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Bottle Strike

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

I read your Sleep article today and… excellent advice. (To be honest, all of your articles are excellent. And also tend to induce fits of giggles. And coughs of horror. And I love cloth diapers. And I love my Ergo. So… yeah.)

Anyway – I’m lucky enough to have great people offer to take the kid whenever and my husband ROCKS and helps out as much as he can, BUT… I’m stuck with night duty because the kid has a serious Boob fetish. I am doing exclusively breastmilk (not because I am an anti-formula nutbar, but just because I can feed a small army with on breastmilk alone *deep sigh*) and I can pump litres and litres by just blinking at the stupid pump, but the baby hates anything that doesn’t come directly out of The Boob. She HATES bottles.

Any tips for a mom who would love a night off? Am I stuck to the kid until she starts eating enough solids to get her through the evening? We’ve tried having dad give her the bottle (she screamed). Grandma tried giving her a bottle while I was out (she screamed). I’ve tried giving her a bottle (whoa, bad idea.) Am I doomed to sleepless nights despite having ample food supplies for the kid and a willing husband? Bah!

Thanks kindly,

Ugh. I remember those days. Desperately needing a feeding or two off-duty, wanting a grown-up dinner date night out with my husband, crying in the middle of the night because of the double ear infection LEAKING OUT OF MY EYES, yet blindly trying to get boob to baby in the dark OMG HALP.

We never experienced the level of stubbornness you describe — if I may fly in the face of every breastfeeding expert out there, I think the whole “delaying the bottle until six weeks” often causes as many problems as it solves, especially for mothers who really, really NEED their babies to take bottles (i.e., going back to work) — but oh, there were days. Sometimes Ezra would take a bottle…sometimes he wouldn’t. I was adamant though; while breastfeeding was super-duper mega-important to me…so was my mental health and the occasional need to be completely selfish.

What worked for us was patience, persistence…and money. Yeah. Lots of different bottles, lots of different nipples and flow levels. I bought preemie-flow nipples because I didn’t want him to develop a preference for a faster flow, and this actually turned out to be pretty smart, if I do say so myself: if Ezra did have a preference, it was for the slower flow. So if you’re trying level one nipples, pick up some preemies. Or level twos. You just never know.

Some babies like bottles that mimic the boob, like Avent widenecks or the Adiri Natural Nurser. They might need the bottle-giver to wear their mother’s bathrobe or use the same blanket she uses while nursing. But other babies actually need bottlefeeding to be a very different experience — you might have more luck with standard bottles, a medicine dropper, a spoon or even…a cup. Try a soft-spouted sippy cup, or just a small open cup you already own. (Here’s an article about it.) Yes, it’ll be ridiculously messy, but a lot of mothers report that one or two times was enough for their babies to realize that oh, food comes from other places than Mama, and that’s okay.

If your husband and mother were trying to feed your daughter in a similar manner to nursing (i.e., in your usual rocker, using a cradle hold), try the opposite. Offer her a bottle in a different room, while she’s sitting up, facing them on their laps, or in her bouncy or high chair. If she’s expecting to nurse, she will want to nurse. Make the bottle its own “thing”, if that makes sense.

Ezra, of course, was a hybrid of the two approaches — he wanted a bottle as much like the boob as possible (preemie-flow nipples or the Adiri Nurser), but everything else had to be completely different. I could not give him the bottle. I could not be anywhere near him while he drank his bottle. He would not drink a bottle anywhere he usually nursed (which was a LOT of places). So Jason gave him bottles while sitting in this one chair in our living room that I never sat in, holding him mostly upright and facing out, while I hid upstairs doing awful, selfish things like…pumping more breastmilk. And we did this every day for a week or two (IT’S KIND OF FUZZY), until the resistance to the bottle was mostly a thing of the past. (Never force a bottle, of course — if Ezra screamed, we stopped. But then still tried again the next day.)

We also (gulp) had a lot more luck with formula than expressed breastmilk. Fresh breastmilk was okay, but he was about 1,000% more likely to refuse a bottle of thawed milk from the freezer. Which, of course, I had a ton of. I thought perhaps it was the lipase thing I’d read about and tried the suggestion of scalding the milk. It worked…sometimes. Other times he would still refuse to drink it. (Then we lost power and all the milk semi-thawed and smelled terrible and had to be dumped, but that’s a WHOLE OTHER THING.) I fretted about keeping a usable stock of fresh milk once my supply regulated and I couldn’t really pump much anymore…but Ezra never once refused a bottle of formula. Maybe, again, because it was just something “different?” I don’t know.

(Oh! Wait. I’m telling terrible lies, because I’m trying to recall stuff from a time of zero sleep: Ezra refused regular formula, but loved the organic stuff. [Similac Organic, to be exact.] I initially planned to never buy organic formula because I read about it being so much sweeter than the regular stuff. And then I totally freaking caved. Because it’s so much sweeter than the regular stuff. Which meant my baby might drink it. It’s definitely something to be aware of, but personally we’ve seen zero effect on Ezra’s eating habits. Noah never had organic formula and is INSANE for sweets, while Ezra thinks they’re okay, but would rather have some more peas. He also drinks regular older-baby formula now, and we had no problem making the switch back. The organic just helped with the initial bottle-acceptance hump.)

Good luck! Keep trying, and don’t feel guilty if this is really important to you. (It was REALLY important to me, frankly, and I think the occasional block of freedom [or just KNOWING I could potentially have that freedom] really helped me view breastfeeding as something I loved, rather than a burden.) (I know there are tons of women who report that their babies never ever ever once took a bottle for a solid year and went right to a sippy cup, and I salute them. While cowering behind the couch in terror.) Once we started solids the bottle thing became a total non-issue — food comes from cups and spoons and plates and it’s not poison! Who knew! Now every morning I curse my cupboard of expensive specialty bottles with a zillion parts that we bought out of complete desperation, because now the kid would drink milk from a garden hose.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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