My baby refuses to take a bottle, but I need to go back to work! What can I do? Transitioning to a Bottle

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mom struggling to bottlefeed
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When you've been breastfeeding exclusively and now you need to be away from your baby, it can be a major headache to get your baby to accept a bottle over your breast. Thankfully, experts and moms have smart tips that can help you ease the transition.

Have the Caregiver Try When You're Not There

"Many babies who are breastfed will refuse to take a bottle, especially if it's their mom who's giving them the bottle. The baby would much prefer to nurse than take a bottle from mom. It's often helpful for the care provider to try giving the baby a bottle when Mom isn't around and see what happens. Eventually, babies usually take to the bottle, but it's key for mom to not be around. Also, experimenting with different types of bottle nipples can help." -- Jennifer Mayer, certified holistic...

"Many babies who are breastfed will refuse to take a bottle, especially if it's their mom who's giving them the bottle. The baby would much prefer to nurse than take a bottle from mom. It's often helpful for the care provider to try giving the baby a bottle when Mom isn't around and see what happens. Eventually, babies usually take to the bottle, but it's key for mom to not be around. Also, experimenting with different types of bottle nipples can help." -- Jennifer Mayer, certified holistic health coach, birth doula, and cofounder of Baby Caravan in New York, New York

Practice With the Bottle or Try an Alternative

"Consistency and perseverance usually prevail. Most babies will indicate their preference -- breast over bottle -- but will not starve themselves when hungry. If the baby refuses it from Mom, she can let Dad or another family member have a try. In addition, Mom can use a syringe or cup feed if she becomes worried that baby will not take a bottle. All will work to hydrate a baby and will help ease the transition for a baby not accustomed to a bottle.

"If a mom knows she will need to use a...

"Consistency and perseverance usually prevail. Most babies will indicate their preference -- breast over bottle -- but will not starve themselves when hungry. If the baby refuses it from Mom, she can let Dad or another family member have a try. In addition, Mom can use a syringe or cup feed if she becomes worried that baby will not take a bottle. All will work to hydrate a baby and will help ease the transition for a baby not accustomed to a bottle.

"If a mom knows she will need to use a bottle at some point before a child will be old enough to use a sippy cup (usually 7 to 9 months), she can introduce pumped breast milk once a baby is proficient at breastfeeding. Even one bottle of pumped breast milk a day or a few times a week can prevent a baby from rejecting bottle-feeding once a mother decides to return to work. It is also fun to include [the] father and/or grandparents in the ritual of feeding a baby, and Mom will then have the ability to run an errand or take a nap." -- Jill Creighton, MD, pediatrician, Stony Brook Children's Hospital, Stony Brook, New York

Find a Bottle Nipple That Works Like a Breast

"You should work on your baby accepting a bottle during the hours you will be at work for several days in a row before returning to work. You should trial artificial nipples that mimic a mother's nipple and determine which is best accepted by your infant. If mother is in the room, an infant can smell her milk and will want to breastfeed instead of accepting expressed breast milk from a bottle. Most infants will more readily accept expressed breast milk from another caregiver." -- Maria...

"You should work on your baby accepting a bottle during the hours you will be at work for several days in a row before returning to work. You should trial artificial nipples that mimic a mother's nipple and determine which is best accepted by your infant. If mother is in the room, an infant can smell her milk and will want to breastfeed instead of accepting expressed breast milk from a bottle. Most infants will more readily accept expressed breast milk from another caregiver." -- Maria Lombardi, MD, pediatrician at Maria Fareri Children's Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, Valhalla, New York

Give Baby a Couple Weeks

"The baby will eat eventually, but it can take time before the baby gets in the routine of not having Mom close by for food all the time. It took our daughter about two weeks to actually be settled."

Baby May Adapt by 'Reverse Cycling'

"I had that problem when I went back to work with my 3-month-old. He would only take a few ounces at daycare from the bottle but would nurse all night. Basically, he synced his feeding cycle to when we were together, and the eight hours he was at daycare was like the time most babies would sleep. It was very difficult at first for me, but we continued breastfeeding for 18 months. We also tried a lot of bottles and finally found one that he's somewhat liked."

Try Feeding With Nipple Shields

"Try wearing nipple shields while nursing! It may help your baby transition."

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.