As a parent, few things are more confusing or frustrating than when your little one pushes away their bottle but continues showing hunger signs. I’ve been there! One moment baby is guzzling their milk, the next they’re turning away and crying. Yet they still seem hungry. What gives? How to help baby pushing bottle away but still hungry?
After navigating this common feeding challenge with my own kids, I’ve discovered several effective techniques for encouraging a reluctant bottle feeder to finish their meal. In this post, I’ll provide 7 tips to try when your hungry baby keeps rejecting the bottle.
Why Might a Hungry Baby Refuse the Bottle?
Before jumping into solutions, it helps to understand potential reasons why your baby might be intermittently pushing the bottle away. Here are some common culprits related to bottle refusal despite hunger signs:
- Discomfort from gas, acid reflux, or an improperly sized nipple hole
- Distraction since baby may be more interested in surroundings
- Oral discomfort from teething pain or mouth infection
- Strong feeding style preference for breast over bottle
- Overstimulation since some babies get overwhelmed easily
Understanding why your baby is refusing will guide you in choosing the right solution. Now, onto the tips!
Tip #1: Burp Frequently to Relieve Gas
I can’t emphasize this enough. Pause feeding every 1-2 ounces to gently burp your baby over your shoulder. This prevents painful gas buildup allowing baby to focus on eating, not discomfort.
Burping was a game-changer for my gassy daughter when she would push the bottle away. Allowing baby to relax with some good middle-of-meal burps enabled longer feeding stretches without bottle refusal.
Next step: Begin actively patting or rubbing baby’s back mid-bottle. Target burping after every 1-2 ounces consumed.
Tip #2: Try Different Bottle Nipples
Nipple hole size significantly impacts the bottle feeding experience. An improper fit can cause gagging, gulping air, or an uncomfortable milk flow speed triggering baby to push away despite hunger.
Test a few different nipple flow rates over separate feeds to see if it makes a difference. Look for nipples marketed for your baby’s age, as the hole sizes vary. A slower flow nipple may do the trick if your baby is getting overwhelmed.
We discovered my son preferred newborn-sized holes, even as an older baby. The slower flow prevented excess air intake and bottle refusal.
Next step: Purchase variable flow rate nipples to experiment with during bottle feeds. Target options for 0-3 month old babies.
Tip #3: Offer Short Breaks
Babies can become overwhelmed easily – I know mine did! During bottle feeds, try giving baby 30-60 second breaks when they start resisting.
Simply remove the bottle and allow them to reset before reattempting. This short pause clears their head so baby can restart feeding afresh.
As your baby gets used to bigger volumes, their feeding stamina will improve. But early on, frequent tiny breaks can help them progress to finishing the bottle without pushing it away despite remaining hungry.
Next step: When baby begins refusing, allow a 30 second reset break then reattempt feeding.
Tip #4: Switch Up Feed Positions
Feeding position significantly impacts baby’s ability to swallow comfortably, which could lead to bottle refusal. Try a few different holds during bottle time to see if one works best, like:
- Cradle – Baby reclines in arm bend on their back.
- Upright – Baby sits mostly vertical supported by your hand.
- Side-lying – Baby feeds semi-reclined on their side facing you.
Pay attention to whether certain positions make it easiest for your baby to drink from the bottle without pushing away or gagging. This may change as they grow too.
We started with cradle, but upright was the golden ticket for my daughter to stop bottle refusal. The vertical angle prevented milk pooling so feeding was smooth sailing.
Next step: Test 3+ feeding positions over the next days. Take notes on easiest for continuous bottle drinking without distress.
Tip #5: Stroke Baby’s Cheek
Babies have strong rooting and sucking reflexes triggered by touch around the mouth which can encourage bottle acceptance.
When baby turns away, gently stroke their cheek or chin with your finger. The light touch stimulates movement preparing them for feeding. Swiftly reintroduce the bottle before the reflex fades.
This cheek/chin stroke technique instantly grabs back a distracted baby’s attention. It’s like hitting the “let’s eat” button to stop bottle refusal!
Next step: When baby refuses bottle, stroke cheek/chin for 5 seconds then swiftly reattempt feeding.
Tip #6: Engage With Distractions
Healthy babies get easily distracted – especially as they become more alert. Leverage this to your advantage during bottle feeds.
When your baby loses interest mid-bottle, re-grab their attention with toys, songs, or sights. As they focus on the fun distraction, swiftly slip the bottle back in so feeding resumes and hunger gets satisfied.
We used high contrast toys and rattles during bottle time with my alert son. The positive stimulation made him eager to continue eating without pushing away the bottle.
Next step: Prepare brightly colored toys or rattles to use when needing to regain baby’s bottle focus.
Tip #7: Rule Out Health Issues
In some cases, acid reflux or oral thrush may be the culprit for baby pushing bottle away despite hunger. Seek medical advice if your baby shows concerning symptoms.
For us, aggressive burping and pace feeding helped my “happy spitter’s” reflux enough to enable bottle finishing without medication. But your pediatrician can recommend next steps.
Next step: Schedule pediatrician visit if baby consistently shows concerning symptoms during attempted bottle feeding.
Takeaways: Persistence is Key
Babies can be extremely frustrating to feed at times! With consistent experimentation like paced feeds, burping, distractions, and positioning, you’ll discover the winning combo to stop bottle refusal from your hungry baby.
You’ve got this feeding thing down, mama! Let me know if you have any other baby feeding questions.
FAQ – Baby pushing bottle away but still hungry
Why does my baby keep pushing the bottle away while acting hungry?
Common reasons include discomfort from gas or reflux, distraction by surroundings, oral discomfort from teething, nipple confusion, or overstimulation. Understanding the cause will help guide the right solution.
How often should I burp my baby during bottle feeding?
Aim to gently burp your baby every 1-2 ounces. Frequent burping prevents painful gas buildup so baby stays comfortable and focused on eating.
What bottle nipple flow rates should I try?
Try slow flow bottles designed for newborns (often labeled 0-3 months old). The slower milk flow can prevent choking, gagging, and air swallowing leading to discomfort and bottle refusal.
Why offer short breaks during bottle feeding?
Babies can easily become overwhelmed while bottle feeding. Allowing 30-60 second reset breaks gives time to settle so they can restart eating calmly.
What feeding positions may encourage continuous drinking?
Experiment with cradle hold, upright, and side-lying positions to see which lets your baby drink without pushing away or gagging on the milk flow.
How does stroking baby’s cheek help encourage bottle feeding?
Gently stroking triggers the rooting reflex which stimulates lip/tongue motion and prepares baby for eating. Swiftly introduce the bottle right after stroking when the reflex peaks.
What kinds of distractions can regain baby’s feeding focus?
Engaging sights, sounds, songs, toys, or books capture baby’s attention so they associate eating with positive stimulation versus boredom or overstimulation.
How could reflux or thrush cause my baby to refuse bottle feeding?
The discomfort, burning sensation, or oral lesions from these conditions can make sucking, swallowing, and eating very painful for babies prompting bottle refusal.
What signs of reflux should I have my pediatrician assess?
Frequent spitting up, crying during/after feeds, back arching, choking on bottles are some signs that indicate reflux could be causing feeding issues.
When should I seek medical advice about my baby’s feeding difficulties?
See your pediatrician promptly if your baby is showing concerning symptoms like consistent crying, gagging or arching during feeds, signs of oral thrush lesions, bloody stool, poor weight gain or dehydration.