When baby won’t take a bottle

You know how some breastfed babies refuse the bottle?

Well in Blythe vs. the bottle, Blythe won.

We could never get her to take more than an ounce from one. (Except for her first try at four weeks, when she fooled us by slamming four ounces. They we got lazy and waited two weeks before trying again and BOOM. She was done.)

We tried nearly a dozen brands. We tried every trick we could find. I interrogated everyone I knew who had faced this issue and talked with the pro infant teachers at Bee’s daycare who have collectively fed hundreds of babies. It just never worked. It didn’t work at home, and it didn’t work at the nanny’s. When I went back to work Blythe would wait peacefully until I came to feed her over my lunch hour, and then she’d wait all afternoon until I picked her up. Then we’d get home and she’d feed all evening and a couple of times at night.

It left us all frustrated. Me, for never getting a break, and making it nearly impossible to work late or meet friends. Adam, for having to try over and over and have it suck and not work. For both of us in not getting a date night.

Fortunately, we had an amazing nanny. (And by nanny, I mean a former La Leche League member mother of four). She was so patient and supportive. After a few weeks of trying (and failing) and finally seeing Blythe burst into tears at the sight of the bottle, she got creative.

You know how you read in books that you don’t even have to use bottles, that babies can be cup and spoon fed? Turns out that’s true. The nanny tried a medicine spoon with Blythe, and Bly giggled and cooed and ate moderately successfully (if messily). The nanny also tried a syringe, which worked, too. In about seven minutes she could get an ounce in Blythe. We also played around with a few kinds of sippy cups.

At Blythe’s four-month appointment, where the doctor confirmed that she was growing just great despite the lack of daytime feedings (thanks to all of those interrupted nights), the doctor recommended pushing the sippy cup. His advice: remove the governor that keeps the cup from spilling and fill it with water. Let baby play until she gets it, then put the governor in and add milk.

So the nanny redoubled her efforts and after a couple of weeks, success! We tried a couple sippy cups we had lying around and settled on this Born Free training cup, which worked because it doesn’t require her to latch on and suck. She can bite it or gum it.
baby drinking breastmilk from sippy cup

Adam helping Blythe drink from a sippy cup, at 5 months.

I would have never have guessed that a four-month old could grasp a sippy cup and with some help guide it to her mouth so effectively, and learn how to sip and swallow. The first week or so using the sippy cup she’d take 1-2 oz each morning and afternoon. By the third week she still ate a bit here or there but got in 7-8 oz for the day. A week after that — at five months old — she was taking 8-12 oz a day and taking more at a time (like 4 oz)! Suddenly our evenings were much more relaxed and our nights less intense.

Although I’m not sad not to have bottles around, the sippy cup is not really a better deal. It’s challenging for caregivers because it isn’t as easy as the bottle. The Born Free cup drips if turned upside down, so you have to monitor Blythe closely. She wastes some milk when she accidentally gets too big of mouthful and spits it out. The sippy cups don’t fit in our travel cooler, and we have to buy 3-4 of them for daycare since each cup needs to be prepped by itself. (Bringing our running total from bottle and cup experimentation to over $100.)

But if you find yourself with a particularly stubborn baby, it works!

Blythe starts childcare next week and we’re curious to see how it’ll go. Will her teachers be cool with the cup, or train her on something else? (I’d love it if they actually cup trained her, not just sippy cup, but not sure how that would work with their “treat breastmilk like a bodily fluid” policy of not opening/transferring milk.) I’ll let you know! Until then we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a happy baby and rested mama.

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  1. All of those little successes along the way were such cause for celebration! I am so glad that she is eating so much with her cup now. She is going to love her new daycare and all of the busyness. With all of her energy and curiosity it’s going to be great! I hope that the daycare is cool with the cup feedings!

    • We’re a week and a half into daycare, and the first week she had several days where she only drink 2 oz. But she seems to be getting comfortable with her new teachers this week and is doing better (and they started mixing the milk into her food too, since she loves her solids.) I think she is going to make it! She still is such a dear. She’s army crawling with some minor real crawling, and just started pulling herself up. We were so surprise the first time that we just watched her and crash! she lost her balance and bonked her head. 🙂