What can I do when my baby refuses the bottle?

Q: My 5-month-old baby is breastfed and takes a bottle with pumped milk, but suddenly she's refusing the bottle. What can I do?

A: Like most phases babies and children go through, this too shall pass. Refusing the bottle is very common and not a problem, unless you turn it into a control issue between you and your baby.

The best thing to do is continue with your regular feeding routine, including offering your baby a bottle at the normal times. She may resist, but don't become frustrated (she'll sense your tension) or give in by nursing her. Sometimes breastfed babies refuse to take a bottle from Mom because they know she has something better. If this seems to be the case, ask your husband or a grandparent to take over bottle feedings until the phase passes (you may have to leave the room, or even the house, for a while during these times). Have your husband or relative offer her the bottle by first letting a few drops of milk fall onto her lips and into her mouth so she recognizes the breast milk. Then stroke her lips with the nipple until she opens her mouth wide, as if to nurse. If she clamps her mouth shut, don't try to force the nipple in between her pursed lips -- this is a battle you are guaranteed to lose.

You should also consider the bottle nipple you're using. At this age, babies have often become so good at breastfeeding and have developed such a strong suck that they become frustrated with the newborn nipples they used to take willingly. Try switching to a nipple for babies 6 months and up.

If, after trying everything, your baby still staunchly refuses to take a bottle from anyone, then don't try to force her. Take the bottle away and offer it again every half-hour until she eats. Babies can be stubborn and she may hold out for an hour or more, but once she gets hungry, she'll take her bottle. If this is hard to do, remind yourself that a healthy baby will not starve herself.

Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.


  1. This is just stupid and incorrect advice. Our two month old refuses the bottle no matter how hungry. We've tried many different nipples, but she'll go 14+ hours without eating rather than take a bottle. My wife eventually has to breastfeed her so she'll shut up and go to sleep.

    1. Same situation here! Baby will go whole day without eating and her nap schedule messes up as well, since she’s awake crying for boob all day. The doctor told us at her age (10wks) she should only be going 6-8 hours without food, so if she refuses then we have to give breast. Have you found any way to break through with your baby ?

  2. My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website >>SleepBaby .org<< - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! Can’t imagine life without it! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out! >>SleepBaby .org<< - sorry, you can't post links here so you'll have to turn it into a normal link :) Best of luck to you and your family!

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