Thursday, March 5, 2009

Help! My baby won't take a bottle

One of the problems breastfeeding moms seem to have most often is how to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle. If you're lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, your baby may never need to take a bottle. However, if you're a working mom, once your maternity leave is up you'll need to figure out a way to get the baby to drink milk from another source. So what is a mom to do if your baby won't take a bottle? Here are some ways to troubleshoot the problem and some solutions that have worked for many moms.

First things first, what's in the bottle? Many breasted babies will balk at the taste of formula. And can you blame them? Have you tasted it? I have and it's pretty vile. If you need to supplement your baby because of low milk supply and have no choice but to use formula, do an experiment and taste them. I found one brand's ready-to-serve to be the most palatable.

If you're offering your baby expressed breast milk in a bottle and she is refusing, it might be that the taste of your milk is off. Are you properly handling and storing your milk? Breast milk will keep for about a week in the refrigerator and about 3 months in a regular freezer, 6 months in a deep freezer.

Smell your milk. Does it smell soapy? Does it taste sour? If so, you may have a problem with excess lipase. Lipase is an enzyme normally found in breast milk, but if you have too much it will break your milk down quicker, resulting in the off taste. What you can do is scald your expressed milk to 180 degrees, then chill and freeze. This can be done in a pan on the stove. Be careful not to overheat the milk, which can kill off the nutrients.

If your baby is old enough, you may want to skip bottles all together and move straight to the cup. Many breastfed babies like sippy cups with straw tops, but experiment to find the one your baby likes. If your baby is very young, you can try finger feeding, feeding with a syringe or a dropper. These methods may take longer, but will be worth it if baby is eating happily.

You can also try some of the newer bottles and nipples made especially for babies who will be going back and forth between the bottle and the breast. I have heard good things about the Adiri breast-shaped bottles and the Playtex Naturalatch nipples. Nipples for breastfed babies should have a wide base that requires the baby to open wide. Nipples should be slow-flow.

Here are some other techniques for getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle:

  • Have dad or another caregiver offer the bottle, not mom. Breastfed babies know that mom has the good stuff and will be wondering why she won't give it up!
  • Warm up the breast milk or formula. Breast milk is served up at body temperature and your baby may be used to having warm milk and refuse anything cold.
  • Some breastfed babies like to be held in a nursing position when given a bottle. Others need to be looking away from the caregiver and offered the bottle from behind.
  • Don't wait until the baby is really hungry to offer the bottle. A hungry, frustrated baby probably won't take well to something new.

If your baby is refusing all methods of bottle feeding and is over the age of 6 months, you can offer solids and juice during the day at daycare. Younger babies may completely reverse cycle. Reverse cycling is when your baby switches days and nights and nurses frequently at night and sleeps longer stretches during the day. Reverse cycling is much easier to handle if you co-sleep. Eventually you will not wake up for feedings or will learn to quickly fall back to sleep afterwards. Some women actually don't mind it at all when their baby reverse cycles because there is less pressure to pump a certain number of ounces during the day because you know baby will get what he needs at night.

Do you have any other suggestions for moms whose breastfed babies won't take a bottle? Have you worked through this issue? How did you get your baby to take a bottle?

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