7 tips for getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SimplyBonding #CollectiveBias

The funny thing about parenting is that the longer you do it, the more you realize how little you know. Breastfeeding my first two babies came with its share of struggles, but bottle-feeding was one thing I had down pat. I started out nursing each of them, but ended up needing to supplement with formula around the 6-month mark both times because of weight gain issues. Both took a bottle with ease. We didn’t need to try different brands or warm up the bottle, and I scoffed when I saw parents going to great lengths to make the bottle just right for their baby.

Then I had my third child, and I realized I didn’t know everything about bottle-feeding after all. A few weeks ago, though our breastfeeding journey was still going smoothly, we decided to introduce bottles of pumped breast milk. And he wouldn’t take them.

I was flummoxed. Didn’t babies just take the first bottle of pumped breast milk straight out of the fridge? They had in my experience. But that’s the thing about parenting. Each baby is an individual with different needs and preferences. So I set to work to learn everything there is to know about getting breastfed babies to take a bottle. I consulted my pediatrician, and, of course, the collective wisdom of the ages available on the Internet. Here is the best advice I have found that has given us success on our bottle-feeding journey.

7 tips for getting your.png

1. wait until the baby is in a good mood

Do not try to feed baby a bottle for the first time when he’s already frantically hungry. Look for those first signs of hunger, such as rooting or sucking on hands, and present the bottle then. Since we follow the eat-play-sleep routine with Lewis, we like to try the bottle when he wakes up from a nap, and after a few minutes of snuggling and talking to him.

2. try room temperature milk

This may sound obvious to many parents, but my first two babies took their bottles still cold from the refrigerator. After some desperate texts to my sister about how she got her son to take a bottle, we took her advice and tried running the bottle under warm – not hot - tap water. Now that I think about it, it makes sense! Baby is used to lukewarm milk from my breast; of course it would throw him off to receive ice-cold milk! Make sure to gently swirl the bottle so the temperature is evenly distributed. Never microwave breast milk! You want to maintain the nutritional value of your milk and avoid uneven heating.

3. find the perfect bottle

NUK Simply Natural Bottles

When the bottles we had on hand from our first two babies didn’t go over well, I did some shopping around. Naturally, I headed for Target, my trusted store for everything from groceries to work out gear to baby supplies!

NUK Simply Natural Bottles at Target
Target Baby Bottles

NUK Simply Natural Bottles were the closest design to mom’s breast that I could find. The soft silicone nipple is the same shape as a mother’s nursing nipple, with multiple holes to mimic a natural feed. This was the first bottle Lewis would accept, and he’s not alone! According to independent market research, 93% of babies accept NUK Simply Natural Bottles.

4. try different flows

natural baby bottles

Our first experience with NUK Simply Natural Bottles went fairly well. Lewis was actually trying to eat from the bottle. It felt like a huge victory! But we noticed that he seemed to be working extra hard, and realized that we had purchased the slow-flow nipple with 3 holes. This would have been perfect if we had started introducing the bottle when he was only a few weeks old, but as a four month old, we figured we needed to bump it up to medium flow. That did the trick!

5. have someone else feed the baby

This is my favorite tip, and it came from my pediatrician. Moms, I know we love to feel in control of everything, but it’s nice to get a break every now and then, too! Prepare a bottle of milk for your baby, and then physically leave the house and let Dad or Grandma or another competent adult feed the baby. Baby will be much more likely to take the bottle if he knows your breast isn’t right there. And it will be so nice to watch someone else who loves your baby develop a bond with them through bottle-feeding!

6. create a calm atmosphere

getting breastfed baby to take a bottle

Do you remember as a child having a sixth sense for when your parents were angry? Somehow the atmosphere of the house felt different if Mom or Dad was upset. I firmly believe babies can sense how we’re feeling, so make sure to practice bottle feeding in a calm, quiet environment. For us that means finding somewhere away from the chaos of the older two kids in a comfortable chair. Don’t get frustrated, as baby will sense this and have a negative association with bottle-feeding. Which brings me to my next and final point…

7. practice and patience

Most of us aren’t good at something the first time we try it. Parents and babies will have to practice consistently to get the hang of bottle-feeding. Try every other day at first, and then move it up to a daily bottle. Give him the bottle at the same time each day so baby knows what to expect. Children find comfort in routines, so this is really important!  It may not go perfectly that first day or week, but have patience and try to keep it a positive experience.

NUK Simply Natural Bottles

My breastfeeding journey with Lewis is still going strong, and NUK supports that with its wonderful line of breastfeeding support items, such as nursing pads and milk storage bags. When it's time to dig into that stash of pumped milk in the freezer we will continue to turn to NUK Simply Natural Bottles because of their fabulous design and simplicity. I also love that we can wash them so easily, as they are top rack dishwasher safe, and odor and stain resistant. If you know any expecting moms, these bottles would make the perfect gift! Every new mom deserves a break while Dad takes over the feeding duties so he can bond with baby, too!


Follow and interact with NUK social channels for potential offers and giveaways, especially for Simply Natural September!