Breastfeeding Lifestyle

Help! My Baby Won’t Take a Bottle and I’m Going Back to Work!

Time to read: 2 min.

This is such a common question and one that can put many mums in a tricky and stressful situation...

Ideally, you will be planning to or have already started expressing your milk around 6 weeks before going back to work. This gives you time to master expressing and to build up a supply of your milk in the freezer. This can often seem like the easy bit compared to how you are going to feed baby your expressed milk.

Many mums will have been exclusive breastfeeding until they plan to return to work… then comes the task of introducing a bottle or feeding device to use whilst mum is away from bub.

For some babies, introducing a bottle past the age of around 8-12 weeks can be quite difficult. Understandably babies will choose a breastfeed over a bottle any time! Our babies are very clever, they know where they prefer to eat! Unfortunately, this is not always feasible, especially when returning to work.

For some mums, they are lucky to have a crèche on site and can pop in and breastfeed their baby a couple of times during their work day. But, for most other mums, this is not possible and leaves them needing to use a bottle or alternative for the childminder to feed their baby expressed breast milk.

A Few Tips for Transitioning Baby to Bottle

Sometimes it can take several days of trying different methods and possibly bottles before you find the solution. Do not give up too quickly, even though it can feel frustrating and possibly worrying at times. Your baby will get the hang of this so don’t worry! We all take different times to learn a new skill.

Try being away from the house when someone else feeds baby from the bottle. Sometimes babies may make protest noises. It is very hard as a mum to ignore these sounds, even though you know your baby is OK. And as soon as baby sees mum walk back in the room, it’s often game over and it’s the breast or nothing!

Baby is also more likely to take a bottle from another care giver than you. They do not smell like mum, taste like mum or sound like mum. This makes it easier to persuade baby that this is an OK alternative!

Make sure that before feeding baby with a bottle everyone feels calm. If baby is already a little unsettled this will make life somewhat harder!

Be assured that bub may make some protest whines (normal), but full on crying or screaming is a definite signal to stop. Trying to push through baby’s clear refusal will not help, as it just makes everyone stressed out. Patience is important and will pay off in the end.

At first, just let baby play with the teat or roll their tongue around it. Even rest the teat gently on their tongue until they feel happy and used to it. Each time they take a few sucks and swallows, reward them with a positive voice and response.

Here Are a Few Other Things to Try

Try feeding baby with the bottle when bub is sleepy or, alternatively, when bub is wide awake or perhaps just waking from a sleep. Each baby will react differently and in their own way, so it’s good to try alternatives until you find the right fit.

Try feeding with cool or alternatively warmed milk.

Try feeding in a close and cuddled up position.

Try rocking gently whilst feeding.

Try bub sitting facing away from the caregiver.

Try feeding when they are being held and walked around. Sometimes the distraction is enough for them to accept the bottle.

Once your baby is used to feeding from a bottle by another person, you can begin to bottle feed your baby by yourself, but just make sure your baby is sitting in your arms in a different position from breastfeeding.

If your baby is 6 months or over you may find that transitioning onto a sippy cup is an easier move than introducing a bottle. It is recommended that all babies have stopped bottle feeding by 12 months of age and are instead drinking via cups. Babies from as early as birth can cup feed. This method of cup feeding is different to a baby 6 months or over using a sippy cup.

The method of feeding your baby has to be replicable in your baby’s day-care setting. Talk to your day-care contact if you are having difficulty finding the right answers for you both.

Remember to be easy on yourself. This takes time for everyone not just you! It will get easier. Seek help and advice from your other friends with children, they will likely give you some good tips as well.

Do you have any breastfeeding tips to share? How would you describe your breastfeeding journey? Please join the discussion on the Medela Australia Facebook page!