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Refusing a Bottle and Alternative Methods of Feeding Your Baby

Feeding With Dropper    Cup Feeding

Introducing a bottle can be a little tricky. If it's introduced too soon, some babies develop nipple confusion (or bottle preference), and others, when introduced "too late" (after 6 weeks) refuse the bottle.

There is also the baby that you've introduced the bottle to at the "right time" and baby still refuses to have anything to do with it. This can be very upsetting if the family had expected that baby would be able to take a bottle occasionally, or if mom needs to return to work.

It is good to know that in the event this happens, there are other ways of coping than assuming there is nothing you can do, or that you "have" to force the bottle. Feeding should NEVER be associated with unhappiness, and forcing the issue with the bottle can make matters worse.

There are several alternatives to bottles including cup feeding, finger feeding and feeding with dropper, spoon, or syringe. For a younger baby, some parents opt for finger feeding or feeding with a dropper or spoon. If baby is older parents may be more comfortable with offering a cup. These alternative methods may take a little bit longer than conventional bottle feeding, but none of these methods are difficult to use.

If your baby refuses a bottle, keep in mind there are alternatives that work, and that over time, it won't matter anyway. Eventually baby will be big enough that bottles are not an issue, and the bright side of this is that you won't have to worry about weaning from a bottle later!



Tips for using a dropper include:

  1. Place the baby on your lap, in an upright, sitting position. Be sure to safely support the baby's head. Many babies prefer to FACE you, rather than being in cradle position which baby associates with nursing. Some parents prefer to swaddle baby so the arms are not "flailing" or waiving around & in the way, but we never had trouble with hands/arms getting in the way.

  2. Use a small dropper and insert only slightly, gently, into the baby's mouth. Some babies do better with it between the cheek and gums.Others do just fine with it laying gently inside lower lip.

  3. Gently squeeze the dropper or syringe, allowing a small amount of breast milk to enter the baby's mouth. At first it's just "drops" at a time, but as baby (and you) get better at it, more can be offered at a time.
  4. Wait for baby to swallow. The baby may occasionally spit some of the breast milk out.

Once you and baby get the hang of this, it is not hard nor does it take an excessive amount of time to feed the baby. As a matter of fact, it's one way to really interact with the baby while the feeding process is going on!

Cup Feeding

These suggestions are for the full term, healthy breastfed baby. If you have questions about alternative methods of feeding your baby, please check with your health care provider or see an experienced lactation consultant for additional information.

Although it does take some practice to use a cup, bowl, spoon or other alternative method, it also takes some time and practice to bottle feed correctly. With just a little practice, alternative methods such as using a cup, do get easier. In addition, with the use of the cup, there will be no need to wean from the bottle later.A small cup, like a shot glass, or a flexible bowl maybe a little easier to use than an adult sized cup. Some moms use small Dixie cups. By feeding slowly and using the following suggestions, the baby should be able to drink the milk.

by holding the baby upright as possible

clothing from spills with a towel or diaper.

a small amount of the supplement (ebm or formula) in the cup, glass or bowl

tilt the container to the baby's lips, placing the edge of the cup at the outer corners of baby's upper lip, resting gently on the lower lip with the tongue inside the cup. (Some babies may prefer their tongue under the lip of the cup.) Leave the cup in position during the feed (do not move the cup from this position).

not pour the milk into the baby's mouth. The baby will usually lap the milk, or may sip it. It doesn't take much, so go easy!

the baby time to swallow before offering more.

your baby to set the pace for the feedings, but stop after about 30 minutes so that baby will not become overly tired or stressed.

your baby is tired, or does not appear to be alert, do not try to offer the cup.

Reference: The Breastfeeding Answer Book, LLL

Additional information and references on cup feeding:

Copyright 2000 - 2003  Jim Yount

Send email to Paula Yount for any questions or comments about this site.

Disclaimer:  The pages contained herein are meant purely for informational purposes and every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information. This information, however, is not meant to take the place of your doctor, nor should the information contained on this web site be considered specific medical advice with respect to any specific person and/or any specific condition. The author, therefore respectfully but specifically disclaims any liability, loss or risk - personal or otherwise - that is, or may be, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from use or application of any of the information provided on this web site.