Bottlerefusal: a compliment to you as a mother.

When a breastfed baby suddenly starts refusing the bottle most parents experience a problem: just when you thougt you could get out and about again your baby will have only you. Off course there are lots of suggestions going around to get babies to take the bottle (again). Most of these suggestions imply that your baby has a problem:

  • “Your baby is confused”: “fingerfeed again, give the breast with a nippleshield so it resembles a bottle, use different teats for the bottle, spoonfeed’ etc.
  • “Your baby is stongwilled and obstinate”: “withold the breast until he/she takes to the bottle, when he’s hungry he’ll take is”.

But what if we look at it from another angle? What if you have a lovely clever baby who’s wiling to learn new stuff?
At around 10 weeks of age babies loose their sucklingreflex. This makes that for the first time in their life they can consciously choose wether to suckle or not when they get something in their mouth.
Having to concsiously do something you used to do on automatic pilot is tricky. Suddenly it requires thought and practice. Don’t believe me? Try brushing your theeth with your other hand. So your baby needs time and will to learn.
What can you offer?

  • Start offering a bottle from about 4 weeks of age to practice. It does not require a full feed: a couple of times a week 30 mls inbetween breastfeeds is fine. But no guarantee your baby will keep drinking automatically.

If your baby starts to fuss about taking the bottle you can offer the circumstances to promote learning:

  • Offer the bottle when your baby is relaxed and eager to learn; not when he or she is hungry.
  • Choose a moment when you are having a drink too. Seeing is doing.
  • Offer an interesting bottle, preferably with handles so you child can ‘help’ holding it.
  • Enjoy the exploration: your baby will bring the bottle to the mouth, push it out, look at it, try to take it back into the mouth… That is learning. Let your baby know how impressed you are.

Really in a hurry because you have to go to work? Take a few practicedays: leave the house around babymealtime. Let the carer offer the bottle before your baby is really hungry! Then come back about 1 hour later so there is no stress, and calmly offer the breast again.

Ask for help if the tension rises. It would be a pity to let the hassle of the bottle diminish your joy in breastfeeding wouldn’t it? Bottlerefusal is a compliment: your baby enjoys the breast so much there seems no reason to switch to a bottle. Take the time to explain in a gentle way and enjoy your child.

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