Why Your Baby is On A Bottle Strike and How to End it Fast

Is your baby all of a sudden refusing to drink from his or her bottle? They may be going through a bottle strike, but the good news is that it’s usually just a phase.

A bottle strike can often be frustrating for parents. You need your baby to stay hydrated and healthy, but they seemingly don’t want anything to do with it.

Mamas who are nursing and need a break or two or who have recently returned to work can find bottle strikes particularly worrisome. It can be extremely shocking to find out your baby is going a whole day without receiving expressed milk, and you may wonder what is wrong.

Maybe your baby is clawing at your breast to have a breastfeeding instead or maybe he won’t take his bottle at all for dad or the babysitter. Whatever the reason or effect, it can be upsetting for moms and dads to go through.

It is important to remember that a bottle strike is common and it is something that you can troubleshoot to find the root of the problem. Once you find out why it’s happening, you can try out these strategies to end the bottle strike fast!

Why is my baby refusing the bottle all of a sudden?

Again, bottle strikes are common especially for babies who have recently become more mobile. They are much more interested in their new found abilities to move, crawl, sit, and touch absolutely everything.

Even before they become mobile, their eyes are adjusting to their new surroundings and they’re starting to recognize more familiar faces, sights, and sounds around them. The stimulation can be overwhelming and they don’t want to miss out on what’s happening while they’re feeding.

You may also notice that as babies get older they do not require quite as many calories as they did when they were tiny infants. They also can take in more calories and milk faster than they did before.

So while you may think that they’re not eating as much, they are just eating more efficiently to take in the same amount of milk, but faster. This may be the case if your little one is drinking, but pushes the bottle away very quickly after they started the feeding.

Why do babies go on bottle strikes?

Babies know what they want, and what they want is mommy and her liquid gold. A bottle just isn’t the same as the breast, and your baby will likely catch onto this rather quickly. This can undeniably cause some stress for mom!

The cause of the bottle strike can often go even deeper than just the bottle or the milk itself. Who is giving the bottle, the way baby is positioned, if the baby is stressed or teething, or the nipple is the wrong size or texture can all cause babies to go on bottle strike.

Babies may go on a bottle strike if they don’t like the temperature or taste of the bottle. There is also always the possibility that your baby is not hungry at this moment or is distracted by something else.

There could also be a medical reason behind the bottle strike. Therefore, if your intuition or strategies don’t fix the problem soon, it’s best to call the doctor to get your baby looked at for perhaps any gastrointestinal or oral issues.

What does it mean when baby refuses the bottle?

It can be alarming when your baby suddenly refuses to take a bottle and you are not sure why. You may worry that something is wrong or that there is an underlying issue that you are unaware of. However, if you are breastfeeding and bottle feeding it is extremely common for your baby to refuse the bottle.

It could simply mean that your baby prefers to nurse, your baby isn’t hungry, or that they prefer a different nipple/nipple flow.

The milk may also taste different for several different reasons – it could be too hot or too cold, or could have changed during the freezing/thawing process.

A bottle strike could also indicate your baby is coming down with a sickness or teething.

Whatever the reason, don’t stress. Try to take a step back and relax, although the bottle strike can be alarming, your baby will not starve from drinking a bit less for a few days.

Should I force my baby to finish the bottle?

Although you may think the answer to end your babies bottle strike is simply forcing baby to finish the bottle, this can actually cause more issues than you think.

Bottle strikes can often be the result of some type of feeding aversion and force-feeding your baby will only exacerbate this aversion. Your baby will begin to associate the bottle with an unpleasant experience and will further lengthen the bottle strike.

Related Post: 3 Month Old Feeding Schedule

How to stop your baby’s bottle strike:

If you find that your baby is on a bottle strike, there are many tips and tricks you can try to fix the issue. Read on for some helpful hints that will hopefully stop it fast and get your baby back to eating on his normal routine again.

1.Offer the bottle from someone other than mom

Babies can go on a bottle strike at any time when they don't want to drink. It is often frustrating for parents but here are ways to stop it fast.

If your baby has been exclusively breastfed up to this point, you may notice that they will refuse a bottle if it is given by you. Your baby may believe that if they simply refuse the bottle long enough, you will revert to nursing.

They know you have something better to offer and are willing to wait to get it. You may find it helpful to have someone else to take over the bottle feeding such as a father, older sibling, aunt, grandparent, or another caregiver.

Related Post: How to Wean a Breastfed Baby

2. Move around

Your baby may prefer taking a bottle while rocking, walking, swaying, or gently bouncing. So get up, walk around, and see if the motion helps them to drink more.

3. Offer something from mom

If your baby is used to nursing and you are not around, sometimes the scent from you can help. Simply wrap the bottle in your shirt or a cloth you have slept with to give your baby something to think of you with.

4. Try different positions

Babies can go on a bottle strike at any time when they don't want to drink. It is often frustrating for parents but here are ways to stop it fast.

While you shouldn’t lay your infant flat on their back to feed, there are several different positions you can try. Your baby may prefer to be propped on a boppy pillow, reclined back in your arms, or in a football hold.

If your baby is old enough to hold their own bottle, they may have an easier time being in an upright position. You can try placing them in their activity center or bouncer while they drink and hold their bottle.

5. Try different bottles and flows

Did you know that each brand of bottles has at least 3-5 different levels of nipples. They vary by the amount of milk that will come out by the intensity of your babies suck.

The lower the number or level, the slower the flow. So typically the slowest flow of milk will be used for a newborn because they can’t consume a ton of milk in their tiny little mouths at once. 

They work up to a higher flow nipple typically as they grow. Once they get bigger, a baby usually wants his milk to come out stronger and faster.

So if you’re having bottle refusal, there’s a good chance it’s the flow of the milk coming out that is not satisfying your baby.

The higher number or flow will usually be used as your baby gets older. For example, once your baby is around 3 months, they may have to suck too hard on a level 1 nipple in order to get a larger amount of milk out. If they start fussing at their bottle, you may want to increase the nipple to a Level 2.

Once your baby is around 6 months old, his milk needs will increase again and he will want to drink more milk and for it to come out even faster. That’s when you would increase the bottle nipple to a Level 3.

Read more details on trying different bottle nipples and why this is a great tip to try.

6. Check the temperature

Your baby may be particular with the temperature of the milk that they are drinking. You may need to make sure that the milk you are offering your baby isn’t too cold or too hot.

Try testing it on the inside of your wrist. If you have been breastfeeding, your baby is definitely used to the milk being body temperature. A good bottle warmer can come in handy!

Related Post: Common Questions About Formula Feeding

7. Feed baby before they are starving

Babies can go on a bottle strike at any time when they don't want to drink. It is often frustrating for parents but here are ways to stop it fast.

Babies can get hangry too! If your infant is super hungry, they may be at a point where they have become overly fussy and frustrated. When all your baby wants to do is eat, this can lead to crying and frustration (from both of you). He may be too upset to even take a sip.

Try placing their feedings closer together at certain times of the day when they seem to have more of a bottle strike. Offering a bottle between feedings or spacing them out with less time in between can be a good way to start.

8. Offer a smaller amount

Your baby may simply not want to take the time to finish an entire bottle as this may feel overwhelming to them. Offering smaller amounts (but more frequently) can help to combat bottle strike.

Your baby is curious and wants to explore the environment around them instead of laying in your arms for 20 minutes. Letting your baby eat smaller amounts, with feedings closer together, may help.

This will especially help you not waste your precious breastmilk or formula as once they start a bottle, you can’t keep it out much longer.

9. Feed in a boring room

It can happen to the best of us, and it can happen suddenly. However it happens, bottle strikes are often frustrating for parents even though they are rather common.

There is just too much to see and do in your baby’s new world. You can take away all the temptation by offering the bottle in a room that has less distractions.

This may be a still and dark bedroom, or another quiet place in your home. You will want to avoid bright lights, loud siblings, or rooms with lots of noise.

10. Offer solids or change your food schedule

If your baby is around 6 months old and you haven’t started offering solid foods yet, give that a try. They may be bored with the same old formula and ready for something new.

Try mixing in some of that breast milk or formula with the mashed up solid foods to give them some of the nutrients intake if you feel they’re not getting enough.

Likewise, if you have started giving solid foods, they may only want those new sweet flavors as opposed to the milk. Always offer the bottle first before sitting your baby down for a meal of delicious sweet potatoes.

They are much more likely to eat as much food as possible and not be hungry for the bottle later on if you did it reversed.

11. Try a sippy or straw cup

If your baby is 7-8 months old or greater and you have already moved up to the highest flow nipple (level 3), which is still not working, your baby may be ready for a sippy cup. I prefer straw cups actually, as they are much better for oral motor development.

Read more details on transitioning your baby to a straw cup here.

12. Don’t offer the bottle too much at night

If your baby hasn’t been sleeping great and you’re constantly giving them a bottle to fall back asleep, this may be a problem. It’s possible that they could be taking in too many calories at night that they’re just not in the mood for food during the day.

Try weaning them from some of these night time feedings by offering less milk in each feeding or simply cutting out one feeding at a time in the middle of the night.

You can find other ways to help with your baby’s sleep by sleep training instead of always offering them milk or formula.

13. Don’t force it

This tip (although the easiest) may be the hardest of all. It is hard to let go of our control and worry about our baby’s health. However, your baby refusing the bottle for a few feedings here and there should not harm them.

Even adults often don’t have the same appetite every day so why should we think that our babies do?

Try not to put strict plans on your kids when they are not willing to go along. By simply letting go and letting things work out on their own, you can often end a bottle strike easily.

If your baby is having a healthy weight gain and not showing any other signs of lack of nutrition, you can let them go for a few feedings without eating their normal intake. Trust me, once they get hungry enough, they will eat what’s given to them!

Your baby going on a bottle strike can absolutely be frustrating and cause you to worry. You may be worried about your babies weight or their comfort. You may be determined to “win the battle” on this strike.

However, the best thing to do is to keep trying different ways, and most importantly try to let go of at least a little control, and trust that things will work out in the end.

Have you experienced a bottle strike recently? What was most successful for you?

Babies can go on a bottle strike at any time when they don't want to drink. It is often frustrating for parents but here are ways to stop it fast.
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