ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Family and Parenting»
  • Babies & Baby Care

What to Do When Your Baby Refuses to Take a Bottle and You Have to Go to Work

Updated on July 24, 2016

My Baby the Breastfeeding Purist

I was one of the lucky ones who had an easy time with breastfeeding. I was home for the first five months, and I learned to nurse lying down at night, so I didn't really have a strong incentive right away to make sure my son would be able to take a bottle when I eventually returned to work. We even tried a bottle after the first couple weeks, and he downed it like a champ. We patted ourselves on the back, and didn't try the bottle again for a couple weeks. Completely different story - to say he refused it sounds even more polite than what actually happened. He basically screamed at us like we were trying to poison him. And this is a kid who loved to eat all the time. But the bottle simply wouldn't do. And this kept happening every time we would try it for the next few months, as we got more and more worried about what we would do when I returned to work.

Needless to say, I spent a ton of time on the internet looking for suggestions from other parents of hard-core bottle refusers. It taught me a couple of things:

  • One was to be grateful for how easy breastfeeding was for us - most of the articles and threads I came across online were about how to deal with a baby who refuses to breastfeed. I think it's important to always be grateful for the things that aren't problems - it's easy to forget those because the problems always rise to the forefront of your mind.
  • The other thing it taught me is that while there is a lot of advice about how to get your baby to take a bottle - ranging from gentle approaches to fairly draconian - there was not a lot of discussion of how to work around it if your baby refuses the bottle and none of the approaches you try (and are willing to try) will change that.

With this hub, I wanted to provide some thoughts for people who ended up in the same camp as us - the babies who just won't take a bottle despite you taking all the efforts you are willing to take to get them to do so.

The First Step: Trying to Get Your Baby to Take a Bottle

I won't spend a lot of time on this because my focus is what to do when you just can't get them to take a bottle. But I did want to provide the links below to some very good advice about different approaches to try. I think these three cover a lot of ground and will give many good ideas of what to try. As you will see, there are so many approaches, and you have to pick what makes sense for you and your family.

Just to relate our experience, we tried all of the following:

  • Me leaving the house and my husband trying to give him a bottle - he tried holding him in the same way I would hold him to breastfeed, and also holding him sitting up, walking around the house, and in various different ways that were not similar to breastfeeding
  • We tried every different type of bottle (I still have a bag of bottles that looks like a sample sale) and every level of nipple. There were two that we had a tiny bit of success with - one was the Adiri Natural Nurser, and one was the Breastflow bottle. These worked with him between 4-6 or 7 months of age. Then he started being able to drink out of a sippy cup, and he liked the Playtex ones the best.
  • We tried having me give him the bottle - both in a position similar to breastfeeding and in non-similar positions.
  • We tried having other caregivers (grandma, grandpa) give him a bottle - both in a position similar to breastfeeding and not.

Despite our efforts, he never drank more than an ounce or two out of a bottle. So now we move on to ideas on how to deal with this situation when you have to return to work, as I did around 5 months.

A technique for bottle feeding with breastfed babies - worth a try!

I was so desperate at one point I considered just having my baby come to work with me!
I was so desperate at one point I considered just having my baby come to work with me!

No Idea is a Bad Idea: Ways to Deal When Your Baby Just Won't Take a Bottle

I will relate our experience, because I think it's only fair to explain where I'm coming from - and honestly, when I was searching the internet for ideas I desperately wanted to hear what others had actually done, even if those things weren't going to be an option for me. I will also pull out ideas based my own experience - I absolutely realize that these won't be options for everyone, but I just wanted to throw out as many ideas as possible.

I was coming back to work part-time, so that itself made the situation more workable. I started back at 2 half days and 2 full days. This is my first obvious idea:

  • #1 - Consider coming back to work part time - many of these will obviously not be an option for everyone, but it's worth considering, and it could just be for the first few months back.

On my half days, he basically just wouldn't eat while I was gone - maybe an ounce or two at most. I would feed him right before I left and right when I got home. I was pretty surprised at how ok he was with this arrangement. One think that I think made this work was nursing at night, and this are my next two ideas to share:

  • #2 - Consider nursing multiple times during the night (to make up for missed day time feedings) - He would wake up every 2-3 hours, and I would lay down next to him and nurse him back to sleep. I think he did a bit of what has been termed "reverse cycling" - basically where the baby eats more at night than in the day - and that kept his growth right on track. Obviously, this is very personal and only works if it works for your family and everyone gets enough sleep. Luckily, for us, it worked fine.
  • #3 - See if you can work shorter days - obviously this won't be an option for everyone, but it's worth considering, even just for the first few months back.

On my full days, I was able to use my lunch break to feed him - one day he was with a family member who was able to meet me at a friendly cafe close to my work, and one day he was with another family member who was close by that I could go to their house and feed him. This leads me to my fourth idea:

  • #4 - Try to locate child care close to work so you can breastfeed on breaks - obviously for some people this just simply won't be an option, but it's worth considering if you can pull it off, even for a short period of time.

Also keep in mind that it is a limited amount of time that your baby will be so dependent on your breast milk. If they really hate bottles, they may be willing to drink out of a sippy cup, which they can do as early as 6 months - this helped my son get a few more ounces in while I was at work. And at 4-6 months you can start solid foods, which is another possible option for getting them some calories while you're at work - this didn't work as well for us, and . These are my final two ideas based on our experience:

  • #5 - Try a sippy cup early and often - some kids take them very young (6 months or so) and for whatever reason, they may be more open to this than a bottle. You can also try giving them breast milk in a small cup (we tried a shot glass!) or on a spoon, or mixed with baby food.
  • #6 - Try baby food early and often - they say you can start offering food to your baby as early as four months. A lot of the early baby foods (veggie or fruit purees, rice cereal) have hardly any calories, but it's still worth trying, and there are some foods (like avocado) that can offer some calories to keep them feeling full. You can also mix breast milk with any of the baby food.


Final Thoughts: Keep It All in Perspective

I think one of the greatest parenting mantras is "this too shall pass." It is hard to believe - or at least it was for me - early on in my son's life. I felt like everything was a permanent problem that had to be fixed immediately or it would plague us for life. As so many apparent 'problems' kept resolving themselves on their own as my son naturally developed, I started understanding the truth of this mantra.

If you approach the feeding of your baby with love, patience, and as much creativity and flexibility as you have, it will work out. In a certain way, you have to take this on faith, and I wish I could have done that more successfully. But it is true, and every challenge like this is an opportunity to work with your baby to figure out how to meet all of your needs as best as possible.

Did your breast-fed baby take a bottle?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Thank you for the comment! I know, it seems you never know which struggles you're going to have as a parent... I'm glad you didn't have to have this one!

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 6 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Good advice. My son was so early at weaning that we didn't go through this struggle but I know others who have.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: ""

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)