Symptoms and solutions
This article will explore what exactly bottle aversion is, what the symptoms are, and how to overcome it.
First, a little story.
My baby refused the bottle when she was two months old. As a new mom, I had no clue what was going on. First, I thought she was not hungry. Later on, when I tried to feed her again, she again refused to eat. I began to worry. My baby hasn’t eaten for 6 hours! Oh, my goodness! She is going to die! These were my thoughts.
Then, I thought she might not like her formula anymore. I tried a different one, and she ate it. Woohoo! – I thought. Win! It lasted for two feedings; then, she refused to eat again. I thought she still believed that it was the old formula. I forced the nipple in her mouth, and she started sucking. She ate. We repeated this a few times, and every single time it got worse.
Every time the feeding was a horrible struggle. She fought against the bottle, and I thought that she didn’t know what she was doing. I forced the nipple in her mouth, and she ate. I always knew better than her. I force-fed her – with good intentions, of course. Then we got to a place where she would start to scream just from getting into a feeding position and later to one where she would do it only from seeing the bib. I felt hopeless, helpless, and a total failure as a mom.
I discovered that she had a bottle-feeding aversion.
What is bottle-feeding aversion?
The baby is avoiding the bottle because she has had unpleasant or painful feelings linked to it. She is refusing to eat entirely or eats very little each time.
It usually begins with a reaction to the bottle itself. Suppose parents don’t recognize the signs of bottle aversion and keep doing the same thing as before. In that case, the baby will start to react adversely even before the feeding begins.
The signs of bottle aversion:
- Skipping feedings without fuss
- Showing hunger cues but not eating
- They are beginning to eat but consuming very little and stopping abruptly. They may arch their back and cry or turn their head away or chew on the nipple.
- When the bottle is presented, shutting their mouth and turning their head away
- When put in a feeding position or when a bib is placed on them or when they see the bottle, they scream.
- Eating only in their sleep (dream-feeding)
The most common cause of bottle aversion:
Force-feeding: pressuring the baby to feed. This was my case. I was worried about my daughter’s growth and forced her to take the bottle. With loving intentions, of course.
What can you do to solve your baby’s bottle aversion?
Let’s go back to my story a little bit.
After I broke down, my husband jumped in. After about fifteen minutes of him working with her, she ate happily. I was shocked. I asked him what he did, and he explained it to me. His idea was that she linked bad feelings to eating, so he changed her feelings by getting her into a high emotional state. While she was smiling and playing, he fed her and linked those excellent feelings to eating. The good feelings replaced the bad ones.
I was in total disbelief. I had struggled for weeks and went through this painful method for several days, and he just had fun with her for fifteen minutes, and she was done?!
The next feeding time came. My baby was going to scream like she usually does. My hubby just got lucky a few hours ago, I thought to myself. But she ate! It made me cry.
The next two months, she had a few regressions, but I did what my hubby had shown me for a few minutes each time, and she was happily eating again. The bottle aversion never returned.