Baby Cries (& Squirms) When Bottle Feeding – Reasons & Solutions

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


As a new parent, you may struggle with a crying and squirming baby during bottle feeding. It can be frustrating and worrisome, especially if you’re not sure what’s causing the discomfort. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. I had the same problem with my little girl. The good news is there are solutions to help if your baby cries when you bottle feed. 

If your baby cries and squirms during bottle feeding, there could be several reasons behind it such as acid reflux, hunger and even growth spurts. Understanding these reasons can help you find the right solution to soothe your little one.

Key takeaways

  • There are ten main reasons why your baby may cry during bottle feeding 
  • There are signs of bottle-feeding problems that you need to be aware of 
  • One of the most common reasons babies cry is due to teething 
  • Sometimes babies that aren’t hungry will cry during bottle feeding 
  • Babies sometimes aren’t hungry when it’s time to feed 
  • Babies don’t like formula that’s too cold or hot. 
  • Sometimes changing the bottle or nipple may stop babies from crying during feeding 
  • Bottle-feeding problems can be a sign your baby is autistic 
  • Talk to your GP if the problem persists

Signs of a bottle-feeding problem

  • Squirming and crying: Babies should be happy when they’re getting fed. Squirming and crying is a common sign that there may be a bottle-feeding problem.   
  • Refusing to take a bottle: Sometimes your baby won’t want the bottle mainly if they’re used to being breastfed. 
  • Refusing to close their mouth on the bottle: Your baby may have a latching problem if your little one doesn’t close his or her mouth when bottle-feeding. 
  • Chewing on the nipple: If your baby simply chews on the nipple your little one might be teething. 
  • Drinking only a little bit of formula: Your baby may have some tummy problems if they’re drinking small amounts of formula at a time. Or your baby isn’t hungry when it’s time to feed.  
  • Cough and choke while feeding: The reason your baby is coughing and choking during bottle feeds could be because of acid reflux or colic. Or the nipple that you’re using is flowing too fast. 

1. Your baby needs a diaper change

When a baby’s diaper is wet or dirty, it can cause discomfort and irritation, leading to fussiness and restlessness during feeding time. Additionally, some babies may have a natural instinct to push away from the bottle when they need to have a bowel movement. 

Your baby may also have diaper rash which may be causing discomfort when placed in specific positions when you feed your little one. 


It’s essential to ensure your baby is changed before you feed your little one to ensure comfort. You also need to make sure that you use the right methods to remedy diaper rash. Keep your baby’s skin as clean and dry as possible. 

To remedy diaper rash your doctor may suggest a mild 0.5% to 1% hydrocortisone (steroid) cream twice a day for a week. 

2. Acid reflux

Another reason your baby starts screaming during formula feeding is due to acid reflux. This condition is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Acid reflux due to underdeveloped esophagus muscles which leads to spitting and vomiting as well as crying while feeding. 


If your baby has acid reflux, there are many home remedies that can solve the problem. Try feeding your baby in an upright position. You can also try smaller and more frequent feedings just so your baby is always getting in food and nutrients. 

You can also take time to burp your baby in between feeds to reduce acid reflux. It’s also suggested that you can hold the baby upright for 30 minutes after feeding.  

3. Your baby isn’t hungry 

A common reason a baby cries when you put the bottle in the mouth is that they aren’t hungry. It’s always recommended that your baby be fed every 8 to 12 times every 24 hours but your baby may be full when it’s time to feed. Another moment hungriness might manifest itself by your baby playing with the bottle instead of feeding as I also experienced it myself.


If your baby is scheduled to feed at a certain time, but you suspect that your baby isn’t hungry, you can try waiting 30 minutes to an hour before trying again. Not all babies are the same so they won’t always be hungry when they’re expected to feed. So wait a while until your little one is ready to drink from the bottle. 

Ensure you’re also feeding your baby with the correct sized bottle such as a 5 oz or a 8 oz bottle. Giving your baby the right amount of formula can prevent over or underfeeding. 

4. Your baby is going through a growth spurt 

Babies go through many development stages during the first weeks and months of their lives. These changes can cause babies to become fussy and unsettled during feeds. I noticed this was the case with my daughter. 

Growth spurts such as teething are one of the main causes of babies crying during bottle feeding at night. This usually starts around 6 months of age. 


If your baby is going through a growth spurt such as teething you can give your baby a teething ring to help the teeth cut through the gums faster. You can also use medications such as Paracetamol and ibuprofen, which can help with other symptoms such as fevers and pain. When remedying your baby’s pain your little one may stop crying during bottle feeding.   

5. Your baby is tired and wants to sleep

Much like how not all babies are hungry when it’s time to feed, your baby could also get tired at different times. I know my daughter used to get extremely fussy when she was sleepy. It was then that I learned that newborns should get 14 to 17 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. 


If your baby is sleepy it may be a sign that your little one isn’t hungry enough to stay awake to feed. Don’t try to force-feed your baby because this can make your little one cry more. Instead, allow your baby to sleep if they want to and try feeding when he or she is more awake. 

6. Your baby is uncomfortable 

Babies become fussy and annoyed when they’re very uncomfortable. Perhaps you’re feeding your baby in the incorrect position, or their clothes are too restrictive or itchy. They could also have a full diaper or your baby is feeling cold

Where I live with my family, it can get extremely cold during winter so I quickly learned ways to keep my baby warm while feeding her. 


Before feeding your baby, consider bathing and putting clean soft clothing on your little one. If it’s cold, make sure you’re feeding your baby in a warm room. You can also swaddle your baby while feeding to prevent squirming while feeding. Swaddling may make your baby feel relaxed and comfortable

7. The baby may need a different bottle or nipple or no bottle?

Babies can become fussy if you’re using a bottle with a nipple that has a flow that’s too slow or fast. Your baby will then feel uncomfortable when trying to feed because they’re either getting too much or too little formula. 


Firstly, ensure you have the right bottles for your baby’s age. As a baby grows they will change bottle sizes such as 2 to 8 oz bottles. Also, check the nipples of your bottles to ensure they’re flowing correctly. You can also find out if you need an anti-colic bottle or instead a regular one by consulting your GP. Or in worst case you might want to try an alternative method to bottle-feeding.

8. Your baby is too used to breastfeeding

There may be a situation where your breastfed baby isn’t accepting the bottle straight away. This could be because the nipple of the bottle feels too foreign to the baby meaning it’s not natural to them. Feeding through a bottle requires a different sucking action than with a breast. Your baby may also not know how to suckle from a bottle. 


To solve the problem of transitioning your breastfed baby to a bottle, you can try finding a bottle teat that’s close to the feel of a breast nipple. Furthermore, try offering your baby expressed breast milk. Make sure you use the right breast pump otherwise, you’ll struggle to express milk correctly.  

9. Your baby may have tummy cramps

Your baby may be suffering from extreme tummy cramps which is stopping them from enjoying their bottle. There are many causes for stomach cramps such as gas, growth spurts and bloating. Your baby could be getting cramps due to lactose intolerance.  


If you have a suspicion that your baby has stomach cramps, you can try giving your little one a tummy massage. I used to do this with my baby girl when she had gas or constipation. If you’re sure that your baby has a lactose intolerance then try lactose-free formula

10. The formula is too cold or hot

When feeding your baby formula it’s crucial that it’s at the right temperature. It may be fine to give your baby cold formula but some babies don’t like the coldness of the liquid. On the other hand, hot formula can burn your baby’s mouth. 


Make sure the formula you’re feeding your baby is close to body temperature. Experts suggest that the temperature for baby formula should not exceed 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If your baby doesn’t mind cold formula then perhaps it would be better if the liquid was at room temperature rather than it being freezing cold.  

More solutions if your baby is crying during bottle feeding

If any of the above-mentioned problems isn’t why your baby is crying while being bottle fed there are other solutions for you to look into. In this next section, I’ve provided extra tips to soothe your baby when feeding formula from a bottle. 

Find out what’s causing your baby to cry

As a caregiver, it’s important to find out what is causing your baby to cry during bottle feeding because it can indicate a problem that needs to be addressed. If crying continues, it can lead to feeding aversions and make feeding more difficult in the long term.

To identify the cause of the crying, observe your baby during feeding. Look for signs of discomfort such as pulling away from the bottle, arching their back, and swinging their arms. If your baby is not finishing their bottle, it may indicate they are full or experiencing discomfort.

Comfort your baby

When a baby cries, it’s a sign that they are experiencing some form of discomfort or distress. By responding to their cries with comfort and reassurance, parents can help to soothe their babies and alleviate any stress or anxiety that they may be feeling.

I’ve found that comforting my crying baby during bottle feeding also helped to promote a positive feeding experience. Babies who feel safe and secure during feeding are more likely to associate feeding with feelings of warmth and comfort, which can help to establish a positive feeding routine.

Don’t force-feed your baby 

It’s not recommended to force-feed a baby during bottle feeding if they are crying because it can lead to negative associations with feeding and create a stressful environment for the baby. 

Crying is a baby’s way of communicating their needs, and it’s important to respond to their cues and provide comfort before attempting to feed them. Forcing a baby to feed when they are upset can also cause them to take in more air, leading to discomfort from gas and potentially causing colic.

Look for signs of colic or reflux 

Reflux can cause pain and discomfort in babies while colic can make it difficult to feed your baby. Colic is a common condition that affects newborns and is characterized by excessive crying, fussiness, and irritability. Reflux, on the other hand, occurs when stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn, vomiting, and discomfort.

Looking for signs of colic or reflux during bottle feeding can help parents or caregivers identify triggers that may be causing the baby’s discomfort. For example, certain types of formula or feeding positions may exacerbate reflux or colic symptoms. 

Take a look at this YouTube video that gives you 5 tips to soothe a colicky baby. What I like about this video is that it’s quick and gives you proper explanations for each tip. 

Ensure your baby is comfortable 

Is your baby warm enough? Did you change your baby’s diaper? These are standard steps to ensuring your baby is comfortable during feeds. By addressing any discomfort your baby is experiencing, you can help to reduce their stress.

In addition to physical discomfort, it’s also important to consider your baby’s emotional well-being during feeding. Babies can become upset or anxious if they are not getting enough attention or interaction during feeding. 

By providing a calm, nurturing environment and engaging with your baby during feeding, you can help to promote a positive emotional experience and strengthen your bond with your baby.

Look for formulas that are closest to breast milk 

Breast milk is considered the best source of nutrition for infants as it contains a perfect balance of nutrients that are essential for their growth and development. 

Formulas that are closest to breast milk contain a similar balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals as breast milk. This is important because it ensures that infants receive adequate nutrition and doesn’t cause any health issues. 

What’s more, formulas that are closest to breast milk are designed to be easily digestible, which is essential for infants who have an immature digestive system. These formulas contain probiotics, which support the development of a healthy gut microbiome. This is excellent if you don’t want your baby to suffer from stomach cramps. 

When you buy such a formula, of course make sure you check the expiry date of the formula.

Ensure your baby isn’t allergic to the formula 

If a baby is allergic to the formula, it can cause a range of health problems. Allergic reactions can cause symptoms such as rash, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty breathing, which can be life-threatening in severe cases.

Babies who are allergic to the formula may also experience digestive problems, such as constipation, and gas, which can be uncomfortable and distressing for both the baby and the parents. You can take your baby for an allergy test to rule out these symptoms of crying during feeding. 

Last but not least, change of feeding person?

The reason for a crying baby while bottle feeding might also be that the person who’s giving the bottle might be a different one than the one your little one is used. Typically moms are the ones who feed and therefore if there’s a sudden change, such as the dad or a relative/friend who wants to help out with bottle feeding, that can cause a baby to scream out loud. This is a topic I covered in another article.

What happens if the baby refuses the bottle and continues to cry?

Babies may refuse to drink from the bottle and continue to cry because they’re simply not hungry yet. Another reason is that the baby is feeling ill. Symptoms such as a fever or a runny nose are indications that your child is sick. So the bottle may not be the reason the baby is refusing to feed. 

Babies can lose their appetite when they’re sick similar to how adults feel nauseous when they’re ill. If your baby is not feeling well, you can comfort your child and try feeding again in about an hour. Make sure you’re providing your baby with the proper medication if they’re sick. 

What to do if the problem persists 

If you’ve tried all the advice I’ve given you but your baby is still crying when you try to feed them there could be a serious underlying condition. Continuous crying could indicate that your baby is under constant stress or it could be a sign of autism

Some autistic babies do show difficulty transitioning from breastfeeding to the bottle and can be noticed in the baby’s first months of life. Talk to your GP to find out what’s causing the problem. It could be a medical condition that you’re not aware of. 


Hearing a baby cry during bottle feeding can be distressing for parents, especially if they are unsure of the reason behind the crying. However, with patience, observation, and a few simple adjustments, parents can understand and address their baby’s needs. Situations such as your baby crying when you take the bottle away could also be remedied. And if your baby is throwing the bottle, there’s also some solutions for that.

Remember, every baby is unique and may have different feeding preferences, so it’s important to stay attuned to your baby’s cues and adjust accordingly. With time and practice, feeding can become a bonding experience for both parent and baby.

Photo of author


I’m Balint, founder of this site and a father (and dad) to a baby-turned toddler. I found the world of babies so fascinating that I started a blog dedicated only to that topic. By the way, I studied physics, engineering (PhD, MSc), and therefore I do a thorough research when I write about something. Since it’s a blog, of course I also write about my personal experiences.

Leave a Comment