What is Bottle Aversion?
In general, bottle aversion is when your baby becomes adverse to the bottle, but is otherwise happy to continue breastfeeding, or taking fluids and foods via other methods.
There are a huge variety of causes of bottle aversion, and many times overlapping reasons.
However, it is important to distinguish “bottle aversion” from “milk aversion” or “feeding or swallowing disorders”, which are much more urgent health conditions requiring medical specialists attention. Bottle aversion is largely a transient phase that improves over time.
But, how can we make things better or avoid bottle aversion altogether?
Here, we explain 5 ready remedies for you to try and overcome bottle aversion in your baby.
Why treat Bottle Aversion?
Breastfeeding is always the best and should be the first choice for families with babies. Yet, with modern context, mummies do need to return to work after their maternity leave. Additionally, breastfeeding can become overly taxing if mum is experiencing medical illnesses or has low milk supply.
Thus, when babies hit a certain age – some say 4 months, some say 6 months, some say 12 months and some say when they erupt teeth – bottle feeding may become inevitable.
Now, feeding time is always an essential bonding experience between parents and their little ones. However, some babies may develop bottle aversion, making feeding sessions a stressful and frustrating ordeal for both parents and baby.
Often, bottle aversion is a transitory phase and does not last more than a few weeks.
However, bottle aversion can lead to negative outcomes and is implicated with other more serious issues including, but not limited to:
- Psychological fear and association of bottle-feeding with negative experiences;
- inadequate nutrition for baby growth and development;
- Dehydration and organ damage;
- Underlying swallowing or speech disorders;
- Parental and caregiver stress and burnout.
Therefore, today we will explore the causes of bottle aversion in babies and offer five effective remedies to help parents overcome this challenging phase.
Understanding the Causes of Bottle Aversion
To begin, bottle aversion in babies can be caused by many factors. It may stem from nipple confusion when the baby is introduced to both breast and bottle feeding too late or too early. Furthermore, other causes include a sudden change in nipple shape or flow, unsuitable formula or breast milk (eg. prepared and stored incorrectly), discomfort from reflux or gas, or an overly forceful feeding technique. On top of all these, a common cause is also related to psychological fear in the baby.
Fear not! Stay calm.
Now, since we know there are many possible causes, it is vital to identify what are the contributing causes to your baby’s aversion or fear.
It may be one or multiple factors.
Hence, to solve the problem, identify the root causes and categorize them. List down contributory factors and prioritize them by using a list to determine which are the bigger and which are the lesser causes. This way, you have completed half the journey of finding the appropriate remedies / remedy!
Use Gradual Transition with Pace Feeding
Frequently, babies develop bottle aversion because they are introduced to the process of bottle-feeding too late.
From literature reviews, we know this can be prevented by introducing the process from when your infant hits 1 or 2 months old. Simple things like having the bottle, nipple, and formula milk around in a calm environment will let your little one familiarize. And remember – with familiarity, anxiety, fear and aversion can be minimized.
The key word here is “gradual”. Therefore, to prevent and treat bottle aversion, the process of bottle-feeding should be gradually introduced. Start with having the items around, then preparing them in front of the baby, and even having play time with the items. You can use dolls and toys, or even simulate the drinking with yourself, with your baby watching. They will sense that there is nothing to be apprehensive about and that the milk is ‘delicious’ eventually.
Also, use a method called “pace feeding”. This is a technique that mimics the natural flow of breastfeeding. First, hold the baby in an upright position and tilt the bottle slightly to control the milk flow. Then, throughout the feed, pause regularly during feeding to allow the baby to rest and control their intake. This will reduce the risk of overfeeding and discomfort.
Change and Shake Things Up To Combat Bottle Aversion
Look back at our possible causes above. Try to change nipples, bottles, milk formula and so on, and see if the bottle aversion situation improves.
Yes, babies can be sensitive to changes in nipple shape and texture. If your baby is resisting a particular nipple type, experiment with different options, such as slow-flow or anti-colic nipples.
Additionally, consider adjusting the milk’s temperature to mimic breast milk, which is typically lukewarm. Avoid feeding milk that is too cold or too hot, as it may discourage the baby from accepting the bottle.
On top of these, we recommend you start with breast milk in a bottle, followed by mixing in more and more formula milk, before using 100% formula. You may not realize, but our little ones tend to find formula milk harder to digest and more “metallic” or bitter compared to breastmilk (due to more lipase present).
If our gradual and pace feeding method above does not work, fret not! Try feeding your baby at various angles, positions* and locations. You can even try feeding outside the house! Have different persons to try too. Consider supporting your baby with certain furniture, pillows, or blankets as you deem safe and worth trying.
* Note that feeding your baby when he or she is lying flat increases risks of reflux and colic
After all, to each his own. Babies do have personal preferences too!
Should mum be around? Can I alternate breastfeeding and bottle-feeding?
This is a hot topic for discussion! There are two main different camps here.
Ultimately, one method may work for some, whilst one may work for others. We recommend that you try both camps to see which suits you best and solves your bottle aversion problem!
In one camp, couples believe that their babies have developed a reliance on mommy being around. Hence, with the breast around, they will simply refuse the bottle. In such cases, mommy will need to be distanced for bottle-feeding to work. In fact, never let mummy hold or bottle feed the child to avoid triggering more fear and stress! In extreme cases, mommy may even need to be totally out of the house! However, not to worry, as over time, babies will get more familiar with the bottle and get over this episode (so mommy can be around again during bottle-feeding).
In a separate train of thought, having mummy around helps soothe the baby and create a more relaxing environment. Couples have succeeded in overcoming bottle aversion by having their baby latch onto mummy, and then switch gradually to the bottle. In fact, some even alternate bottle and breast multiple times in one feed, so as to accustom their child to bottles and the synthetic nipple.
The bottomline is, stay calm, keep trying various methods, and believe all will be well after all!
Create a Calm and Comfortable Environment
By now, you should have a whole arsenal of remedies to right your bottle aversion problem.
However, do not forget these few basic steps to make things better. Remember, feeding time should be a soothing and relaxing experience for both baby and parent.
Hence, create a calm and comfortable environment free from distractions. Dim the lights, play gentle music, and hold your baby close during feeding. Reducing external stimuli can help the baby focus on feeding without feeling overwhelmed.
Many parents go straight to stress and make many measures, but forget this simple solution.
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Seek Support and Consultation
Lastly, if your baby’s bottle aversion persists despite trying different remedies, consider seeking support from a pediatrician or lactation consultant. They can assess your baby’s feeding habits, offer personalized advice, and rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the aversion.
As you can tell, not everyone can easily differentiate bottle aversion from the other more sinister problems. Not all mums and dads can sieve out the causes of bottle aversion readily too. Also, there are so many solutions around that you may not know where to start with. If you still feel overwhelmed, this is really for you.
At this time, you deserve a listening ear and a helping hand. So, work with a professional and allow them to provide valuable insights and guidance tailored to your baby’s specific needs.
All in all, bottle aversion in babies can be a challenging phase for parents, but with patience and the right remedies, it can be overcome. Understanding the possible causes and trying different feeding techniques, styles, nipple types, and milk temperatures can make a significant difference. Remember that each baby is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Stay attentive to your baby’s cues, seek professional support if needed, and remember that this phase is temporary. As your baby grows and develops, their feeding preferences may change. Thus, take it in your stride, as part of your learning and parenthood journey! This will lead to a more enjoyable and stress-free feeding experience for the whole family.
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