Baby Prefers Bottle to Breast – How to Reintroduce Baby to Breastfeeding

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


It’s not unusual for moms to feel overwhelmed when it’s time to go back to work and leave their newborn baby with a sitter or daycare provider. But then, a baby may refuse the breast, preferring her bottle instead. What can moms do in this case? 

From fussing during feedings to preferring bottles to nursing, there are several signs that parents should look out for which indicate that their babies are having difficulty breastfeeding. Understanding why your child is rejecting breastfeeding is key in determining how you can get them comfortable with nursing again. 

Key takeaways

  • One reason baby prefers the bottle to the breast is that the breastfeeding relationship wasn’t established first
  • Nipple confusion refers to the baby’s preference for one feeding method over another
  • Sometimes, your baby struggles with latching onto your breast 
  • You can reintroduce the breast if you avoid using pacifiers 
  • The key to getting your baby to breastfeed again is patience 

Why baby prefers bottle over breast

If you are a young mother who has been breastfeeding for some time, with bottles on the side, you may suddenly experience that your baby refuses to breastfeed. Instead, they prefer the bottle. While this may worry some of you, it’s not unusual. The following section will give you an understanding of why your baby is rejecting the breast for a bottle. 

The baby was introduced to the bottle before the breast 

If your baby was introduced to the bottle before the breast, they may feel more comfortable using bottle nipples. There are many reasons why mothers have to bottle-feed their newborns. For example, you may have had a difficult birth and been unable to cope with feeding. 

Another scenario is that your doctor may have recommended baby formula because your milk was poor. Or, perhaps you needed to get back to work quickly and had to get your baby used to the bottle. Very soon, you probably found that your baby started refusing the breast. It’s simply a matter of what the baby is used to. They tend to give preference to what they are familiar with.

With this in mind, experts recommend that you only introduce the bottle to your baby when they reach 3 to 4 weeks old

Breast milk doesn’t flow fast enough 

Breast milk flow doesn’t occur immediately. The baby may need to suck for a minute or two before any milk starts flowing. With the bottle, gravity ensures that milk flow is immediate. This makes much less work, and your baby doesn’t have to wait to satiate their hunger. It might even happen that your baby is drinking from the bottle too fast.

Whilst feeding with breast milk helps your baby develop a delay of gratification, it also means that they need to work harder. Adults like the easy way, and it’s no different with babies. However, one study shows that breastfed babies show more challenging temperaments, such as irritability and fussing, and the slow flow of milk may be one of the reasons for this.

Experts understand this but still recommend carrying on with breastfeeding. 

The baby is struggling to latch 

Sometimes, your baby struggles with latching onto your breast. It might have an infection like thrush, or may simply not know how to latch onto the breast. Most new moms don’t know what this looks like, so here are a few symptoms below:

  • The baby’s face becomes red
  • Your little one seems to become frustrated when trying to nurse, or fusses a lot
  • They chew while trying to suckle
  • The baby makes clicking noises when trying to nurse
  • You have nipple pain

As a result, you naturally switch to the bottle in order to get some nutrition into your baby, but then it’s difficult to connect back to the breast. 

Breastfeeding relationship wasn’t introduced

Another reason the baby prefers the bottle to the breast is that the breastfeeding relationship wasn’t established first. If you put your baby on the bottle instead of first breastfeeding for three weeks, then the baby isn’t familiar with the breast or gets confused as to what it is. 

Your baby needs to connect food with the breast instead of with the bottle first. However, some mothers may have had poor milk flow after giving birth so a bottle was their only option. In this case, you may need to find ways to reintroduce breastfeeding when milk flow has improved. 

Another reason could be nipple confusion

Nipple confusion refers to the baby’s preference for one feeding method over another once introduced to the bottle. In other words, they don’t know which nipple to prefer, and so reject one. 

A variety of factors can contribute to this difficulty which may range from positioning issues during feeds, incorrect latching techniques, or simply having difficulty grasping different shapes and sizes of nipples. Babies can become accustomed to the ease of bottle-feeding as well as its suctioning strength which makes it difficult for them to adjust their sucking technique when trying to breastfeed.

How to reintroduce breastfeeding your baby

There are a number of tried and tested methods of reintroducing the breast to the baby. I’ll discuss several of the most helpful tips. They will all take a little work and patience, but they should work if you just keep at it.  

Build your breastmilk supply

To prevent your baby from becoming frustrated when breastfeeding you must build-up your milk supply. There are a number of ways that some mothers increase breastmilk such as changing their diet and even talking to a lactation consultantLactation consultants can help both regarding bottle feeding and breastfeeding.

However, the best way to build up your milk supply is by regularly pumping or using hand expressions. Use the various breast pumps to create relactation in the breast. The more milk you have in your breast the better the milk flow will be for the baby. This will help your little one get comfortable with breastfeeding again. 

Start breastfeeding in the morning  

Instead of feeding your baby in the morning using a bottle, try breastfeeding instead. When you introduce breastfeeding in the morning your baby may start becoming used to the feeling, shape, and size of the breast. 

There are other methods you can use that will help such as using nipple shields. A nipple shield is a small plastic piece that fits over your nipple. This gives the baby the feeling that they are drinking out of a bottle. 

For new moms that are still learning how to breastfeed their little ones, here is a helpful video to get you started. It shows how you can make yourself and your baby comfortable while you’re nursing. 

Keep your baby well fed 

Another useful tip is to keep your baby well-fed when you’re breastfeeding. While your baby is practicing breastfeeding your little one won’t associate hunger and frustration with the breast. If your baby is hungry he or she won’t learn how to breastfeed well. 

Therefore, it’s important to nurse your baby whenever they need to feed to avoid them getting frustrated or fuss whenever they need to feed. You don’t want to be forced to go back to the bottle in this case. 

Avoid using a dummy or pacifier 

It should be noted that dummies or pacifiers are stiffer and have a harder exterior compared to the breast nipple. As a result, it encourages a different suck compared to the one needed for a good latch on the breast. 

The pacifier will also take the main comforter away from the breast. You can reduce your baby’s reliance on pacifiers and bottle nipples by offering the breast often and having more skin-to-skin contact with your little one. 

Additionally, allowing your baby to suckle on clean fingers can also establish familiarity through skin-to-skin contact and act as a comforter instead of plastic nipples. 

My daughter actually didn’t use a pacifier at all! I know, hard to believe it but whenever we wanted to introduce her to the world of pacifiers, she just spit it out.

Be patient

The last step when reintroducing the breast to your baby is to be patient. Your baby may cry and fuss and even refuse to latch at first. The key is to practice breastfeeding without pressure and follow your baby’s cues. 

You don’t want to force your baby to breastfeed because this will make your little one more frustrated and may even make the situation worse. So take time to reintroduce breastfeeding to your baby. Find a comfortable spot and allow your baby to latch naturally. 

Look out also for signs of your baby needing to burp when reintroducing nursing as that might be the other reason why your baby might be throwing the arms or crying when you take the bottle away. Perhaps it’s not necessarily because of the baby who prefers the bottle.


Many mothers have difficulties trying to breastfeed their babies when all they want is the bottle. But breastfeeding remains one of the best ways to feed your baby because of all the nutrients they can get from breast milk. This way you might also be able to save on buying additional bottles or baby formula, which you might consider donating.

On the other hand, if you simply can’t get your baby to latch onto the breast, you can always pump milk and place it into baby bottles and feed your baby the way he or she wants to be fed. You can ensure your lactation flow is good by pumping milk every day and storing them in breastmilk bags or bottles. Bottle-feeding is also great because you can feed your baby in a car seat.

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.

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