Mums Share Tips for Starting Bottles

We asked a group of mothers on our Facebook Page for their tips on getting their child started on a bottle.

Some babies can be a bit fussy, clever, and stubborn which makes this whole process very stressful for parents.   If the situation does get stressful and baby is crying and mum distressed, just stop and try another day.

The top tips that we gathered from this discussion were:

  • Offer a bottle in the morning, when baby is hungriest
  • Get someone else to hold the child and feed them (make mum leave the house for a while)
  • Warm the teat
  • Depending on age, perhaps just go straight to a sippy cup
  • Persistance
  • Offer a bottle with small volume of cooled-boiled water, or milk, at a non-meal time.  Like during a play time during the day so that baby can explore it a little, and when things are less stressful.
  • You are not alone!

In terms of teats, we very highly recommend the “Chu Chu” which has a cross-cut whole so that baby has to suck and work the same way as breastfeeding to get the milk out of the bottle.  There’s a little demo on the product page too

~~ Read other mother’s comments below ~~

Very interested to hear peoples advice I have the same problem trying to let my hubby give my son expressed breast milk. He is two months old and just sits with the teat in his mouth giving us the evil eye

I changed my too over first thing in the morning, found it was when they wake up really hungry and never looked back, too gutsy to notice and hungry hungry!!!

We have been desperately trying to get our nearly 4mth old taking a bottle since 7wks….to no avail. It seems that it’s not that he doesn’t want it, just can’t quite get the hang of it. I read on the internet, breast & bottle require quite different sucking techniques… Would love some suggestions! I am in need of a break, he is still feeding like a NB, 3-4hrly, 24hrs a day!!!

I have a friend with a similar problem (she’s 6 months pregnant and feeding a 9 month old baby and getting very tired!)

I found with Olivia that if someone else fed her she was more likely to take it from them than me. I also used nipple sheilds for a while which i think helped the transition.

for a 7 month old, i would go straight to a sippy cup, especially if they’re getting frustrated with a bottle. i think it would also help for later on, having a baby who is not reliant on a bottle.. if that makes sense?

It helps if someone else give the bottle, like grandma. Just try everyday. Also get out of baby’s sight.

we had the same problem for a while. At 6 months, we introduced formula as breastfeeding just got too much for me, she took the first one straight away, then refused each time after that from both myself and my partner. we just persisted and even though it sounds harsh, we waited until she was very hungry and after 3 days she happily drank form the bottle.

Im in the same boat, My son who is now 2, never took a bottle, and my now 4 month old daughter has taken it a couple of times and now gets quite upset when trying her with it!! I love breastfeeding to bits, but sometimes a break is nice, would love to hear what tips people have!! 🙂

Tip is to not let them know mum is there. Have dad (or whomever) get them out if bed after a nap and try the feed without mum letting bub know she’s still in the house. Good luck!!!

I had this same problem with my baby, she just wouldn’t take any artificial teats – dummy or bottle. I did a lot of research about it and Franny’s (Breastmates) tips hit the nail on the head – not trying when baby is hungry is the key because otherwise they just get frustrated and end up more upset. Also, I got my husband to do the bottle feeding, that way my baby couldn’t smell me or my milk, otherwise she’d just look at me like “what’s with, I know your boob is just under that shirt!” and she wouldn’t even try, just cry for the boob. Also I found different teats made a difference, don’t know why but she preferred some to others. After some persistence my baby now takes a bottle from pretty much anyone, which means I can have some time off!!

We have successfully managed to get my DS (8months) to take formula in a bottle this week!! He would take Expressed Breast Milk, but not formula. Have been working on his drinking technique (water) in a bottle. And then on monday, he went to my mum’s as usual, but i didn’t go round for his midday sleep. He drank 200mls of formula from the cup!! Followed by solids. The plan of action was to just give solids if he wouldn’t take the milk. Then today he took a bottle! 250mls of formula woohoo! We were just going to persist until he would take it. Because he is 8months it wasn’t too much of a problem if this meal just became solids with no milk, but so glad it has worked out 🙂 I very much doubt he will do the same if i am in the room/house but we are going to try tomorrow… so fingers crossed!

Warming the teat can help. I figured that one out years ago when babysitting as a young teen :0)

When I left some EBM with my Mum when my DS2 was weanie it was in a glass bottle and he wouldn’t take it. My Mum transferred the milk to a plastic Medella bottle and she was able to squeeze it to help get milk thru the teat which helped him to take some milk. He didn’t have much but enough to keep him happy till I got back home.

ooh – good tip about trying first thing in the morning – my 5 month old took one fine until I needed her to, then flat out refused – had a little bit of success with a different teat (as recommended by you Franny This was the Chu Chu teat), and trying cooled boiled water at a non-stressful time, but nowhere near enough to consider it a feed. she will drink from a sippy cup (but again only about 20ml and it takes ages). she also has also refused two kinds of dummy – and would quite happily drink 3-4hrly all day and night if I let her…

i can offer some help! with my first it took a friend taking him away for a few hours to get him going and once that happened that was it, with my second there were reflux/ lack of breastmilk issues so unfortunitly he had got that hungry that he took it! I found they also fed better when I was either completely out of the house or at the other end of the house as they can apparently smell your breastmilk almost a mile away.

i think getting someone else to feed the baby, the bottle when introducing it, will help, you may even have to be in another room, or even away altogether for the feed, also putting the teat in on an upwards angle like your nipple would enter helps get them sucking to realize this is yummy milk.

try to stay relaxed and calm if they fidget, maybe even need to place on ground if they wont take it, then pick them up and offer again, as this usually gets their attention on the right task, than having them wonder in thought about why this things being stuck in their mouth. could also be the teat, your using. a straight sticking out basic teat actually works best, as opposed to the closer to nature teats that “mimic” mums breast.

I always made sure I was out of the room and my partner would dab the teat on my babies tongue so she could get a taste of my milk. Took a few goes to work properly and still works better now if she is not too tired.

I had a fight on my hands when I had to end up putting my 8 week old on the bottle, there was no way she would take it & would scream & I would end up putting her back on the breast knowing it wasnt filling her, I just persisted & in the end I won but I didnt realise she was actually smelling my milk & thats why I had a fight so try & get someone like daddy to do the bottlefeeding

My mum recommended that I give a tiny bit of boiled water (or expressed milk) right from newborn age just to get him used to a bottle from the start. I know this contradicts professional advice but it worked for us. We never had issues with trying to get him onto a bottle.

my son has been formula fed since 2 weeks old and he also played with the teet too. Get someone else to feed them as at 7 months they know what they perfer, also if you are wanting to completly ween onto a bottle might be hard at first but maybe going cold turkey and getting someone to be feed baby for an entire day and hope they will take it. also if baby is exclusivly breast fed make sure the formula or what you put into the bottle is warm as they might perfer it at that temp and might not like it cold. Also some babies get constipated from formula so stick to one type first when trying it otherwise if you try too many types you cant figure out which one cause it… hope that helps

Oh I can so relate, my daughter (#6) was still feeding 2 hourly all day and night at 7 months, all the plunket nurse could suggest was to starve her to get her onto a bottle which I didn’t want to do. In the end, with total exhaustion I found something that worked.

I just put my one year old onto one formula feed and she wouldn’t take it when she was held but strangely she was interested when she was standing up …

A friend had a four month old who wouldn’t take a bottle of expressed milk. Because she was going back to work they had to take action and decided to wait it out with him and not offer the breast. Only took a few hours I believe and he was taking it no worries.

I tried every make of bottle you can buy! Its just a case of keep trying. Its hard work but can be done.

I worked hard for 3 months BFing/FFing/pumping to get my son off the bottle onto fully breastfeeding (born early/small). He still currently feeds 8 – 9 times over 24 hours. Now he is 7 months old, I was wanting to give him the occassional bottle of EBM but no way is he wanting to take that bottle. He just holds the teat in his mouth and hits me and. the bottle away (also does this when my hubby tried too). I thought that as he has had a bottle for almost half his life, it would be easy switching from one to the other…… yeah right.

I’m wanting to pick up the odd casual night work to help the family budget while I’m on maternity leave so I’ll be watching for some tips.

I cant really help as my youngest WOULD NOT take a bottle…but I just wanted to say that even though it is a HUGE deal at the time… a few months on, its nothing. I needed to put him in care a day a week at 10months and he just would not drink from a bottle…..but he would drink water (not milk) from a sippy cup. I just gave up and let him have water on those days and breastfed him the rest. Now he is completely weaned he drinks water mostly but has just started liking milk….but still not interested in a bottle.

So hang in there…in a few months time you will have forgotten all about it as you move on to other “battles”…..tantrums!

I can only offer a comment that will help ‘next time’. We started our daughter on expressed BM before she was 2 weeks old and got someone else (Grandmother) to do it. You need to keep at it though – we try and give her a bottle a week – even if I am around for each feed – she needs the practice! This has give me some freedom to return to other parts of my life that I enjoy – book club, gym etc – and allows her Dad some special ‘alone’ time; or allows her Dad and I some special adult time which is nice too.

This approach probably isn’t for everyone, but when I was returning to work part time and my sister was looking after my daughter and I needed her to take a bottle – the only way I got her to take it was to refuse her the breast. She missed 2-3 feeds due to stubborness (I think she was 8 months old roughly so was still having solids) and she … See Moreeventually took the bottle and then happily switched between bottle and boob once she realised it was the same end result! My milk! Getting someone other than you (mum) to give the bottle is definitely recommended as my milk used to pour out when she cried and leak everywhere which she could smell! All a bit mean really! Good luck!

My son, Silas, is 14months and never did drink out of bottle/cup unless it is water. He never touched formula and wouldn’t drink milk till now! The only thing he has is water. I still breastfeed him and I cut it down to just once a day. It frustrates me as well. I am pregnant with second baby and I am thinking about bottle feed at least once a day cos the prob I have with Silas.

I’m afraid I can’t help with suggestions – my 1 year old took bottles of expressed milk initially but then when we got into the swing of things I kinda forgot to keep up with odd bottle and when I needed her to take one she point blank refused. … See MoreShe’s never taken a bottle so we moved to a sippy cup and it took literally months of persevering for her take 20 – 30 mls of water from it. So we’re resorted to packing her food with lots of milk and water now.

I have to be honest and say that it did make me panic a bit that she wouldnt take milk from a bottle or cup. It made me feel like I’d never be able to take a break but actually, once we were on solids it wasnt such a huge deal. However I wont be making the same mistake should we have another one – I’ll be introducing a bottle and keeping it up so that I have the choice!

Ive done both types of feeding & breastfeeding can be exhausting & if someone offers to help & give a bottle while you have a break ie miss a feed or two then by all means do it! Happy Mum = Happy Baby!

When we introduced formula to our baby we also gave him some cooled boiled water along side incase he got constipated, maybe try giving cooled boiled water in a bottle if they drink it they might also drink the EBM or formula form it too but its a start in getting them used to the teet

Sometimes I would hold my girl really close so she could still smell me and think it was me and warming the teat helped a little but she didn’t really go on the bottle till about 5 -6 months she was still having a feed off the breast then I just swapped a feed off the breast for the bottle and feed her on demand on the boob at night until she started sleeping though the night which wasn’t till she was 7 1/2 months old hope that makes sence lol

I always tried my son first thing in the morning on the bottle when i was swapping him to bottle and he seemed take it easily, think it was the fact he was hungy :), the dash of marmite is a fancy idea, my daughter has had marmite/vegemite on toast forever, its her fav!!! so there must be something they love about it 😛

I had huge challenges getting my then 5 month old to take a bottle. I’d gone back to work fulltime and was expressing. She refused a bottle, so I would traipse to her day care 3* a day to keep her fed. Thank goodness for a very understanding boss!!! However, one thing we discovered by accident – my little treasure would only take EBM if it was fresh – not refridgerated or frozen / thawed. Once we got her taking a bottle of fresh milk, she became more accepting of reheated milk – then formula.

If I have anymore I will be giving the oddbottle of EBM so little one is used to the bottle for when I have to go back to work. Justbecause peoplewant yo use bottles doesn’t mean they are giving formula. My youngest had bibs saying only mummys milk for me! I wanted people to know she was having bm in her bottles lol.

I would definitely recommend trying first thing in the morning when bubs is really hungry (like several people have already suggested). I have to admit though, that I haven’t been in your situation, because I pretty much had the opposite problem. I tried repeatedly to get my son back on the breast (after he had to be on a bottle due to misadventure… See More from an operation) and he just never would. No one was able to give me any help, so I wish you so much more success than I ever had. 8 months later I’m still expressing and it has occurred to me that I should try first thing in the morning when he’s really hungry and I might have a chance. I haven’t tried it yet, just because we’re not 100% sure he can protect his airway, also because part of me thinks it’s just too late and there’s no way he’d go back to it now (and he has lots of teeth and a tendency to bite when anything is inserted in his mouth! Call me coward).

I am the same! Child #2 won’t take a bottle of EBM! I had terrible problems with first at 5mths when I needed to go back to work so said with the second would use a bottle to keep her use to it! We did that took bottle fine but about four weeks ago she just started refusing! I hate it & and am in denial and have given up! I don’t “need” her on a … See Morebottle at momemnt and hence why I haven’t pushed it! I know I making it harder for myself! I have so many events coming up that i would lille to “let my hair down” but I just think that’s selfish and why put bub thru the pain of screaming for my selfish needs! I took longer off this time so I could breast feed longer si I’m hoping that I can just put her on a sippie cup of formula in preparation for me returning to work around 6-7mths! I know my 1st wouldnt take milk in zippy cup! With her We use to get bubby sucking on a dummy (which Introduced dummy for this very reason) and then quickly take out and replace with bottle! I left and went to my brothers two nights a week so I couldn’t see what was going on plus my husband and I wouldn’t fight! I just use to cry and cry atvher distress and just snatch her and put her on breast (didn’t help situation)! We tried millons if bottles and teats and she was addicted to rimmed tippe! We also had to do a breakdown of EBM and formula 90/10 80/20 etc etc! Ianaged to do breast/bottle with formula from 5mths on till 10mths when I fell preg again! 20mths later and she just stopped having her last bottle so we now just have to go through it all again by the looks of things with #2! I do think temp of milk plays a huge part! I think the times I’ve had trouble with #2 is with thawed and heated EBM! Room temp or just expressed she has taken fine! When I feel like it I’m gunna try again with that! Fingers crossed! Otherwise I’m giving up till six months and hope formula and sippie cup work! Or she just miraculousy takes bottle with no dramas! (blissful thinking I know)

I introduced a bottle of EBM at around 3-4 weeks (once BF was going okay). We gave him EBM at least every 2-3days just to keep him familiar. Worked a treat, there were no adverse effects with breastfeeding. Not much help to anyone with a thirsty 7month-old tho… 🙂

My son was never keen on a bottle, but did drink ok from a straw cup round 8months. with my 7week old dd Ive got some chu chu teats to try – but i need to wait a bit as expressing stuffs up my milk supply & I tend to over produce which makes her fuss. I did have 50ml of EBM in the freezer which ds was meant to thaw & prepare for a top up last … See Morenite. But he zapped it & it go over hot so by the time it was cool enough she was asleep. Grrrrr men!!! Why wont they follow instructions haha

I don’t think there is anything wrong with bubs taking a bottle. Of EBM ideally, but IMO formula is ok if its what the parents want to do. A mothers well being is as important as the babies!! Something mums struggle to remember sometimes.

Visit the Plunket Family Centre – they are pros at introducing bottles and many other things 🙂

i never just soley breast fed either of my 2 as i was always worried they wouldnt take the bottle after being used to one thing for so long so expressed from birth and did both, it seemed to work perfectly, or maybe i just got lucky??

I have a tip for introducing a bottle, if the child uses a dummy then let them suck it for a bit then sneak it out of the child’s mouth & put the bottle in the mouth. It may take several goes at doing it but it does work. I used this trick with all 3 of my kids!!! You may have some very upset times, but just stick with it

DS went on a nursing strike at 8months – so put a touch of marmite on my nipple. Worked a treat!! Maybe try same thing with a bottle??

I was lucky (though lucky is in the eye of the beholder as breastfeeding didnt work) as my son has always taken the bottle – I think it was more out of necessity as he was practically starving 🙁 But he has never been a ‘big’ feeder so sometimes I have had to ‘fight’ to get the bottle into him. I find it helps to stay as relaxed as possible, sing a song (good for distraction) and rock them back and forth, while putting the bottle into their mouth. But if they fight too much just give up and try again tomorrow – as it will just make it harder in the long run. My son has always taken any teat on offer, but I know the baby whisperer says an old fashion teat is best as it sticks straight iinto the back of babies mouth so they can’t play with it. Another thing is, like breastfeeding, position can make a difference. If the usual cradle hold isnt working, maybe try lying them on a pillow propped up on your knees – or lying on the bed propped up on a pillow. Anything that works!!… See More

A sipper cup is a really good idea – you could try one that doesnt have a valve on it, so they dont have to suck so hard – oh and just give it to bubs to hold to see if they do it themselves. Even when they are in their high chair having solids.

I gave up on bottles when my baby was 8 months old, and i discovered that she could drink from a sippy cup all by herself! We did have a sippy cup without a valve… and to this day she wont drink from one with a valve… she’s 15 months! I really don’t know of any new tricks tho

My son is 11 months and breastfed, he would not take a bottle at all and would only drink out of a sippy cup since about 4 months. I recently started reducing his breast feeds and tried a bottle at night last week thinking that he wouldn’t want it….but he skulled the whole bottle down, and has every night since!!! I think it was just the right time for him.

it took us 2 months of offering it everyday. In the end I think she figured out what to do after watching her cousins (and me) showing her ie tongue out and down, bottle on top and suck. Felt pretty silly doing it for her – but it worked!

Thanks ladies. I have a 10 week old girl who is breastfed and have been thinking about introducing a bottle of EBM. As a first time mum, had no idea I might have to train my little one.

We’ve been trying to get our 7 wk old to take a bottle of EBM so his dad can take the occasional night feed (I didn’t realise having a newborn AND a toddler would be quite so exhausting!) but after taking a bottle once and a dummy once he now purses up his mouth and absolutely refuses either. He held out for 45 minutes at one of his 3am feeds – daddy gave in first and came got me lol will try a different bottle and see if that helps… Thanks!!

We had trouble getting our son to take a bottle before I went back to work and went to Waikato Family Centre Trust . They have a huge range of teats to try and loads of experience and you can spend the day there with other mums who are facing a variety of challenges that babies present. If you live near Hamilton I highly recommend it. If not, maybe Plunket could tell you if you have something similar in your area.

Thats a really good idea Robyn, there are lots of family centres around and they are really helpful – and free! Some also have lactation consultants – who could prob actually give some really good advice about the bottle too. Plunket were my first instance of having someone say “hey, a bit of formula is ok” I really appreciated that.

I introduced EBM when Benji was about 8 weeks – to help with a bit of freedom to get hair done etc – Hubby loved feeding the bottle – then after a stressful trip to Denmark he weaned at 7months – think my milk was not great – but we had dropped the EBM feeding so we then had a huge battle trying formula! But we kept on trying – then he LOVED his … See Morebottles (still does -at 2years argh!!! But milk at night) – and we had to go that way – my Mum is a midwife and lactation consultant – she agreed with how we managed Benji – and breast and bottle works well – I regret he weaned so young – but he got over 6 months of BF – because I missed the feeding – so special; but I have 2 dear friends who only bottle fed – due to health reasons – and they are gorgeous healthy and great kids! Good luck Mums!

you need to keep the option of bottle going with BF on a regular basis – eg we stopped the regular EBM so then we had trouble trying to introduce a bottle later – great tips everyone!

I’m going to go back to pumping and try all these great tips. I would like to work a casual night shift once a fortnight to ease the family budget while on maternity leave. Also I could then start to do things with my daughter (almost 9) while hubby looks after the baby.

A little update from me – tried Lucy on a bottle again this morning, actually tried first thing in the morning when she was at her hungriest, sat in a different chair to where I normally breastfeed her (tip from Plunketline), held her in a different position (facing me propped on knee rather than cradle hold) and heated the milk a bit more than we’… See Moreve tried before, and …. she took nearly 200ml!!! Actually sucked on the bottle & did it properly rather than biting & playing. Couldn’t believe it and am very, very pleased with my girl 🙂 Will keep trying and maybe we’re on to it now!

A tip I was given when transitioning from breast to bottle was to ensure you held bubs more upright for a bottle feed than when breastfeeding. Something to do with the different feeding technique needed for breast and bottle. When bottle feeding, if bubs isnt upright enough milk can end up going into the sinus… See More passage and bubs ends up with ear infections due to blocked passages. I dont know if that’s made a difference, but we’ve only had 1 ear infection and that was after a horrible head cold that lasted 2 weeks. Not sure on the validity of this – funnily enough, it’s hard to find good information on bottle feeding… Can anyone confirm this?

Yes, heard about the ear thing too – another reason why they say don’t baby down flat when having a bottle – our boy had ear problems until we had grommets put in – so try and avoid anything that may bring on ear issues – UP ALL NIGHT type of experiences – not much fun!

Some babies liek mine wont take breast milk unless from source – proud to say that weaned at 2 1/2 this week and has never had breast milk other than from me – saved lots on bottles over this time too, but would have been nice to have a break……

It’s the eustacian tubes that drain fluid from the middle ear into the throat that can let milk into the middle ear sometimes, which can lead to ear infections. Being a bit more upright seems to help prevent this…

I started my little chicken on a cup with a straw after reading the suggestion on the kellymom site – my 5mo was due to start daycare and wouldn’t take any kind of bottle. She took it from the straw like a champ and got us through til she weaned 🙂