When Babies and Bottles Don’t Mix


I spent a lot of time during my first pregnancy researching bottles. I planned to breastfeed but knew since I’d be returning to work that I’d need to introduce a bottle to my baby so he could be fed while I was away. Following the lactation consultant and pediatrician’s advice, we waited three weeks before introducing a bottle to my son.

It went great! He was a little hesitant at first but drank all the milk and was soon happily snoring away. I was so excited that he took the bottle but even happier that he nursed perfectly at the next feed. I was absolutely terrified of nipple confusion. My husband and grandparents would give my son a bottle every few days of expressed milk. As my maternity leave drew to a close we stopped offering the bottle so that way I could build a bigger freezer stash in case pumping around work didn’t yield enough milk.

Worst. Mistake. Ever.

 My very first day back from maternity leave my son was left with my husband. It was awful. He didn’t eat except maybe a few sips here and there. He was all of a sudden angry that he now had to drink from the bottle instead of me. Fellow moms assured me that this sometimes happened and not to worry. Except I did. A lot. “Babies won’t let themselves starve,” I was told.

When my son went to the sitter’s later on that week he managed to take a meager 4-5 ounces throughout the entire 9 hour day. I was feeling encouraged. Within a few weeks, the sitter was lucky to get 2-3 ounces a day in him. By this time we had tried three different bottles to no avail. Luckily baby boy kept growing thanks to his frequent late-night wake-up calls. I didn’t have the heart to sleep train him since I knew he wasn’t eating throughout the day. 

Finally, after finishing out the school year I was home with my boy who was now 5 months old. I was DETERMINED to find a bottle. I went to Babies R’ Us (RIP) and stocked up. This kid had more bottles as a breastfeed baby than anyone else I knew. Guess what? He hated them all. The pediatrician suggested trying a sippy cup since he was a little older. SAME RESULT. This kid was dead set on not drinking from anything except my boob. Eventually, when he was 10 months old we found a Nuby straw cup that he liked. At 13 months he started successfully using the Munchkin 360 cup. We seamlessly weaned at 19 months. 

New Baby, Same problems

Fast forward a year and we welcome our sweet baby girl. This time my husband introduced the bottle to her at six days. She took to it so naturally. She would get bottles every few days and did great. We tried a few types since she liked to just let the milk drip out of her mouth, but at least she wasn’t offended by the artificial nipple. Eventually, she started to take 8-9 ounces when she went to the sitters.

Within a few weeks, it dropped down to about 6 ounces a day, but hey, at least she was drinking something! My excitement was short-lived. During Thanksgiving break, she started refusing the bottle even at a regular feeding time. I felt confident that once school resumed again she’d get back to it. But she wanted to be like her big brother. By the time COVID shut down schools she was maybe getting ½ an ounce a day. I started sending frozen milk to the sitter’s house. It would be mixed in with oatmeal so she was at least getting some of my breastmilk. 

How COVID Helped Me

In a way, the COVID shutdown has been a blessing since I know my daughter is getting enough milk. We’ve started introducing sippy cups but right now she’s more interested in banging them together and then throwing them on the floor. I’m still using up the frozen milk with oatmeal and other purees so it doesn’t go to waste. 

The benefit of having been through this is that I know it’ll eventually work out. We will find something that she will drink water and eventually whole milk out of. It’s still stressful but it doesn’t consume my every thought as it did with my son. Babies may be little but they can be very determined if they don’t want something. Make sure they are having plenty of wet and dirty diapers to ensure no dehydration. Try to mix in frozen milk to purees to increase the calorie count. If you have a surplus of frozen milk consider donating to a local mom in need. But, if your little one is refusing to take a bottle too keep trying, but know it may not happen. And you will make it through. 


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Julia Whalen
Julia resides in Perrysburg with her husband, their three children (Ari (6), Annie (3), and Jonah (9 months)), and two cats (Godric and Cali). Her children are the most amazing, funny, lovable, and crazy little humans she’s ever met. Julia moved here from the Cleveland area right after college. Some of her favorite things about living in NW Ohio are being able to do legal U-Turns and going over 25 mph on a main road. When she is not fulfilling her Ravenclaw dreams of working as a STEM teacher or moming, Julia is most likely rewatching The Office or rereading Harry Potter for the billionth time. Her favorite places are Target, Starbucks, and Disney World. Feel free to follow on Instagram @jwhalen1


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