Baby Won’t Take Bottle at Daycare – 7 Reasons PLUS What to Do] 

Balint Horvath, PhD

Writer, parent, and veteran of baby feeding battles.


Taking your baby to daycare is often necessary because, just like in my case, you and your partner might be both working. That said, having a baby who refuses their bottle at daycare can be incredibly frustrating as it means your little one is skipping crucial meals. What are the reasons and what can you do about it? 

It’s not uncommon for babies new to daycare to refuse their bottles. Some common reasons include them preferring the breast, teething, quality or temperature of formula and bottle malfunctions. 

Key takeaways

  • It’s normal for babies to refuse their bottles in the first few days of daycare as they need to adjust to a new routine. 
  • The top reason to refuse their bottle may be because they’re still attached to the breast or may only be used to being fed by mom. 
  • Teething, being ill or being overwhelmed by the new environment are also contributing factors. 
  • Creating a routine for your caregiver will make it easier for the baby to adjust to the new feeding process. 
  • If there are accompanying symptoms, consider taking the baby to the doctor for a check-up. 
  • Always use the same milk, formula and bottle types that the baby is used to.

Reasons Why Babies Refuse Bottle At Daycare

You decide to send your baby to daycare, especially when bottle-feeding as it’s one of its great benefits. But they you find out that your baby is refusing the bottle. It can be quite alarming, as your first thought is that your little one is starving! However, before panic sets in, keep in mind that this is quite normal and happens to most babies new to daycare.

Fortunately, the reason may not be too complex and therefore relatively easy to remedy. Your first challenge will be to figure out what the reason could be. My own experiences with this and some additional research has led me to narrow it down to seven common reasons why your baby could be refusing their bottle at daycare. 

1. Your baby is still attached to breastfeeding

The most common reason many babies refuse to drink a bottle at daycare is that they are still attached to breastfeeding. Since babies differ, some may find latching onto a bottle easier than the breast, but there are those adorable little ones who still prefer their mommy’s breast. 

Keep in mind that latching on to a bottle feels different and the baby will instantly sense that they are no longer with their mom. To overcome this problem, I recommend teaching your baby to bottle feed from an early age. 

Do this by alternating feeding sessions between the bottle and the breast. A few additional tips to consider when you’re trying to get your baby to transition are listed below:

  • Offer a bottle instead of the breast for a regular feeding session
  • If that doesn’t work, offer the bottle after a few minutes of breastfeeding
  • Ensure that the breast milk in the bottle is at the right temperature
  • Offer freshly pumped milk rather than frozen that’s been heated up
  • Use a bottle that mimics the shape of a breast such as a Comotomo silicone option
  • Let dad or another person offer the baby the bottle
  • Don’t put the bottle nipple in your baby’s mouth, hold it up and let them latch onto it the way they do with a breast

Here’s a short clip that shows you how to get your baby used to being bottle-fed if they’re used to being breastfed. 

2. Baby is distracted

For some babies, the reason for not wanting a bottle has nothing to do with bottles and formula. It rather has to do with the environment. It’s not uncommon for a baby to be distracted by the sights and sounds of a new space, especially if there are other infants. Additionally, your baby may even be distracted by the new person trying to feed them! 

3. Sometimes babies will only take bottles from the mom

If the mom has been the one doing most of the feeding sessions, your baby may not be comfortable taking their bottle from someone else. This is usually because your baby regards mom as the primary source of comfort

4. Your baby may be traumatized 

Babies who have never spent any time away from their mom’s safe arms can find a new space with different people quite traumatizing. In some instances, your little one may even be experiencing sensory overload with all the new sights and sounds to take in. This may be enhanced if daycare is your little one’s first exposure to other babies crying!!

5. Your baby may be feeling ill

It’s also possible that your little one may be feeling ill. This can be related to anything from the common cold to adjusting to a new formula. If your little one’s behavior seems out of sorts even at home, you may need to take them to the pediatrician for a check-up. 

6. Your baby may be teething

Your baby could also be teething. While it’s true that most babies only start teething around 6 months, some babies start developing their first teeth as early as 4 months or as late as 12 months.

Babies react differently to the teething process, and for some, it can be quite an ordeal. Here are a few teething symptoms to keep an eye out for:

  • Red or swollen gum area where the tooth is coming through
  • Unexplained rash on their face
  • Baby keeps rubbing their ear
  • Gnawing and chewing on toys or other items they can reach
  • One cheek seems swollen or flushed
  • Mild temperature less than 101F (38C)
  • Constantly trying to put their hands into their mouths
  • Drooling more than usual
  • More fussy than usual 

7. Your baby may be tired

Don’t forget that your baby is a tiny little human being, and as with adults, may not be in the mood for feeding when they’re over tired. This can be as a result of a difficult night. Some contributing factors that may keep your little one awake at night include: 

  • General restlessness
  • Pain from teething
  • Suffering from colic symptoms
  • Adjustments in their normal routine or sleeping schedule

If your little one’s refusal to take the bottle is associated with any of these symptoms, then you’ll know you can possibly chalk it down to the baby being overtired. A few nights of proper sleep should sort the problem out. 

  • Whimpering
  • Lack of interest
  • Becoming clingy
  • Yawning

What to do if baby won’t take the bottle at daycare

Being told that it’s perfectly normal for babies to refuse their bottle at daycare may do very little to ease your nerves. After all, you still have to find a solution to the problem! Fortunately, I’ve got a few tried and tested solutions that should make the adjustment process considerably easier.

1. Allow dad or family members to feed your baby in their early stages

Deciding to send your baby to daycare usually isn’t done from one day to the next. In most instances, it’s been part of the plan from before the baby is born. With that said, it’s always a good idea to start planning for it from day one.

One of the top daycare planning steps is to allow dad (or your partner) and other family members to feed the little one from an early age. This trains the baby to understand that mom isn’t the only one who can feed them. It makes them more comfortable to take the bottle from other people. 

2. Create a feeding plan for the caregiver 

Having a baby who struggles during feeding time is equally frustrating for your baby’s caregiver. Especially since they may have a few other babies to feed as well. You should, therefore, always create a feeding plan for your caregiver. 

I should also mention that as of 2016, 41 U.S. states require parents to provide a detailed feeding plan to be submitted with all babies and infants being left in daycare. For the most part, this has to do with issues with overweight babies as well as ensuring that allergy information is correctly reported.

Here’s what you should focus on:

  • Feeding routine: What happens in the minutes leading to feeding time? Do you change your baby and give them a few cuddles? Chances are your baby is expecting this before every feeding if they’ve become used to it. 
  • Bottle preferences: This includes formula or breast milk temperature and the type of bottle they like. It’s a good idea to include your little one’s favorite bottle in the diaper bag. (You may even want to get another one, just in case the one you have gets lost or misplaced–always know how many bottles to take to daycare) Be sure to check the nipple on the bottle that’s being used. If the milk flow is different from what your baby is used to, they may also refuse the bottle offered to them at the daycare. If your baby suffers from colic, be sure to include an anti-colic bottle instead of a normal one in your diaper bag. 
  • Baby’s preference: Be sure to show the caregiver the position your baby likes to feed in. Sometimes the problem can be as simple as the baby doesn’t associate the different position with feeding–some babies are set in their ways! 
  • Something from home: It’s important to include a few things from home that your baby can hold or lay on. Items such as their favorite fluffy toy or blanket is a good start. Also, in instances where the baby is especially fussy, some caregivers might ask for a clothing item that smells like mom. A t-shirt is light enough for the baby to hold or lie on or next to. 

3. Advise that the caregiver stick to your outlined feeding routine

Wherever possible, the caregiver should feed your little one in the same way they’re fed at home. This includes the same time of day for all feeding times. It also includes deciding to feed the baby before or after a nap. 

If the daycare has specific routines to accommodate all the children at once, you may need to work on changing your little one’s schedule over weekends. This will help the little one be more accepting of routine changes.

Since the rules and expectations of daycare may differ depending on the state you’re in, it’s important to know what applies to your state. This will give you a clear indication of what you can ask for in terms of your baby’s care. However, constant communication is always important!

4. Teach the caregiver how to soothe your baby when feeding

Another simple tip to get the caregiver on your baby’s page so to speak is to teach them how to soothe your little one before, during and after feeding. This will go a long way to easing unnecessary fussing and stress during feeding times. Since each baby is different, the caregiver needs to understand what your little one prefers. 

5. Check with your GP to ensure your baby isn’t ill

If your baby seems to be refusing their bottle at home as well, it may be a sign that they are ill. If you suspect your little one is ill or doesn’t seem like their usual self, you should check with your GP or pediatrician if there may be an underlying issue. 

Other common symptoms that indicate illness include the following:

  • Sleeping more or less than normal
  • Fever
  • Sweating during feeding
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Coughing
  • Pale, blue or even blotchy skin
  • Constant crying (different from usual behavior)

6. Ensure you provide the same formula your baby is used to

It’s important to keep in mind that one formula isn’t exactly the same as another. Flavors and textures differ and your little one will instantly know if they’re receiving a different formula. Always ensure that your little one is drinking the same formula, no matter where they are. 

Add enough formula to your diaper bag to ensure that your little one has enough plus a little extra for all their daily feedings. The same applies if you’re sending additional breast milk in the diaper bag. Always include a little extra to avoid the caregiver having to give your little milk or formula they aren’t used to. 


In most instances, babies start adjusting to their new daycare schedules after a few weeks. Try a few of the tips shared in this post to ensure that the process isn’t too stressful for all parties involved, especially your little one!

Once your baby starts taking the bottle, you might want to know how much breastmilk you should send to daycare.

Consider reading my post about common reasons why babies cry and squirm when bottle feeding may help you find the solution to get your baby to take their bottle when it’s offered to them!

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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