Why is Baby Suddenly Refusing Bottle and What to Do?

Just when you thought you were starting to get the hang of this whole parenting thing, the other shoe drops. Your baby is suddenly refusing their bottle. Whether your baby is going breast to bottle or has been on the bottle all along, it can be extremely frustrating when your baby refuses the bottle. 

What are the Reasons for a Baby Refusing the Bottle?

There can be several reasons that your baby is suddenly refusing the bottle. The best thing to do before you completely stress over it is to look at common issues that may be going on. Your baby refusing a bottle could be an easy fix. 

  1. Your baby isn’t hungry
  2. Your baby is feeling sick
  3. Your baby is in an uncomfortable position
  4. The temperature of the milk is too hot or too cold
  5. The flavor of the milk is different or off
  6. Your baby is going through a growth spurt and wants cuddles, not milk.

Baby Suddenly Refusing Bottle at 2 months. 

Baby’s movements in their first weeks are usually done involuntarily. It happens by reflex, which means your baby isn’t even trying to make these movements happen. This includes their sucking reflex. 

baby suddenly refusing bottle

At around 2 months, the sucking reflex disappears. Your baby is now trying to coordinate sucking with breathing and swallowing. These are difficult movements to have to do voluntarily on your own suddenly. 

If your baby suddenly refuses a bottle at around 2 months old, it could be because they are getting used to no longer having a reflex that makes sucking and breathing, and swallowing happen involuntarily. 

Breastfed Baby Suddenly Refusing Bottle

If your recently breastfed baby is suddenly refusing a bottle, it could be because they still want to be breastfed. Your baby is used to snuggling with you and smelling your skin as they nurse. A bottle is just not the same, and they are having a hard time adjusting. Be patient with your baby. Most importantly, stay consistent. 

Formula Fed Baby Suddenly Refusing Bottle

If your formula-fed baby suddenly is refusing the bottle, they may have recently had a negative experience with a bottle. The flow could have been too much, and they ended up choking or throwing up. Be patient with them and go slow. Be reassuring. Remind yourself that this too shall pass. 

What to do when the baby doesn’t take a bottle?

So now that you may have a better understanding of why your baby could be refusing the bottle, here are some tips to help you through this phase. 

  • Wait until your baby is hungry
  • Maintain a calm environment
  • Avoid Distractions
  • Don’t show anger 
  • Don’t be anxious during feeding
  • Hold baby in a different position
  • Identify any changes going on in the household
  • Check to make sure the formula or breastmilk tastes spoiled
  • Take a break if you get too frustrated and have someone else try
  • Take a moment to relieve gas
  • Change the feeding schedule to a more on-demand schedule for a bit.

Tips for Breastfed Baby Refusing a Bottle

If your recently breastfed baby is having a hard time transitioning to a bottle or suddenly refusing a bottle, there are some things you can try. 

1. Have Someone Else Feed the Baby

If possible, have your spouse or someone else give you the baby the bottle. Your baby associates you with breastfeeding, so they may be expecting a breast and disappointed that it is a bottle. 

2. Put a Drop of Breastmilk on Your Baby’s Lips

If you are pumping and giving breastmilk in a bottle, try putting a drop of milk on their lips. Once they taste the breastmilk, they may feel more comfortable taking the bottle, knowing they are still getting breastmilk. 

3. Slow Down the Transition

If you still have the ability to breastfeed, slow down the transition. They might have been weaned off too fast. Try breastfeeding a little first and then switch to a bottle or vice versa; always try the bottle first and then give them a breast after a couple of ounces. Be consistent and steady, slowly reducing the time you breastfeed. 

4. Use a Different Nipple Flow

Try a different flow for the nipple. While breastfeeding, they have to work for the milk a little bit. The bottle may be flowing too fast for them. Try a nipple that closely mimics breastfeeding. It can also be coming out too slow; they may have become more efficient at eating and are ready for a faster flow. 

5. Use A Different Bottle

Try a different bottle. Your baby may not like the feel of the bottle. Get a bottle that closes simulates breastfeeding and the look of a breast for an easy transition. 

Bottle-feeding Remedies to Help Your Baby Accept a Bottle

If your baby that was previously bottle feeding is suddenly refusing the bottle, you can try a few things to help the situation easily.

1. Experiment with a Different Formula

Your baby may not like the taste of the formula anymore. Or, first, you can try changing the temperature a bit if they were previously drinking the formula fine. They may want their bottle a little warmer or possibly colder, especially if they happen to be teething.

2. Change the Bottle

Experiment with different shaped bottles. Your baby may no longer like the feel or texture of the bottle. 

3. Use a Different Flow Nipple

Try a different nipple on the bottle. The flow may have become too slow for them, and they are ready for a faster flow nipple. Or, the flow may be coming out too fast, and they can’t swallow it fast enough. Experiment with different flows.

When to See a Doctor if your Baby Suddenly Refuses a Bottle?

A few things to look out for indicating it is more than your baby just refusing the bottle. If you notice any of the following, contact your doctor:

  • Your baby is having difficulty gaining weight
  • You notice weight loss or lack of growth
  • You notice emotional or behavioral issues
  • Your baby has a fever
  • Your baby is vomiting
  • They are constantly crying, and you are unable to console them
  • Your baby has diarrhea 
  • They are having difficulty breathing
  • You notice they may have tongue-tie or lip tie
  • They are grabbing at their ears, and you suspect an ear infection.

How to Bottle Feed a Baby

Here are some tips and rules to consider before introducing a bottle to your baby. 

  • Status of the bottle- make sure equipment is clean and working properly-check nipples for wear and replace them when needed.
  • Follow Directions- prepare the formula according to the directions on the formula container.
  • Breastmilk Preparation- follow safe storage and preparation for breastmilk.

Breastmilk can be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hours after pumping. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Once heated, breastmilk cannot be stored again. It can be stored in the freezer if you are not going to use it within 4 days. Typically you want to store it in the freezer shortly after pumping. 

You can thaw breastmilk overnight in the refrigerator. Once it is thawed, it cannot be refrozen. If you want to heat the breastmilk, never use a microwave; it can damage the milk and create hot spots that burn your baby’s mouth. If you need to heat it, you can gently heat it by running it under warm water or placing it in a mug of warm water.

  • Incline feeding- feed baby on an incline to reduce gas; laying flat allows air to build up and can lead to uncomfortable gas. An incline of 45 degrees is best for bottle feeding. 
  • Switch Sides- If you are switching from breastfeeding, mimic switching sides like when you breastfeed when you first introduce a bottle.
  • Baby Cues- Learn your baby’s cues that tell you when they are done eating. If the baby pulls away or turns head, they may be done or need to take a break.
  • Only feed when interested- If you give your baby a break from eating and you try again, and they don’t seem interested, they are done.
  • Burp Baby- During a break or when you switch sides, you can burp your baby. Try to burp baby every 2-3 oz, so they don’t accumulate any air.
  • Start Early- If possible, start introducing a bottle as early as you can. Around 1 month, introduce a bottle, even if it is just for an ounce or 2. This gets them used to a bottle, and it may become easier once you need them to use a bottle more.

FAQ’s About a Baby Refusing Bottles

1. When do babies start refusing bottles?

The most common age that a baby refuses a bottle is around 2 months. This is due to swallowing and breathing no longer being a reflex and now becoming a voluntary movement.

At around 2 months and maybe even 3 months, a baby is now learning to swallow, breathe, and suck simultaneously. This new skill may cause a 2 or 3-month-old to refuse a bottle. 

2. How do you stop a baby from refusing a bottle?

One way to possibly avoid bottle refusal is to introduce a bottle as soon as possible. Get your baby used to a bottle by around 1 month, even if it is just for 1 meal or a couple of ozs. The more often they use a bottle interchangeably, the less chance they will refuse it when the time comes that they will use a bottle all of the time. 

3. Can teething cause the baby to reject the bottle?

If your baby refuses a bottle and cries, it could be caused by pain. Teething could be the cause of this sudden bottle refusal. When a new tooth is coming in, their gums are sensitive, and they feel some pressure. The sucking motion can intensify the pressure and cause them more pain. 

If you suspect your baby is teething, try cold milk. Cold milk can help soothe their gums and help with the teething pain, making it easier for them to suck on the bottle. 

4. Will the baby refuse the bottle if tired?

Your baby may be refusing the bottle if they happen to be overtired or over-hungry. If a baby is overtired, it can be challenging to get them to eat. Try calming your baby before giving them the bottle. 

5. Is Bottle refusal a phase?

Most of the time, bottle refusal is a phase. Especially if your Baby is suddenly refusing a bottle around 3 months or 2 months, this is when they are learning how to suck, breathe, and swallow on their own. It was a reflex, involuntary movement that babies are born with, and now it is switching to a voluntary movement meaning your baby is now controlling what they do. 

If your baby is suddenly refusing a bottle, give them some time and be patient with them. Keep trying and staying consistent, but don’t force it. They will eventually get back into taking a bottle like normal. 

Best Bottles for Babies

The following are some great options for bottles. These help babies that were previously breastfed transition to a bottle, and they are great for bottle-fed babies since they are comfortable for the baby to hold as well.

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Comotomo Natural Feel Baby Bottle
The Comotomo Natural-Feel Bottle is designed to closely mimic natural breastfeeding. The soft silicone nipples are perfect for babies that are having trouble transitioning. Little ones will love to hold onto the skin-like soft body of the bottle. Includes anti-colic vents and an easy to clean design.
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Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature 4ct Baby Bottles
Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature bottles have a breast-like shape for a natural latch. The nipple has anti-colic valves to reduce excess air and the silicone feel is soft like mom. There are different flow rates so the bottle can grow with your baby.
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Dr. Brown's Options+ Wide-Neck Glass Baby Bottles
These Dr. Brown's Glass Bottles makes for a comfortable and pleasant feeding experience. The nipple is specially designed to offer a consistent natural flow. They are made of soft silicone to help with a natural latch and the anti-colic vent keeps bubbles out. The vent can be removed as baby gets older.
Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle
The Philips Avent bottle has a wide breast-shaped nipple the promotes a natural latch. The design is comfortable and easy for the baby to hold. The nipples also have an Airflex vent to reduce colic and uncomfortable gas in baby's tummy.
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Medela Breast Milk Storage Bottles
These Medela Bottles are compatible with all Medela breast pumps. You can pump, store and feed all with one container. There are different flow nipples so you can adjust to your baby's needs. They are dishwasher safe.

Conclusion

There can be several reasons why your baby is suddenly refusing a bottle. If your baby was starting to use a bottle and was previously breastfed, you may want to try to slow the transition if possible. They may be having a hard time adjusting. You could also try a different bottle and nipple, one that resembles breastfeeding.

If your baby was previously using a bottle just fine and then suddenly refused the bottle, you could also try a different bottle or nipple. They may have become more efficient at eating and need a faster flow nipple.

The temperature of the milk or formula may also need to be adjusted. If your baby is experiencing any pain from teething, they may prefer colder milk, for example.

The phase of your baby refusing the bottle will soon pass. Be patient with your baby, and try to be consistent with trying to give them a bottle. With some small changes, your baby will soon feel comfortable drinking a bottle again.

Why is Baby Suddenly Refusing Bottle and What to Do?
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