13 Common Bottle Feeding Problems and Solutions

Bottle-Feeding Problems and Their Solutions

Ah, the joys of feeding a baby. It’s like trying to wrangle a miniature tornado with an appetite. And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, your little bundle of joy throws you a curveball by refusing the bottle. Cue the tears (from both baby and parent).

Yes, bottle-feeding can be a tricky business. It’s like a high-stakes game of “Will They or Won’t They Swallow?” with your precious little one. And when they start crying, turning their head away, and spilling more milk than they actually consume, you know something’s up.

But fear not, fellow parents, for we are here to shed some light on these bottle-feeding predicaments and arm you with the knowledge you need to conquer them. We’ve gathered the best tips, tricks, and solutions to help you navigate this rocky terrain.

So, whether you’re a first-time parent or a seasoned pro looking for some new strategies, buckle up and get ready to tackle those bottle-feeding woes head-on. We’ve got you covered with practical advice, a sprinkle of humor, and maybe even a dash of baby magic. Let’s dive in and turn those frowns into giggles!

Signs Your Baby is Refusing to Bottle-Feed

A breastfed baby refusing bottle-feeding is relatively common, and it isn’t much cause for alarm. Following are some signs that your baby is refusing bottle-feeding.

  • Starting to cry when approached with a bottle or placed in the feeding position.
  • Constantly turning and shifting his head to avoid the bottle.
  • Falling asleep while feeding.
  • Spilling most of the milk from the sides of the mouth instead of swallowing.
  • Not closing his mouth when the nipple is inserted.
  • Closing his mouth when the nipple is inserted, but not sucking.
  • Coughing and spitting out the milk.
  • Throwing up the milk.
  • Sucking a little milk and then refusing more.
  • Feeding very quickly or very slowly.
  • Not feeding the expected amount.
  • Pushing away or arching their back when offered a bottle.
  • Becoming fussy or irritable during feedings.

Common Bottle-Feeding Problems and Their Solutions

There are various reasons for a baby to refuse bottle-feeding; the good news is that most of these reasons are behavioural in nature and can be addressed by simply observing the baby for vital clues. Given below are some common problems associated with bottle-feeding and their solutions.

1. Misinterpreting Hunger

The most common and easily correctable problem related to bottle-feeding is the misinterpretation of hunger by new moms. Babies tend to suck on their thumbs and other objects for various reasons other than being hungry. A baby may suck on things out of anxiety, boredom or simply being tired; many mothers misinterpret this as hunger. Attempting to feed the baby based on this behaviour can result in the baby refusing to feed simply because he is not hungry.

What to Do?

If the baby is refusing to feed, do not force it, accept that you may have misinterpreted and wait till the baby gives more clear clues of being hungry.

2. Misinterpreting/Miscalculating the Feeding Amount

The second most common and easily correctable problem with regards to bottle-feeding is miscalculating the amount of milk or baby formula a baby really needs. Sometimes parents make calculations based on expert opinion or simply guesstimate their baby’s daily requirement of milk or formula. And sometimes, professionals make the mistake of not properly calculating requirements based on the baby’s growth. Whatever the case may be, if a baby has had enough and is not hungry, he will refuse to feed.

What to Do?

Commonly estimated feeding suggestions are only approximate figures and can vary from baby to baby. Some babies feed more than others and some less. As noted above, wait till the baby gives more clear clues of being hungry.

3. Distracted Baby

Humans are naturally curious beings; this curiosity is apparent as early as four months from being born. Once a baby is four months or older, his curiosity makes him take more interest in everything around him. Other children playing, pets acting up, and even music and television can distract a baby and make him lose focus on feeding.

Baby drinking milk

What to Do?

If you feel your baby is distracted, turn of all sound sources such as television, music etc. Better still is to find a quiet room without people, children or pets.

4. Tired Baby

A baby may refuse to bottle-feed simply because he is tired. A baby that has not slept enough will tire quickly; while it is true that a hungry baby may sleep less, it is equally true for a baby deprived of sleep to avoid feeding. He will throw a fuss, cry or fall asleep while feeding.

What to Do?

Seek an expert’s opinion on sleeping and feeding schedules, or create a balanced schedule to avoid overlapping sleeping time with feeding time. Also, ensure that your baby is getting enough sleep and try to feed the baby before he gets tired.

5. Individual Feeding Pattern

Like all mammals, humans tend to display individual personality types, behavioural patterns and feeding habits very early on in their life. Some babies like to consume large amounts of food at one go; others like to feed a little at a time but more often during the day. If your baby is frequently refusing to bottle-feed, then it is prudent to consider that you may not have fully understood his individual feeding pattern. Constantly feeding a baby can put added stress on the mother. Ideally, a baby’s individual pattern should be respected, but. if needed, an attempt can be made to gently and gradually encourage a change.

What to Do?

A baby should be encouraged to feed much of the food needed in about forty minutes. However, do not force-feed. Stop if the baby does not wish to continue. Another approach to a frequent feeding pattern is to try and create longer intervals between feeds. Encourage play, take the baby for an outing or let him nap to gradually increase the time intervals between feeds.

6. Bottle-Feeding Aversion

Some babies may develop an allergy to milk protein or develop intolerance to milk or formula. There are many factors that may induce feeding aversions, such as certain physical or oral problems and reflux. Fortunately, most feeding aversions are a result of behavioural issues than actual physical problems or medical conditions.

What to Do?

A feeding aversion can be a very complicated problem with no easy or straightforward solutions. If all else fails, then the only solution is to consult experts to try and identify the root cause of this aversion.

7. Night Feeding

Newborn babies need to be fed frequently and even at night. Avoid feeding a baby, that has reached six months, at night. If night feeding continues beyond six months it could result in a formula fed baby refusing bottle. This is no cause for alarm; it may simply be that the baby relies on feeding to fall asleep. Night time feeding will not harm the baby, but given that a baby needs only a certain amount of food every twenty-four hours, she may simply refuse to be bottle fed during the day.

What to Do?

Once the baby has reached six months of age, parents should consider slowly and gradually discouraging nighttime feeding. This can be done by simply encouraging the baby to feed more during the day.

8. Solid Foods

In a perfect world, a baby should only be allowed solid food after six months of age. In some instances, some babies need solid foods earlier. Solid foods generally have more calories and nutrition. As a result, the baby may lose the appetite for bottle-feeding.

What to Do?

For babies, less than six months of age avoid starting solid food. If you have already started feeding them try and reduce the quantity and if possible stop feeding solids food all together till the baby has crossed six months of age.

9. Difficulties With Transition to Bottle-Feeding

If you have been breastfeeding your baby beyond three months of age, then there is a high probability that the baby will find it difficult to make the transition to bottle-feeding. Everything from the difference in feeding action between bottle-feeding and breastfeeding to the difference in the taste of formula and breast milk, can cause this problem.

What to Do?

The easiest way is to begin by providing expressed breast milk in the bottle that way if the baby has a problem with taste, then that problem has been resolved, and the transition would be easier to achieve. If this does not work, then it is advisable to try different nipples.

10. Tightly Screwed Bottle

The bottle used for bottle-feeding needs to maintain neutral pressure for the milk to flow smoothly. The milk emptying out of the bottle as a result of feeding will create a vacuum which needs to be filled with fresh air entering the bottle. If the milk bottle is not able to vent the baby will find it harder and harder to feed as the negative pressure builds up. Some babies will tire and fall asleep while others will simply stop trying. In some bottles, the air can enter only from between the rim of the bottle and the nipple ring, if the nipple is screwed too tightly on the bottle the venting required in the bottle will not take place.

What to Do?

Check the bottle for proper venting, and airflow.

11. Milk Flow

Another common problem is milk flow. If the milk is not flowing fast enough, it can lead to the baby getting impatient and losing interest. If the milk flow is too fast, the baby may choke and become uncomfortable.

What to Do?

To fix a slow flow problem, you can try changing the bottle nipple to one with a larger hole. If the flow is too fast, try slowing it down by using a nipple with a smaller hole.

12. Air Ingestion

Air ingestion can also be a common problem while bottle feeding. Babies can swallow air while feeding which can cause them to feel bloated and gassy.

What to Do?

To prevent air ingestion, make sure that the baby is properly positioned during feeding. Hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle to ensure that the baby is not ingesting too much air.

13. Nipple Confusion.

This happens when a baby has difficulty latching onto the nipple after being fed with a bottle. This can be frustrating for both the baby and the parents, but there are solutions to help overcome nipple confusion.

What to Do?

Try to stick to one type of nipple when feeding your baby, and avoid changing between bottle and breast too often. Additionally, try using a slow-flow nipple and making sure that the baby is latching correctly. If nipple confusion persists, consult with a lactation consultant for guidance.

What to do If You Tried Everything But Still Your Baby Refuses Bottle?

If all the above has been tried and hasn’t worked there are a few other approaches that can be tried.

1. Create a Relaxed Atmosphere

Sometimes a baby may be unsettled for unknown reasons; a human baby is very perceptive and can detect stress in parents. As a rule, if the mum is calm and relaxed, the baby will be more open to bottle-feeding.

2. Allow the Baby to Get a Little Hungry

A baby that is not hungry will fuss over being fed. Too much hunger can cause ease and discomfort to a baby, but a little hunger will not harm the baby. Increase the time between feeding intervals and allow the baby to get a little hungry.

father feeding milk to baby

3. Let Someone Else Bottle Feed

Babies that are struggling to make the transition from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding will not accept being bottle-fed by the mother. It is advisable to encourage the father or another family member to take on the responsibility.

4. Proper Positioning for Bottle-Feeding

If the baby is not in a comfortable position, he may refuse to bottle-feed. It is essential to hold the baby a little upright with the head being positioned to be in a straight line with the body. The baby should be snuggled in your arms and also have support for his feet.

5. Consider Offering a Cup or Spoon

If your baby is still refusing the bottle, consider offering milk in a cup or spoon instead. While it may not be as convenient as a bottle, some babies prefer this method of feeding.

6. Experiment with Different Nipple Sizes and Shapes

Sometimes, the problem might not be the bottle itself, but the nipple. Try different nipple sizes and shapes to see if your baby prefers one over the other. It may take some trial and error, but finding the right nipple can make a significant difference.

7. Try a Different Feeding Position

If your baby is refusing the bottle, try a different feeding position to make them more comfortable. For example, you can try holding the baby in a more upright position or cradling them differently.

When To Consult A Doctor?

We know how overwhelming it can be when your baby refuses to bottle-feed. But before you jump to consult a doctor, take a deep breath and try out some of the solutions we’ve offered. However, if the problem persists, or you notice any unusual symptoms like vomiting, diarrhoea, or a sudden loss of appetite, it’s time to seek medical advice. Remember, every baby is different, and some might need more help than others. So don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional, they are there to help you and your little one.


1. Does Bottle Feeding Cause Gas In Babies?

Bottle-feeding can cause gas in babies if not done correctly. One common issue is when the baby takes in too much air while feeding. This can happen if the bottle is not tilted correctly, or if the baby is drinking too quickly. To prevent this, parents can try paced bottle-feeding, where they hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle and pause every few minutes to give the baby a chance to burp and digest the milk. Additionally, parents can try different bottle types that reduce air intake or consider using anti-colic bottles that have special vents designed to reduce the amount of air the baby takes in. If the baby continues to experience excessive gas, it may be worth consulting a doctor to rule out any underlying issues.

2. Why Is Feeding With Bottle Not Recommended?

Bottle-feeding is not recommended as the method of feeding a newborn baby as it can have some negative effects on the baby’s health. Bottle-feeding can increase the risk of infections as bacteria can easily develop in milk that has been left sitting in the bottle for too long. Additionally, bottle-fed babies may not receive the same health benefits that breastfed babies do, such as improved digestion, immunity, and overall health. However, if breastfeeding is not an option, bottle-feeding can still be a healthy and safe option for your baby as long as proper precautions are taken, such as using the right type of bottle, sterilizing bottles, and following safe feeding practices. It’s important to talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant to get advice on the best way to feed your baby.

It can be very frustrating when parents are faced with babies refusing to bottle-feed; thankfully the common problems associated with bottle-feeding have simple solutions. If all else fails. then it’s best to seek medical advice for a baby fussy during feeding bottle as the last and best resort.


1. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018). Bottle-Feeding Problems and Their Solutions. HealthyChildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Bottle-Feeding-Problems-and-Their-Solutions.aspx

2. Mayo Clinic. (2021, June 1). Bottle-feeding: How to prevent nipple confusion. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/bottle-feeding/art-20048083

3. American Pregnancy Association. (2019). Bottle-Feeding Problems and Solutions. https://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/bottle-feeding-problems-and-solutions-9442/

4. Children’s Hospital Colorado. (n.d.). Common Bottle-Feeding Problems and Their Solutions. https://www.childrenscolorado.org/conditions-and-advice/newborn-baby/bottle-feeding-problems-and-solutions/

5. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018). Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827–e841. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-3552

6. La Leche League International. (n.d.). Breastfeeding vs. Bottle-feeding. https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/breastfeeding-vs-bottlefeeding/

7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Infant Feeding. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/infant-feeding.html

8. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Infant and Young Child Feeding. https://www.who.int/health-topics/infant-and-young-child-feeding

9. Cleveland Clinic. (2019). Formula Feeding FAQs: Some Common Concerns. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10525-formula-feeding-faqs-some-common-concerns

10. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2015, June). Breastfeeding and bottle feeding. HealthyChildren.org. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Breastfeeding-and-Bottle-Feeding.aspx

11. American Pregnancy Association. (2019, December). Nipple Confusion: How to Identify and Overcome It. https://americanpregnancy.org/breastfeeding/nipple-confusion/

12. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018). Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

Also Read: 

How To Bottle Feed A Baby
How Soon Babies Can Start Holding Their Bottle

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