Breastfeeding A to Z

If Your Baby Won’t Take A Bottle Nipple

These are things to try if your baby is reluctant to take a bottle or refuses to take one at all and you need this option to work.

  1. Hold baby in a different position than what their mother does when she is breastfeeding.
  2. Even though it is usually better to try feeding your baby without them being aware of their mother, you can try wearing something that their mother has worn.  Sometimes this helps them decide to take the bottle–their mother’s scent is familiar.
  3. Try a different style of bottle nipple, the shank of the nipple may be too long or too short for where in the mouth it triggers your baby’s sucking response or gag reflex.  Newborn’s gag reflex is located in the middle of their tongue, versus as we mature it is located farther back on the tongue. (1)
  4. A nipple that is too long may gag the baby and prevent them from sucking.
  5. Try to give the bottle when your baby is not really hungry, your baby may be more patient with learning something new, than when they are really hungry.
  6. Realize that you don’t have to give them their feeding in a bottle.  It is usually the easiest, but you can also try a clean/sterilized eye dropper, spoon, sipper cup or even a flexible medicine cup (the disposable kind that comes on top of liquid medicine–or you can get from the pharmacy).


  1. Mannel, R, Marten, PJ, Walker, M, Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice, 3rd edition, Burlington, MA, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013, p 285.