Introducing a Bottle

At the beginning babies have a strong sucking reflex which means they usually suck on a teat easily.

After a few weeks this reflex fades and introducing a bottle can take a while for your baby to get used to sucking on a teat, even if they have had bottles before.

Sometimes just getting used to the feel of the bottle teat is enough for some babies on their first few tries before they try to swallow milk. You may want to go faster but pushing it, or hoping that hunger will coax them, can end up with your baby refusing the bottle. It can help to think about it from your baby’s view.

They need to feel in control and not rushed. Remember how you like to learn new skills – usually not when you are tired and hungry!

Babies, from about 3 months on may prefer to get used to having the bottle as a plaything, perhaps in the bath – at this stage there is no need to add a teat, or any fluid. This way the bottle becomes a familiar object, with no expectation.

When you do start to add milk, start gently and you might also like to try having the teat at room temperature.

Here are some ideas from other parents:

  • Take your time and go in small steps
  • Keep the bottle horizontal so the flow of milk is controlled by your baby
  • Often babies like copying other children so watching other babies drink from a bottle can help. You could pretend to drink too, if there is no-one else to copy.
  • Wrapping the bottle in a piece of your clothing
  • Walking round the room cuddling your baby
  • Either your partner/ mother offer the bottle when you are out the room, or you, perhaps with your baby facing the window or someone else.

It is very unlikely that you are missing the perfect teat or bottle. Many mothers end up with a whole load of teats and still not find one that works.

If your baby becomes upset, stop for a few days and go back to the bottle being a toy.

Alternatives

  • Cup feeding, either an open cup or a cup with a spout, without a valve, can work well.
  • Pour some milk in a container and give it on a spoon.
  • Let your baby take the milk – avoid pouring it into their mouth.

Ask for help

Contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline to find out how to give drinks in a cup or ask at a breastfeeding drop-in.