Feeding Formula

Formula Fed Baby Suddenly Refusing Bottle (Reasons & Solutions)

Bottle feeding your baby is one of those things that appears simple and easy, until a problem arises.

Experts claim that around one quarter of parents face feeding-related problems, so it can be comforting to know you’re not alone in facing challenges around your baby not taking their bottle.

If you’re reading this article there’s a good chance your baby was once a good eater, but has all of a sudden started to refuse their bottle.

Possible reasons for this sudden refusal may include teething or feeling unwell, transitioning on to solid foods, stress or even a change in their routine, equipment or brand of formula.

But the good news for concerned parents is many of these can be easily solved.

So let’s take a look at why a formula fed baby might suddenly be refusing their bottle, and what you can do about it to get things back on track in no time.

Reasons Why Formula Fed Baby Is Suddenly Refusing Bottle

1. Teething

If your baby refuses their bottle and cries, one very common reason is because they are teething.

Parents who think this could be the reason behind the sudden formula refusal might want to check their baby’s mouth to confirm if this is indeed the cause.

If you can see or feel a tooth is trying to make its way through, or you notice red or swollen gums, it’s a sure sign your little one is teething, which can be painful at the best of times, and often exasperated by drinking from a bottle.

2. Feeling Unwell

Another common reason could be because your baby is unwell.

From a cold or sore throat, to a cough, fever or even digestive issues, you probably don’t need us to tell you that a baby can be notoriously fussy when they are feeling unwell!

And unfortunately a lot times these common health problems and minor illnesses can result in a temporary loss of appetite.

It can be difficult for a parent to watch their baby eat less than usual, especially when you know that drinking the formula will do them good and help with their recovery.

But provided your baby is still eating or drinking over a 24 hour period and is passing wet diapers, then try not to worry too much – although if you are concerned it’s best to speak to your medical provider.

a woman feeding a baby with a bottle of milk

3. Started Eating Solids

At around 6 months of age many babies start eating solid foods such as vegetables, fruit, cereal, eggs, fish and even meat.

And given a baby’s stomach is tiny, at least compared to an adult’s, it doesn’t take much for your little one to become full.

So it’s quite possible that your baby is simply not hungry when you’re trying to give them their bottle, and this could be the reason for their sudden refusal.

4. Stress

Did you know that babies can become stressed just like adults?

Some common causes of stress in babies include frustration, physical pain, a negative home environment which babies can pick up on, separation anxiety and starting daycare or preschool.

And what’s one of the signs of a stressed baby?

You guessed it – a change in their eating habit, which can cause either overeating or a lack of appetite, the latter of which might cause a baby that usually loves their formula to suddenly not want to drink a bottle you’ve made up for them.

5. Other Reasons

There are also some other common reasons why a baby might refuse their formula, so it’s worth considering if any of these could be the culprit.

  • Changed Brands: Not all formula is created equal. Even though the FDA state there must be a minimum of 29 nutrients in baby formula, there are still differences between products, so if you’ve recently made a switch there’s a chance your baby dislikes their new formula.
  • Different Serving Temperature: Babies can safely drink cold formula as well as cold breast milk, which means there’s no need to buy an expensive bottle warmer if you don’t want to. Often a baby doesn’t have a preference either way regarding the temperature their milk is served, provided you are consistent from the start. But if your baby is used to having warm milk, and you have started giving them lukewarm or even cold formula, then don’t be surprised if they suddenly put up some resistance during feeding time.
  • Distractions: Another thing worth thinking about is whether your baby might be distracted or overstimulated by the environment in which you’re feeding them. From siblings and pets running around to spotting the television or their favorite toy in the corner of their eye, babies can become ever more distracted as they pass through their developmental leaps, so remember that an environment that once worked well might no longer be ideal once your baby is a little older.

What To Do If Your Baby Is Suddenly Refusing Their Bottle

As we mentioned above, there are some proven and effective remedies to help if your baby is suddenly refusing their bottle, including:

  • Wait until your baby is hungry enough before feeding them.
  • Accept that a weaning baby will need less milk than before they moved on to solids, and reduce the milk you give them accordingly.
  • If your baby is teething, try giving them cold milk, as this might soothe their gums and teeth. Better yet, give them some frozen breastmilk or “milksicles” if that’s an option.
  • Try changing their equipment, such as the size and shape of their bottle, the nipple, and anything else that can alter the speed of the milk flow.
  • Limit distractions by feeding them in a dark room.
  • Consider using white noise to drown out distractions.
  • Change who is giving your baby their milk – for example if your little one is transitioning from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, then they might refuse the formula knowing you are there. In this case it might work better if dad gives them their bottle.

Related: Your Must Have Baby & Toddler Feeding Guide

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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