Bottle feeding seems like a walk in a park until it isn’t.
Everything may be going great, and then out of nowhere, you have your formula-fed baby suddenly refusing bottle.
It’s frustrating, especially with formula shortages and the cost of everything going up. Baby refusing the bottle feeding means that you may end up wasting formula.
If it is happening to you, don’t feel alone. It’s very common.
Breastfed babies sometimes refuse the nipple, and even a breastfed baby who drinks pumped breast milk from a bottle may start to refuse the bottle.
The reasons your baby may be doing this are mostly harmless, and almost all of them are easy fixes.
This article will discuss in detail why your baby suddenly starts refusing the bottle. While this article is catered toward formula-fed babies, moms of breastfed babies who bottle feed may also find some helpful information here.
Formula fed baby suddenly refusing bottle
The baby has been eating like a champ. And then suddenly, you make a bottle, and rather than digging in, the baby turns away, spits out the nipple, and cries. Or flat out shows no interest.
If a baby suddenly refuses their formula bottle, a few things that may be causing this are easy fixes.
Still, you have to put on your detective hat and figure out which of the reasons it is that is causing your formerly happy eater to turn into a bottle refusal master.
The following are some of the reasons that may be behind your baby suddenly refusing the bottle.
1. Transitioning breastfed baby refuses formula
If you transition from breast milk to formula, you may notice that your little one may be the last to join the program willingly.
If you have tasted your breast milk, you may have noticed it is sweet. Now try the formula. It’s a different taste altogether.
Just like with any new change in a little one’s life, it can take some getting used to.
A breastfed baby is used to body temperature milk from a breast rather than a silicone nipple. Also, they aren’t used to working very hard to get the milk.
If you notice your previously breastfed baby refusing their bottle feeding as you transition, just give it some time. You can mix breast milk with the formula to make the transition easier.
Also, warming up the bottle can help as well.
2. They don’t like the temperature
If you are a transitioning mom going from breastfeeding to formula feeding, or if you have a picky formula-fed baby, you may need to consider adjusting the temperature of the formula.
A baby’s mouth is more sensitive to temperature, so ensure you don’t heat up a bottle too much. They aren’t little coffee drinkers yet.
Babies prefer room temperature milk or slightly warmer. Always test the temperature of the formula on your wrist or inside of your forearm before feeding the baby.
Adjusting the milk temperature is an easy fix if you think the milk temperature has something to do with the baby refusing the bottle. Much faster than breast milk’s freezing and thawing process, you can either purchase a bottle warmer or microwave the bottle before offering it to the baby.
Just make sure that the mixture isn’t too hot.
3. Baby is teething
If your baby’s gums have bumps, are red and swollen, or if you can see the beginnings of a tooth about to erupt around the same time that baby starts refusing the bottle, then you may have a teething baby on your hands.
Sucking on a bottle can alleviate the teething pain of some babies. However, it can also intensify the pain in others.
Some babies can pop teeth through the gums, and you don’t even know until you see the tooth there. Others, however, have a much harder time dealing with it, and they cry and fuss for weeks before you ever see a tooth.
Teething gel can help if your little one refuses bottles due to mouth pain. Babies cutting teeth often have sore ears and can get ear infections more quickly, so adjusting the feeding position can also help.
Rather than holding the baby in a flat position, try sitting the baby more upright with the bottle in a horizontal position.
This may feel awkward at first, but it can quickly alleviate the pressure your little one feels in their head, mouth, and ears when teething.
If the baby refuses a bottle because of an emerging tooth, this is worth a try.
Thrush is a white coating that covers the gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, and inside the cheeks. It looks like milk residue, but it doesn’t wipe off.
Thrush is like a yeast infection in the mouth. It is contagious, and it does cause some discomfort.
If your baby is suddenly refusing their night feed or wakes from a nap and you know they are hungry, but they have this white coating in their mouths, a trip to the pediatrician is in order.
After some antibiotics and sanitizing all the bottles, you should be back in action, and the baby should eat much more eagerly.
5. The baby has started eating solid food
Babies who begin eating solid food may suddenly start refusing the bottle. This is because formula now tastes bland, and the texture of real food is much more appealing.
If this occurs, talk to your pediatrician to get tips to supplement nutrition if the baby refuses any formula.
You can also transition from a baby bottle to a straw or sippy cup and offer it at meal times or on a feeding schedule.
6. Bottles aren’t cleaned properly
Leftover soap, residue from the formula, or bits of food from the dishwasher may be the culprit behind your little one pushing the bottle away.
Sanitizing the bottles to be as clean as possible is an easy remedy to this issue.
7. Baby is distracted
If your baby is refusing formula, they may just be distracted.
The sucking reflex they experience up until about two months of age is involuntary.
Babies this young are also not as affected by outside stimuli such as noise and people in the room. After about two months of age, however, sucking becomes a voluntary controlled response and the entire game changes.
To fix this issue, start feeding the baby in a quiet, boring room, such as the parents’ room or an in-home office, to limit distractions. Turn off the television, and don’t use your phone.
Many moms take this as an opportunity to create a bonding moment with their little ones, and it also helps to ensure that baby is getting enough milk.
8. Acid reflux
Reflux is a common issue among babies in which the stomach contents back up and then travel back up the esophagus. In some cases, it can be a serious issue.
Trying a slow flow bottle, or even the slowest flow you can find may help with this issue in some babies. A different bottle, specifically made to reduce air bubbles, can also help.
There are also specific formulas made to reduce or ease reflux in babies that may be beneficial to try.
However, if your little one is spitting up more milk than they are ingesting, seek the help of a pediatrician.
Babies must get as many calories as possible in this crucial developmental phase of life, and you don’t want to risk a baby’s health when they start refusing a bottle due to discomfort.
9. The baby doesn’t like the taste
Just like you may prefer one type of coffee over another, a baby may prefer the taste of one formula over another.
Bottle feeding means choosing the formula brand for your child, and sudden bottle refusal may be your baby’s way of telling you that they think the formula you picked is subpar or, well, gross.
If the baby is refusing a bottle after you change brands or formulas, take a deep breath, and get ready for a taste-testing extravaganza.
Your pediatrician may be able to give you some samples of various formulas, all of the different tastes, to find out for yourself without breaking the bank what your child would prefer.
10. Nipple flow issues
Nipple flow is a common reason for bottle refusal in babies. While a baby wants to drink milk, they don’t want to work so hard they’re exhausted to get it, and they also don’t want to get waterboarded by milk.
Most nipples come in a slow, medium, and fast flow variety. Trying a different flow for your little one is easy and usually inexpensive.
Trying a different nipple flow means you have to figure out if the nipple flow that you have is too fast or too slow. To do that, watch the baby’s mouth and face when they attempt to feed from the bottle you give them.
If the flow is too slow, you’ll see the baby almost straining to get any milk out of the bottle. The bottle nipple will have milk in it, but you aren’t hearing or seeing your baby gulping.
This is because your little one isn’t actually drinking milk. It may look like it, but the flow is so slow that they aren’t successfully getting anything out of the bottle.
A faster flow nipple will make a mess if it’s too much for the baby to handle, leading to the baby suddenly refusing the milk, warm or not.
If the milk flow is too fast, the baby’s cheeks may appear immediately full, they may look panicked, and you will notice almost constant swallowing to keep up with the flow of the bottle nipples you have on the bottle.
You may also notice that when your baby suddenly refuses the bottle, milk flow doesn’t immediately stop, and you may see it squirt out all over the baby’s face, clothes, and everywhere.
Choosing the correct milk flow
Finding the right nipple for your baby’s bottle depends on watching how the baby reacts to the ones they don’t like and deciding if you need to go up or down in the flow.
Then find the same brand nipples that match the bottles a step above or below the stage the current nipples are at. This can go a long way in fixing the problem of bottle refusal.
How to wean baby off formula
Babies should be eating solid foods and be done with formula feeding at twelve months.
To wean your baby can take a bit of finesse and sometimes a bit of a struggle with your little one.
You can start to offer baby regular cow’s milk at this point, and simply offering this instead of formula will sometimes do the trick with no further objection from your little one. Whole milk is thick and has a sweet taste that many babies like.
You can also encourage your baby to start drinking from a straw cup or toddler cup around ten months of age.
This will make your weaning experience much more tolerable because you can put a different liquid in the cup, such as milk or water.
The formula is usually unnecessary for babies after twelve months unless your doctor has instructed otherwise.
However, if weaning is an issue and your baby is refusing to give up the bottle, there is toddler formula you can purchase so that your little one doesn’t have to give it up quite yet.
You can use this in conjunction with cow’s milk, and although this weaning process is more costly and takes more time, it is an option for those hard-to-wean babies.
Bottle feeding and your baby
Bottle feeding can be an excellent experience for you and your baby. You can bond, take it with you on the go, mix it up quickly when you’re in a hurry, and you don’t have to have a breast pump or any other fancy equipment.
Everything is excellent until the baby starts turning away from the bottle.
At this point, keep your cool, be patient with your baby, and put on your detective hat. As moms, we wear many hats throughout the day, and this detective hat is one you will wear many times before your children are grown.
Figuring out the reason your little one is refusing to eat from a bottle is most of the battle.
Whether it’s the formula choice, the temperature, the nipple, distractions, a tooth, an illness, or reflux, you can get through this stressful time with minimal cost and frustration if you stay patient and determined.
When you’re almost at your wit’s end, remember that you’ll only be bottle feeding for about a year, and then this period of your little one’s life will be over, and like most moms, you’ll probably miss it.
Now’s the time to make the most of it, frustrations and all.