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 –

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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.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….