Are you trying to transition to a bottle, but your baby wants nothing to do with it? This is called baby bottle aversion, and let me reassure you that you are not alone as this is pretty common among babies. Experiencing stress and anxiety about this is normal and it just goes to show how much of an awesome mom you are.
As your little one tries to navigate through bottle feeding, she may experience some bumps along the way, that may make her feel reluctant to try to use a bottle again. They may also struggle for other reasons such as medical conditions, acid reflux or force feeding.
about baby bottle aversion, signs of bottle aversion, why it happens and what to do about it.
- What is a feeding aversion?
- How do I spot baby bottle aversion?
- Bottle aversion in breastfed babies
- What to do about baby bottle aversion
Table of Contents
What is Baby Bottle Aversion?
Baby bottle aversion is a stressful parenting situation where your baby either completely refuses or shows difficulties with bottle feeding. This is very common among babies as research has shown that up to 20% to 30% of infants and toddlers have difficulties with feeding.
Baby bottle aversion, alongside feeding aversions are categorized under childhood feeding disorders and can happen for various reasons which we will be discussing shortly.
Baby Bottle Aversion Signs and Symptoms
It is important that you are able to carefully spot signs and symptoms of aversion in your little one, as early detection is key to helping your baby overcome this. Common signs of baby bottle aversion include:
Your baby gets fussy or even begins crying when she’s about to be fed
Pain from reflux or other medical conditions can make bottle feeding very uncomfortable for your baby, causing her to refuse bottles or even cry when she’s about to be bottle-fed. Also, trauma such as choking is one of the reasons for baby bottle aversion as an attempt to feed your child can cause her to remember whatever trauma she felt in previous bottle-feeding sessions, ultimately leading to aversion.
Your baby is shutting her mouth or turning her head away when you are trying to bottle-feed her
This is an important sign of baby bottle aversion that is most times overlooked. Here, your baby may not be overly fussy or screaming at the top of her lungs. She may just show signs of disinterest such as turning away when you are about to bottle-feed her or shutting her mouth, needing you to gently push the nipple of the bottle (teat) into her mouth.
Your baby looks and acts hungry but still refuses to bottle-feed
This is a very common and frustrating symptom among moms where your baby is clearly hungry but refuses to eat. Here, your baby shows you hunger cues but when you try to feed her with a bottle, she begins to get fussy and rejects the food.
Your baby is skipping meals with ease
One constant thing about babies is that they all cry. Babies tend to cry when they are hungry or have stayed for too long without eating. Your baby may even wake up from a very long nap and cry just to alert you that she hasn’t eaten. Once you notice that your baby doesn’t give you those hunger cues anymore, or she skips meals without a fuss, it’s a sign she’s having a feeding aversion which may be due to baby bottle aversion.
Eats lesser quantities of food
With baby bottle aversion, you may notice that your baby only takes in a little amount of milk from her baby bottle before she begins fussing and refuses any more milk. This may be due to acid reflux as pain may occur after a small amount of milk is taken. If this persists, you may also begin to notice that your baby isn’t growing as expected for her age because she isn’t eating well, and as a result not getting enough nutrients needed to grow adequately.
What Causes Bottle-Feeding Aversion?
Baby bottle aversion can occur for several reasons ranging from psychological to medical factors. Causes of baby bottle aversion include:
Force feeding is very common and happens when frustrated or stressed parents begin to force an uncooperative baby to feed. It may involve the parent forcefully putting a baby bottle into the baby’s mouth, forcing them to suck and swallow the milk. Although this may seem effective to the parent; this inflicts some sort trauma to the baby which may lead to or worsen bottle aversion. In my experience, this is a common cause of bottle-feeding aversion and should be avoided at all cost.
Research has shown that 40% to 80% of children with developmental disabilities develop feeding disorders with a whooping 90% of children with autism spectrum disorder developing feeding disorders. If your little one has a developmental disability, there’s a chance that she might encounter some difficulties with bottle feeding such as baby bottle aversion.
This is a digestive condition that is common among babies. Here, there is a backward flow of previously ingested food from the stomach back into the esophagus. The stomach contains acid which helps your baby digest her food, and when the contents of the stomach flow back into the esophagus it may cause your baby to feel some pain. This pain can make your baby refuse feed and ultimately cause bottle aversion.
Premature babies have been proven in research to have a higher risk of aspiration while feeding. Aspiration is a traumatic event that can cause your baby to develop aversion to bottle feeding.
Medical procedures involving the use of nasal or oral tubing
Medical procedures like nasal suctioning and insertion of a nasogastric tube can be frightening and may inflict trauma on your baby causing her to become averse towards feeding and baby bottles.
What About Bottle Aversion in Breastfed Babies?
Breastfed babies can develop bottle aversion too.
Whether to breastfeed or pump and bottle-feed depends on your choice as a mom with consideration to your daily schedule and convenience. However, some babies who have had the best of both worlds may prefer one over the other. Breastfed babies who are also bottle-fed may develop aversion to bottle feeding as they prefer breastfeeding. This can happen with working moms who have previously been breastfeeding during their maternity leave, but have to pump and bottle-feed once they resume work.
It can be really frustrating getting your baby to accept the bottle considering that you will be at work for 8+ hours. You could try letting someone other than you, like your partner or parent, bottle feed your baby in a paced manner. You could also try feeding your baby in different positions and noting the position she liked best.
What to Do if Your Baby Refuses to Eat from a Bottle
Here practical tips to help your baby overcome bottle aversion:
- Do not force feed your baby. This only makes things worse.
- Try paced bottle-feeding, where you bottle-feed your little one at a slower pace.
- You can try changing your baby’s bottle. The size of the bottle and nipple hole could affect the flow of milk from the bottle which may make your baby feel frustrated if it is flowing too slowly or overwhelmed if flowing too quickly.
- Feed your baby in a more upright position to help prevent or relief reflux and spit-ups.
- Take your baby to a pediatrician to figure out the possible medical reasons for your baby’s aversion.
As a mother, seeing your baby refusing to eat can be extremely distressing and frustrating. Trust me, I’ve met thousands more moms like you going through the same thing and your feelings are completely justified as having a child with aversions can be really stressful. Aversions are very common in children and may manifest as picky eating or complete refusal of food. The takeaway here is to try as much as possible to avoid forcing your baby to feed as this will cause more harm than good by worsening your baby’s aversion.
Make sure to pay your pediatrician a visit if aversions get worse or do not resolve.
Nancy M.D. is a health practitioner, pediatrician and medical writer, who is dedicated to fostering awareness, and lending a helping hand to humanity at large.