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Making It Work

Refusing Morning Bottle

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 15 No. 4, July-August 1998, p. 112

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


I'm a working mother with a nearly perfect situation—a flexible work schedule and grandparents who provide child care and live within five minutes of my workplace so I can drop by to nurse during my lunch hour. I am concerned about a developing pattern with my five-month-old daughter. I have been back to work for about two months now, and suddenly my daughter will not take the bottle during her morning feeding time. Occasionally, she will take it, but only after a great deal of very agitated crying. She typically cries off and on for an hour, and then falls asleep. She wakes shortly before I arrive for lunch and is extremely hungry. Is it okay for her to skip this feeding, or are there other things that my parents could try to encourage her to eat?


My son, Trevor, was fed most of his expressed breast milk from a sipper cup starting at about four-and-a-half months old. His care provider only gave him bottles when he was ready to nap and was too sleepy to drink from the cup. Even though Trevor adjusted to bottles, I decided to use sipper cups because I wanted to limit his use of bottles as much as possible. He took to the cup quite readily at about the same age your daughter is now.

Cecilia Mitchell Barfield
Jacksonville FL


My experience has been that you cannot force a baby to eat, and when a baby is hungry enough, he will eat. Sometimes my son would change his breastfeeding patterns (to the extent he had any) without warning. For example, he went through stretches when he was much more interested in nursing at night than in getting expressed breast milk in a bottle when I was at work. Your baby may have figured out that you will be home around lunch time, and has decided to wait until you get there. Since you are home at lunchtime, it sounds as if your daughter is not going that many hours without eating —at five months some babies will sleep that long at night without breastfeeding. If you are concerned, you may want to check with your daughter's health care provider to rule out any illnesses.

Debra Rosenberg
Bay Shore NY


My daughter developed the same pattern at five months, and by seven months was no longer taking bottles at all. She obviously made a firm choice between the bottle and breast! My husband could get her to take bottles by offering them in nursing position—either lying down with her right next to him, or holding her in the cradle position with the bottle hidden under his arm, holding it at chest level as if he were nursing her. Around five or six months, we started offering a cup with a lid and a straw. She mastered drinking from it fairly quickly. Unfortunately, she soon refused to take my expressed milk from any sort of container except the original, but by then she would drink water or juice from a cup. I would either drop by for a quick nursing session, or sometimes my husband would bring her to me at work for 10 minutes. By seven months, she seemed able to wait four hours between feedings. She accepted offers of juice and solids during that time. Good luck!

Kelly Kilmer
Lemont PA USA


At five months it may be too early to begin complementary foods, but I wouldn't worry too much about your baby skipping her morning feeding. She just prefers her mom, and that's not a bad thing. Since you are nursing her at noon, she won't get too hungry, and she won't dehydrate. She may make up for missed nursings at night, but as she gets older she will naturally nurse less often. Once your baby gets to be six months old, you can introduce solid foods, perhaps mixed with breast milk, which will get some appropriate calories into her at this time. She may just be fighting sleep for the morning nap, and resisting the bottle because she doesn't want to fall asleep. Your parents might try walking around with her in a sling to help her get to sleep instead.

My first child hated bottles, and would take one only under extreme protest or when she was very hungry. She was happy making up the calories at night, which was fine with me. At least I didn't have to worry about her weaning to the bottle. My second child was home with my husband as an infant, and would take a bottle only while being carried close in a sling.

Starting back to work after maternity leave with a small baby is difficult. But you know that your baby has loving caretakers and your baby seems to know what she wants, too!

Maurine Neiberg
River Forest, IL USA


I went through a similar situation with my daughter, at almost the same age. What worked for us was dropping the bottles entirely and having her caregivers switch to feeding from a sipper cup with a lid and a spout. We used a cup that did not require sucking action. She decided early that the only sucking she wanted to do was at the breast. The other thing my daughter did to compensate for low consumption during the day was to nurse all night. Thank heavens for the family bed. Keep track of those wet diapers and you should be fine.

My day care center complained some about this situation. However, since you're fortunate enough to have grandparents as caregivers—and you're able to nurse at lunch (which I could not do), I would think this might work well for all. Best wishes.

Susan Reeves
Metuchen NJ USA


This sounds a lot like the situation I had with my son. I was home for two months, then worked half days at work and half at home for the next two months. By the time he was four months old, he was refusing to take my milk from a bottle during the morning and waiting for me to pick him up at lunchtime to eat. Then I went back to work full time. I would still come to see him at lunchtime. He started out taking a bottle during the afternoon, but by the time he was six months old, he was again waiting for me to come pick him up before he would eat. So by then I was no longer pumping (just nursing right before work, during my lunch break, and right after work). Also by then he was starting to eat some solid food, which would tide him over until I arrived.

Babies are smart. They prefer the real thing to even bottled breast milk. If she's truly hungry, she'll probably eat. It sounds as if she knows that you'll be there soon and prefers to wait. You'll probably see that she'll increase her nursing during the evenings, nights and weekends to make up. That's what my baby did.

Ellen Satter
Trumbull CT USA


It sounds as if you've worked hard at minimizing the stress of separation for your baby, and it must be hard to hear of her frustration. I, too, had a nearly perfect, flexible work situation. I worked five minutes from home and my husband was the caregiver. My son, however, never took a bottle. Here are some things we did that helped our situation when my son was two months old and I returned to work part-time.

My son slept with us and he nursed a lot at night. We tried cup-feeding, although we had limited success. The most successful part of our plan was that I negotiated with my employer to ensure a very flexible situation. I was allowed to leave whenever I was needed at home, whether for a nursing or just a cuddle. He probably didn't really need the nutrition of the feeding as much as he just needed me. I took a shorter lunch break, and made sure I was very efficient while on the job by limiting socializing and sticking to work. My employer had no complaints about my work and seemed as happy about the situation as I was.

Kathleen Whitfield
South Bend IN USA


I suspect this is a fairly common occurrence, because my daughter did something similar when she was just a little older. She stopped taking the bottle around seven months. I continued going to nurse her at lunch, and she nursed more often in the evenings and on weekends to make up for not taking bottles during the day. I delayed solids until she was almost nine months, but she remained a happy, healthy baby in all ways; her growth never suffered from our schedule. She is now l3 months old, and she gets solids and water from her caregiver, and I still go to nurse her at lunch.

One other baby at my daughter's child care provider never took a bottle, and she started in child care at three months old. She waited until her mother came to nurse her at lunch, and made up for the difference in the evenings. At six months, the caregiver started giving her solid foods during the day to tide her over. This child was well above the norms for both weight and height well into her second year, so clearly she got the nutrition she needed without the bottle.

I suspect that your daughter will continue to "wait" for you to come to her and shift her schedule so that it coincides with the time you're available to nurse her. I personally was somewhat grateful that I didn't need to pump as much milk for Victoria, because it allowed me to get off work and go see her slightly earlier.

Kirsten Jones
Scotts Valley CA USA

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