get baby to feed from a bottle

6 tips to get baby to drink from a bottle

Some breastfed babies take to the bottle without much fuss, others struggle – Emma Parkin finds out a few tips and techniques to make it easy for all involved.

tips to get baby to drink from a bottle

Introducing a bottle to a baby that has only ever been breastfed can work like a dream for some mothers, while for others it can be a challenging transition. I was in the latter group.

I waited until the final fortnight of my maternity leave to introduce a bottle to my solely breastfed six-month-old baby, resulting in two weeks of experimenting with many different teats and bottle shapes.

My baby just simply refused to accept anything other than breastfeeds. After much persistence, I’m glad to say that she finally took the bottle (at the last minute!) and happily embraced our new evening and morning breastfeeding routine.

Some mothers prefer to introduce a bottle earlier on. However, in this case midwives advise that it’s better to wait breastfeeding is successfully established.

Once you’ve both got the hang of it, it’s usually possible to offer your baby bottles of expressed milk or formula alongside breastfeeding. This is sometimes called mixed or combination feeding.

It’s interesting to note that the skill to suck occurs spontaneously in newborn babies in response to their sucking reflex being triggered.

The sucking reflex is said to disappear at approximately the age of three months. This is why many breast fed babies will refuse their bottle as they have learned that breastfeeding will satisfy their hunger.

tips to get baby to drink from a bottle

Be patient

Some babies make an effortless transition between breast and bottle, others can become nipple confused if bottle teats are introduced during the early days of nursing. The longer you wait to introduce a bottle teat, the less risk there is of confusing your baby.

According to the HSE website, it’s important to be patient and allow baby plenty of time to learn how to drink from a bottle.

It’s recommended that a mother should ask someone else to try the baby with a bottle. If baby reacts against it, stop and try again when the baby is calm. Trying to force the baby to feed from a bottle will not work.

Paced bottle feeding

‘Paced bottle feeding’ is a great way for the baby and carer to get used to bottle-feeding. Here’s how it works.

Baby sits up on your lap.

✔ Hold the bottle almost level and teat is offered in the same way you would the breast, tickling the top lip and allowing baby to take the teat into the mouth and suck.

✔ Tilt the bottle slightly towards baby, and when baby pauses you can tilt the bottle down to allow baby to rest for a moment.

✔ Repeat until baby has taken the full feed.

For more, see

Did you know?

If your baby is over six months and doesn’t like a bottle you can use an ordinary or sippy cup with handles on it. Babies at this age are usually able to manage a cup. Only put a small amount of liquid into the cup so that any spills are easy to clean. If your baby is too small to use a cup, you can use a syringe or teaspoon for feeds as well.

Expert advice

Midwife and lactation consultant Liselotte Hill from Little Miracles shares her tips.

tips to get baby to drink from a bottle

1. It is always better to offer a breastfed baby a bottle at all in the early months, breastfeeding needs to be established first. Get the baby well used to the breast first and the milk supply well established before introducing a bottle.

2.  If you are going back to work, start offering baby a bottle a couple of weeks before. Experiment with different sized teats. There is no one size fits all, as it depends on the mother’s nipple flow as well as the shape of the nipple and the ‘feeling of comfort’ for the baby while at the breast.

3. Don’t introduce a bottle when your baby is hungry – the best time is when she is in a good mood and relaxed. It’s sometimes easier if dad or someone else offers the bottle.

4. The wider neck bottles can be easier as they are shaped more like the breast.

5. Give yourself plenty of time and it’s always trial and error.

6. Putting breastmilk on the teat can help a little too.

Tip: If your baby was on the bottle in the early days for medical reasons and you’re struggling to breastfeed, do get in touch with a lactation consultant. They can help you to make breastfeeding more successful.

For a full list of lactation consultants around Ireland, go to The Association of Lactation Consultants –

More you might like

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.


Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.