New moms returning to work have a lot to get done before that first day back on the job.
Before baby, I stressed about establishing breastfeeding. Then during my maternity leave, I stressed about building an adequate freezer stash for my successfully breastfed baby.
Maybe my stress was to blame, but when I was coping with returning to work and trying to get all of my ducks in a row — my baby stopped drinking from a bottle. Shit.
I was heading back to the office whether I liked it or not, so what do you do when baby won’t take a bottle?
Naturally, unexpected issues arise almost daily in a mom’s world. Although my daughter had taken bottles in the hospital and a handful of times during those first twelve weeks of life, she decided the bottle just wasn’t working out and rejected it. TWO DAYS before my return to work, and for nearly SIX WEEKS after I’d been back.
Well-intentioned coworkers were asking me every day if she finally caved and took a bottle. I had to say “no” and choke back tears thinking about my sweet hungry little babe who just wanted her mommy! While I secretly hoped my office folk would TAKE A HINT and let me go home early until she did. But I digress.
Basically, it was horrible. My daughter was starving herself while I worked, so my Mom Guilt hit an all time high, as you can imagine. She didn’t hate the food, she hated the plastic nipple! So what do you do when your baby won’t take a bottle?
Google it: “how to get my breastfed baby to take a bottle”
Doctor Google to the rescue right? Wrong. My stay-at-home husband was so frustrated by the lack of helpful resources (enter: my blog lol). Most of the information was just forums of people struggling with the same problem, or insistent preaching that “they won’t starve themselves!”
Her 3 month check-up was at the end of my first week of work, and the pediatrician gave us some temporary options.
In all honestly, she did take a bottle eventually. But those 6 weeks were rough for everyone involved, and baby’s gotta eat! So a temporary solution is essential.
Here’s what we tried, and what finally worked!
Every. Bottle. Ever.
We spent a small fortune on brands that ensured they were the best bottle for breastfed babies. No… that didn’t work. Next!
Maybe if Dad holds her the same way Mom would while she’s breastfeeding? Let the mind games begin! But nah… she might be smarter than us, and it’s scary, but anyway — Next!
This one is bonkers and I’m not even a little surprised that it didn’t work. This is exactly what it sounds like: put the breast milk in a cup, and help the baby sip it…..
Those sipping reflexes just weren’t there until our baby got a little bigger.
The WINNER! The pediatrician suggested it as a last resort but I’m so glad we gave it a shot. About 2 weeks deep into the misery of mom guilt, dad listening to starved screams, and baby starving herself because she preferred my boob — WE FINALLY GOT SOME RELIEF.
The pediatrician hooked us up with a handful of itty bitty plastic syringes like these, but our local pharmacy gave us a wide variety of sizes for free. We were in business!
Syringe feeding surprised us all as the miracle cure to get a breastfed baby drinking expressed milk. Or any milk at that rate! When I could finally answer “YES! She’s eating! Through a syringe!” I got the craziest looks.
Most of the time people asked what does that mean? That’s when I realized I didn’t even know how this was happening. Whenever I was around she just ate straight from the source. So I had to ask dad to send me some pictures.
He propped her up in a little bouncy chair since she was still too young to sit up in a high chair. The angle helps with little ones which is why newborns are fed in an almost lying position. Makes sense, right?
It was a total mess, so he kept her entirely covered in swaddles, burp rags, etc while the deed was done. We had a wide variety of syringes ranging in size and volume, but they generally max out at around 5 Ml.
One feeding took about 20-40 full syringes, and that went down about 3-4 times a day.
This went on for about 4 weeks.
the O-Ball hack to get baby to love plastic nipples
With a temporary solution in place, we still had to solve the overall problem: how to get baby drinking from a bottle. During those 4 weeks, he kept trying to wriggle a nipple in her mouth before and between feedings. But no.
Syringe feeding could’ve kept going, but it was not ideal/practical/sustainable. So when I stumbled upon this hack on Reddit, I knew we were on to something. (I can’t find the original source 🙁 but here is my baby at it!)
You can’t see much, so let me tell you whats going on. We popped a Medela bottle nipple into one of the “Os” because they fit perfectly. Take note: there is no bottle attached. This was just a strategy to get babygirl playing with and enjoying the plastic bottle nipple.
If your baby doesn’t have an oball yet, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s a ball & rattle, and it obviously serves multiple purposes! My babe still loves it 2 years later.
Within a few weeks of playing with a nippled oball, she was feeling it. It’s all a game with these people! We did the same thing with a toothbrush (treated it like a toy) and now she LOVES brushing her teeth.
I don’t know if this was the deal-maker since she couldn’t tell me, but I *think* this is what got her into the whole bottle idea. Unless she was just sick of the syringe too, which is likely.
My baby eventually took a bottle, but we figured out what to do in the meantime
Between using a cup, a syringe, and even a straw (?!) my newborn did start drinking breastmilk from her bottle. After 6 weeks back to work, we were onto a new routine with new problems but at least that one was out of the way!
If I had to do it again, I would have saved SO MUCH MONEY on bottles. That was sadly a wasted investment, because although I loved certain brands for certain reasons, daddy wasn’t interested in extra effort. And with him as the caregiver getting yelled at from 8 to 5, he kinda called the shots.
We used the medela bottles almost exclusively because they are so easy to clean and handle. They are cheap, no frills, and always came second best to the actual boobs so that is still a win in my book!
let’s talk bottles. How long did it take you to get your breastfed baby drinking from a bottle? What’s your trick?
LOVE this solution!!! But I am so sorry you guys had to go through all of that! I’m definitely keeping this in mind for baby #2. I know every baby is different!
With our first, I introduced the bottle at four weeks. We used Avent because I read everywhere that this was a super great brand but our little one had an opposit reaction! She actually preferred the bottle. The pediatrician said it was because the bottle is much easier and more efficient to get lots out at once? So I had to use it sparingly! I even had to see a lactation consultant because after introducing he bottle, she seemed to be over breastfeeding and it was a struggle! Haha. But we made it through!! Glad you guys did too!!!
Ashley Dicarlo says
Oh gosh! They always seem to want the opposite of us! And 4 weeks sounds like the perfect time to start. What gives? That was one of my biggest concerns that I tried to avoid so I guess I got what I asked for lol. It must have been the fast flow that bothered ours, I guess. Who gave these little people so much preference at such a young age? They seem to be the only creatures that get away with “biting the hand that feeds you”!
THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!! My daughter is 4 months and took a bottle at first but started refusing some time ago…and I’ve yet to go back to work because of this. We too have tried every bottle on the market and every bottle training technique out there… However she LOVES drinking camomile tea out of a syringe so I can actually totally see her drinking milk from a syringe!!! And the oball trick is next on my list!!!! You are a lifesaver, I’m telling my husband about this and will be trying it TOMORROW!!! Thank you so much again.
Ahhh you’re so welcome! I’m so happy this could give you some much deserved hope! The thought of a baby drinking tea is so cute and I want to know how you found out she loves it hahahaha Good luck getting her back on the bottle 🙂
I absolutely love the picture of your baby drinking out of a syringe. She looks so mad but she’s hungry so it’ll do lololol. We had to syringe feed my lo a few times and it is a PAIN. Well done to you guys for keeping it up that long and I’m so glad she finally caved
Lol! Thank you yes I see that too 😂 it’s not for the faint of heart but sometimes it has to be done.
I’m currently going through this! My 12 week old daughter has decided that she hates the bottle and screams bloody murder when my husband tries to feed her from it. I have only worked 3 shifts and am already completely stressed out and am seriously considering taking another leave of absence because she won’t eat. I’ve tried SO many bottles, and have tried they syringe once (unsuccessfully). I hate the idea of having to put her through so much stress at only 12 weeks old – and hearing “oh she’ll give in eventually” doesn’t help when I know she’s at home screaming and crying and not eating. I ordered yet ANOTHER type of bottle (anyone have luck with Minnie bottles?) and I’m going to try the OBall strategy too.
Thank you for writing this blog post!
Oh gosh I feel for you Claire <3 each baby is so different and it's heart wrenching to hear those insensitive comments essentially telling you to torture your baby. I'm sorry you're going through this but glad to help you know you're not alone and share the tips I have!
So sorry, I am in the exact same boat. I have 6 more days of maternity leave and It’s torture hearing the screaming while my husband tries to feed her. I’m so stressed out about going back to work thinking about her not eating. We’re going to try a syringe tomorrow after reading this.
Same boat! Just another reason why we should have longer maternity leaves like many other parts of the world. Why do we have to starve our young babies b/c we have to go back to work so soon after birthing them?! Definitely going to try the oball strategy
I can’t agree enough! It’s inhumane, at best. Best of luck to you and your babe! I know it’s so much tougher than it should be.
How is it going with your daughter? Any luck?
I just returned to work and my son is refusing to bottle feed. Thought I’d see how your progress was coming along ❤️
Kirstie Bezuidenhout says
Hi, I am currently in the excat same situation with baby refusing everything but boob 🥴 I’ve been googling for weeks and I’ve just found this article, please tell me where can I follow you?? This is just amazing advice definitely will be trying it and buying an oball!!
Hello, my daughter is 7 months old and hardly interested in solids and still loves her breastmilk- won’t take a bottle even if I express! Praying some of your ideas work 🙏
Awh I feel for you! It’s a blessing and a curse, right? haa my second baby is a lot less combative but if I’m around he’s still exclusively on me. Good luck!
I’m literally crying reading this. I go back to work tomorrow and we have been trying everything for the last 6 weeks. Don’t know why we didn’t try syringes. She needed them when we first came home! 🤦♀️ This article helped my anxiety and mom guilt about starving baby and that this is TOTALLY NORMAL! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!! Luckily I only work 3 overnight 12 hour shifts a week. She eats less at night so hopefully less syringes lol.
Ohh Marissa I’m sending you love! It isn’t easy but it won’t last forever. I promise!
I’m returning to work next week and am freaking out because my baby won’t take a bottle! I ran to my medicine cabinet to find a syringe to try this and he’s taking the milk!! I’m so so happy to have found this. I agree that a medicine cup (how?) and trying other bottles does NOT work. This gives me such relief in knowing he will not be starving. THANK YOU!!
soooo happy to hear this! Much love to you both!
I am going through this right now with my 8 week old. He will not drink from a bottle he just chews the nipple because he doesn’t know how to suck on it. I go back to work in 4 weeks and I’m freaking out. We are on our 7th different bottle! We may have to syringe feed. How do you know how much to give?