Bottle feeding comes with its own challenges – as a father myself I can understand the frustrations! When it comes to feeding time you expect your baby to eagerly latch onto their bottle. But the question of why my baby was pushing her bottle out with her tongue got me thinking and my research came up with some interesting reasons and solutions!
Babies often push their bottle out with their tongue because they’re not hungry but there are other reasons too. Parents should consider illness, tongue-tie, formula allergies, discomfort, and nipple confusion for other reasons their baby is rejecting the bottle at feeding time.
- Babies push away bottles for several reasons including not liking the formula, it’s too hot or cold, or developing an allergy.
- A baby will reject a bottle because they’re not hungry or lack an appetite because they’re ill or teething.
- Breastfeeding babies often refuse to accept the bottle.
- A distracting environment or physical discomfort can stop a baby from focusing on its feed.
- Conditions such as tongue tie and ear infections may stop a baby from accepting a bottle.
1. The baby doesn’t like the formula
One of the most common reasons for your baby pushing their bottle out at feeding time is because they simply don’t like the infant formula. It could be the smell, taste, or even the texture but whatever the reason, if your baby has an aversion to the formula, she’s going to push the bottle away. This might be accompanies by the baby crying when bottle finally gets finished.
This is more common when switching your baby from breast milk to infant formula. Another reason why babies reject formula is because they’re smart and instinctively know if their food is causing them discomfort such as colic, gassiness, or infant reflux.
What to do
The easiest solution to this problem is to switch brands. Transitioning to a new formula should be done slowly over a few days by combining the old and new formulas. Do this for two to three days to let your baby adjust to the new formula brand.
Experimenting with different formulas will help you find a brand that works with your baby’s taste buds or stops unpleasant side effects.
2. Your baby isn’t hungry
It’s normal to expect your little one to be hungry when the next feeding time comes around and as caring parents, you want to make sure they get fed properly.
Your newborn who has been feeding every couple of hours may suddenly start refusing their bottle. They may even show signs of not wanting to hold a bottle or play with the bottle nipple. This is normal as they start growing into the next phase of their life. I wrote about this topic of baby pushing away the bottle even though he/she is still hungry as I find it a fascinating topic.
The older your baby gets, the more milk they’ll take in at one feed with a longer break before the next meal. Your baby is less likely to become hungry in between feeding times if they’ve consumed enough in the previous feed.
What to do
The first thing NOT to do is to force your baby to feed if they don’t want the bottle. The second thing is to familiarize yourself with the baby’s feeding schedule according to their age. Your newborn will want to feed every two to three hours. But, your two-month-old baby can be fed every three to four hours.
I found adjusting to our baby’s feeding schedule ensured our daughter fed when she was hungry.
3. Your baby might be ill
If your baby isn’t feeling well, they might lose their appetite and reject the bottle. Upset tummies, the common cold, or a fever could all be reasons your little one is pushing their bottle away as soon as it comes to feeding time. Having a cold makes it difficult for your baby to suck while a sore throat could make swallowing milk painful.
Mouth ulcers and thrush also make it difficult for your baby to drink from a bottle. Signs of illnesses such as vomiting or diarrhea will help explain why your little one is rejecting her bottle.
What to do
If you suspect your baby is ill and refusing to feed, watch out for signs of dehydration:
- Sunken eyes
- Discolored hands and feet
- Wrinkled skin
Taking your baby to the doctor is important for managing dehydration and a full assessment especially if she hasn’t been feeding properly for more than three days.
4. The environment is distracting
A distracting environment can cause your baby to push away their bottle during feeding times! Babies are curious about the world around them particularly as they get older. They become easily distracted by sights and sounds that are new to them and quickly lose interest in their bottle.
Visual and aural disturbances from the television, rowdy siblings, noisy pets, bright lighting, and household appliances could result in your little one using their tongue to push out the bottle! It might also be the case that your baby is not really taking the bottle well because someone other than mom is trying to take care of the feeding topic.
What to do
Creating a soothing, slightly dimmed feeding environment helped our daughter feed with minimal distractions. This could be your baby’s room or another spot in the home that eliminates background noises as well. If you’re away from home, try feeding in the car or find another quiet spot so your baby can focus on their feed.
5. Your baby is teething
A teething baby often lacks appetite and will reject their bottle as soon as you bring it to their mouth! Increased drooling, crying, irritability, ear rubbing, and a facial rash are all symptoms associated with infant teething. If you notice any of these signs along with your baby pushing the bottle away from their mouth, teething could be the reason for them not drinking their milk.
Sucking from a bottle can increase the pain of teething while the painful condition can make your little one too tired to take a feed. Babies grow their first tooth from 6 to 12 months and checking their gums for redness or a protrusion will tell you if your baby has started teething.
What to do
Massaging your baby’s gums before offering a bottle may reduce teething pain and encourage them to feed. Instead of warming up the formula before a feed, offer it cold to your baby which could be more soothing for their sore gums. Letting your baby chew on a teething ring or cold washcloth before a feed may ease the pain and let them accept the bottle more easily.
6. Your baby is uncomfortable
Physical discomfort could stop your baby from accepting the bottle and can include any of the following:
- Uncomfortable positioning during feeding
- Being overdressed or underdressed
- Feeling too hot or cold
- Too tightly wrapped in a swaddle blanket
- Tightly fitting clothing
- Wet or soiled diapers
Physical pain from a bum rash or gas buildup could be the reason your baby isn’t accepting the bottle.
What to do
Most baby feeding advice recommends the semi-upright position for a comfortable feed. Checking that the clothing or swaddling blanket isn’t too tight could solve the bottle rejection problem as well as removing or adding more layers. A clean and dry diaper makes for a happy baby too, especially when it comes to feeding time!
7. Your baby has an ear infection
Five out of six children suffer ear infections before the age of three and should be taken to the doctor for an assessment. An ear infection can be very painful for babies and another reason why your little one has lost their appetite.
The following signs are typical of an ear inflammation:
- Tugging at the ear
- Not sleeping
- Crying or fussiness
- A fever
- Fluid draining out of the ear
- Not hearing quiet sounds
Besides not feeling well and having a poor appetite, your baby may find it painful to suck or swallow milk when they have an ear infection.
What to do
Getting an assessment from a medical doctor will confirm if your baby is battling an ear infection. Depending on the cause of the condition, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic treatment. However, they may wait 72 hours to see if symptoms subside before prescribing antibiotics to smaller babies aged between 6 to 12 months.
8. Introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby
Switching your baby from the breast to a bottle can come with some resistance from your breastfed infant. Babies who have been comfortable with breastfeeding will find the bottle strange – even more so if you’re introducing formula for the first time.
They may dislike the flavor, smell, or texture of the infant formula which is so different from mom’s breast milk. Your baby may reject the bottle’s teat due to nipple confusion and refuse to take the bottle by pushing it out with their tongue. Your baby may also miss the softness and warmth of mom’s breast and reject the bottle outright!
What to do
Transitioning your baby to the bottle takes time and patience. Using the right baby bottle nipples can stop confusion and help your little one latch easily. Breast-shaped baby bottles are specifically designed to ease the switch from breastfeeding to bottle feeding. Asking someone else to feed your baby could help them get used to the bottle when weaning from the breast.
9. The temperature of the formula isn’t correct
If the infant formula is too hot or cold, your baby could reject the bottle. While it’s fine to give your bottle-fed baby cold formula, not all infants like it served this way! Some babies prefer lukewarm formula and understanding their preferences will solve a lot of bottle-feeding problems for you.
Hot spots in the formula will scorch your baby’s mouth and could be another reason your little one is refusing the bottle.
What to do
Most babies prefer lukewarm infant formula and you can test the temperature by putting drops on the back of your hand or wrist. This method also tells you if the milk is too hot – in this case, holding the bottle under cold running water should cool it down to the right feeding temperature. Avoid using the microwave to heat up the formula as it can result in hot spots.
10. Your baby has a tongue tie
Tongue-tie in babies can be the reason your infant is pushing the bottle away at feeding time. The condition reduces tongue movement, making it difficult for your baby to breastfeed or take to the bottle. Tongue-tie symptoms in babies include:
- Latching difficulties which can also cause clicking sound when bottle-feeding
- Choosing to chew instead of suck
- Taking a long time to feed
- Refusing to feed
- Fussing during a feed
Watch this informative video talking about tongue tie in babies.
What to do
Getting a full assessment from a pediatrician will confirm if your baby has a tongue tie. Treatments such as frenectomy or frenuloplasty often solve the problem and entails cutting the frenulum, a piece of tissue that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. In tongue-tie babies it could be too short or tight, making it difficult to move their tongue freely.
11. Your baby has an allergy
Some babies develop food intolerance or an allergy to ingredients in the infant formula. Cow’s milk protein, corn, and soy are some ingredients that cause allergic reactions. If your baby has an allergy to formula they present with the following signs:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Blood or mucus in poop
- Frequent spit-ups and excessive gas buildup.
A constant runny nose, watering eyes, and coughing are other signs your baby could be allergic to formula.
What to do
Switching formula brands can help reduce allergic reactions. Your doctor could recommend a hypoallergenic formula or tell you to avoid soy-based milk as this often triggers allergies in babies.
Ruling out the reason your baby is pushing their bottle away with their tongue isn’t always as straightforward as you would hope! But, my list of reasons should give you a headstart in identifying the problem and fixing it so your little one can enjoy drinking from their bottle.
Sometimes, all it takes is choosing between anti-colic and regular bottles to solve the problem!