is already old enough to start drinking from a regular cup. Keep in mind that there will be many spills during the transition to a cup without a lid, so you should be prepared for extra cleaning and changing into dry clothes.

2. The child holds the training mug confidently in his hand.

Noticing that your child can hold the practice mug evenly without tilting it absentmindedly is a sure sign that he can drink from an open top cup. To begin with, we recommend pouring a small amount of liquid into ordinary cups for children, as the child may accidentally spill the contents of the cup.

3. Child removes the lid from the exercise cup.

If your child insists on removing the lid from his practice cup, it's probably time to consider switching to a regular cup. During this period, children copy adults in many ways, so if the baby imitates you, trying to drink from an "adult" cup, you should help him master this skill.

4. The child often asks to drink from your cup.

If your child constantly reaches for the cup you are currently drinking from, this may be a sure sign that it is time to move on to a regular cup. Give your child a new baby cup, which should be smaller than the adult cup and made of unbreakable material.

5. The child is getting ready to go to kindergarten.

If your child will start going to kindergarten soon, and you are actively preparing for this event, it means that it's time to learn to drink from an ordinary cup. The sooner you teach your child to drink from an ordinary cup, the easier it will be for him in kindergarten.

6. Child refuses to drink from a non-spill cup.

If your child is starting to find it difficult to drink from a child's non-spill cup, it's time to learn to drink from an adult cup. When toddlers begin to grow up, they develop a dislike for everything that concerns children who are too young, and especially if they have older brothers and sisters whom they imitate.

7. The child begins to develop caries.

Straw or soft/hard nose baby bottles are strongly associated with an increased risk of cavities. Often, children's training bottles are filled with sugary drinks that children carry with them and like to drink a little. Small teeth are constantly exposed to the contents of the bottles, and as a result, there is a possibility of developing caries. To reduce the likelihood of tooth decay, firstly, you should start learning to drink from a regular cup, and secondly, reduce the amount of drinks containing sugar.

8. The child imitates you.

If your child imitates you when he sees you drinking from a normal cup, then it's time to start trying drinking from a cup without a lid. The first few attempts will most likely not be very successful, but this should not stop you from teaching your child to drink from an "adult" cup. Start drinking plain water, which does not leave stains after the spill, and, if possible, ask the child himself to help you clean up the spilled liquid.

9. The child wants to be like his peers.

If your little one looks at other babies and starts noticing that he is the only one still drinking from a non-spill cup, he will definitely ask for the same cup that his peers use.

Learn more