Some bottle-fed babies may push away their bottle (thus refuse) when they’re hungry, but there’s a reason for it. Don’t panic! I had a similar experience with my baby. Keep reading to understand why and find a solution.
Babies push the bottle away even when they’re still hungry because they’re teething, don’t like the formula, or the nipple flow rate is too high or low for them. Other reasons include distractions, the wrong milk temperature, and silent reflux. Most reasons can be solved though!
- If the formula doesn’t taste right or is too hot or cold, your baby may push the bottle away.
- Uncomfortable conditions such as teething, silent reflux, feeling unwell, and incorrect feeding positions can also be the reasons.
- Distractions or a strange person feeding them could be other causes.
- The wrong nipple size can make it difficult for your baby to bottle-feed.
- Understanding the problem can help you find the right solution!
1. The temperature of the formula isn’t right
Infant formula should be served at the right temperature. If it’s too hot, it could scald their mouth; if it’s too cold, the sensation may be unpleasant. Babies who have been breastfed and are switching to the bottle are used to warm milk.
Solution – Make sure the temperature is correct
Baby formula should be lukewarm or at a body temperature which is 98.6°F (37°C) for your baby to drink happily from the bottle. Test the temperature by shaking a few drops onto your wrist or the back of your hand. If it feels too hot, hold the bottle under cold running water for a few seconds to cool it down.
2. Your baby has the flu
Sick babies often lose their appetites and if your baby has the flu they could push the bottle away halfway through a feed. Symptoms such as nasal congestion make it difficult for your baby to suck or breathe properly while bottle-feeding while a sore throat could make it harder to swallow.
Solution – Speak to your doctor
Your doctor can confirm if your baby isn’t well and if the symptoms are the reason they’re not finishing their bottle. The doctor may recommend using saline drops to soften and remove the mucous from a stuffy nose. Using a humidifier in your baby’s nursery can help alleviate flu symptoms.
3. Your baby doesn’t like the formula
Some babies push their bottles away because they don’t like the taste, smell, or texture of the infant formula. Breastfed babies transitioning to the bottle will often push their bottle out with their tongue because they don’t like the formula even if they’re still hungry! Your baby may also stop drinking because of side effects such as excessive gas.
Solution – Find the right formula
Experimenting with different infant formulas will help you find the right brand for your little one. When switching formula brands, make sure the ingredients are the same to prevent unpleasant side effects. If your baby has developed an allergy to a certain formula, introduce them to a hypoallergenic brand gradually over a few days.
4. The baby is uncomfortable
If your baby is uncomfortable during a feed they may be battling to latch properly onto the nipple or to swallow. The main reason for this could be using the incorrect feeding position such as laying your baby flat on their back before giving them the bottle. The risks of bottle feeding your baby lying flat in bed include choking, ear infections, and tooth decay.
Solution – Find out about the best feeding positions
The best feeding position for your baby is keeping them semi-upright with their head nestled in the bend of your arm. Another good feeding position is to hold your baby seated on your lap with their back and head resting against your body. This position works well for older babies who can hold their heads up independently.
5. Your baby is teething
Our baby daughter often refused to feed because her gums were tender and swollen from a new tooth coming through. While some babies like to suck on something to help ease teething pain, others push their bottles away during a feed because the milk is too warm for aching gums.
Watch this video and find out when babies start cutting teeth.
Solutions – Ways to prevent discomfort from teething
My wife and I used to rub our teething daughter’s gums gently with our fingers before feeding – this seemed to ease the pain and helped her to finish her bottle. Feeding your baby cold formula could be the right solution or gently patting their back while bottle-feeding could help distract them from the pain while drinking.
6. The nipple size may be incorrect
Bottle nipples come in different sizes to accommodate your baby’s feeding style during the various stages of their early lives. Smaller babies will be more comfortable with a slow flow rate or Level 1 nipple. Older babies prefer Level 3 or 4 nipples with a higher flow rate. If your baby clicks while bottle feeding it could be another sign that the flow rate is too high or too low.
Solution – Find the right nipple size
Finding the right nipple size according to your baby’s age often solves the problem of flow rate. Use the following guidelines to assist you:
- Level 1: 0 to 3 months old
- Level 2: 3 to 6 months old
- Level 3: 6 months and older
- Level 4: 9 months and older
7. There are too many distractions
Our baby daughter got easily distracted when feeding, especially if there were the neighbors’ kids running around or the TV playing, and would stop mid-feed! Noises, people or pets, and different surroundings are all distractions that could stop your baby from finishing their bottle.
Solution – Eliminate all distractions
Bottle feeding in a quiet environment allows your baby to drink undistracted and finish their feed. Banning siblings, pets, and noisy devices from the baby’s room helps your little one to bottle feed in peace.
8. The baby only wants to be fed by mom
If your baby is used to only being fed by mom, they are going to kick up a fuss when someone new tries to bottle feed them! This often happens when transitioning your breastfed baby to the bottle. Babies are most comfortable with an established feeding routine that doesn’t change and that includes having the same person feed them.
Solution – Allow everyone a chance to feed the baby
Allowing your partner, caregiver, and grandparents to bottle feed your baby helps them to get used to different people feeding them. I also found it helped for my wife to leave the room while I was bottle-feeding our little one so she got used to me giving her the bottle. This is a separate article I wrote about this topic.
9. Silent reflux
If your baby doesn’t show outward signs of battling with infant reflux, they could be struggling with a condition called silent reflux. Regurgitated stomach contents flow back into the tum without your baby spitting it up. Symptoms of silent reflux include:
- Not feeding properly
- Chronic coughing or respiratory conditions
- Gagging or having breathing problems
- Nasal congestion
Solutions – Bottles and remedies for silent reflux
Using an angled bottle helps while anti-colic bottles are designed to keep air bubbles out of the nipple which can reduce silent reflux. Burping your baby during a feed can ease reflux. Switching to a hydrolyzed protein-based formula could also reduce silent reflux in babies.
With so many good reasons why your baby is pushing the bottle away even though they’re still hungry, you don’t need to panic. My advice is to unpack the problem and use one of the many solutions I’ve mentioned in this article.
As a recommendation for another article, here’s one that might be interesting when your baby is pushing the bottle out with her/his tongue.