Why Some Babies Never Take a Bottle

By: Heather Keniston


You’ve tried everything and your baby still won’t take a bottle?

There are a number of possible reasons that can cause this bottle refusal:

Cleft Lip

Babies born with a cleft lip, which is an opening in the roof of the mouth, can have a more difficult time feeding. The suction that is needed to bottle feed is difficult to acquire for cleft lip babies. Latching while breastfeeding can also be more challenging. 

Feeding your baby with cleft lip and helping them maintain their weight is possible and achievable by following this simple formula:

Right amount of milk + right amount of feeding time + minimal air taken in = a happily fed baby. But really, this is true for all babies.

If you decide to bottle feed, you want to make sure to hold your baby upright so the formula does not make its way back into the nose area. The position of the nipple should be pointed down and away from the cleft area and the rest is up to your baby. Milk can sometimes escape through the nose, which is normal during feeding; but holding your baby upright will help.

The optimal feeding time is 30 minutes or less and while your baby is feeding; watch for signs of the baby becoming uncomfortable. This signals to you that they are tired and need to be burped.

Tongue and Lip-Tied Babies

Tongue and Lip-Tied babies have a small piece of tissue holding down the tongue called the frenulum. The frenulum can restrict the baby under the tongue but it can also be near the back of the tongue or under the floor of the mouth.

For lip-tied babies, the upper lip can have a frenulum that is very restrictive along with white gums.

For moms, a good indication of tongue and lip-tied babies is:

  • if you’re experiencing low milk supply
  • nipple pain or pinched nipple with bruising and creases
  • Baby has difficulty latching
  • A clicking sound during nursing, irritability or colic, and fatigue within one or two minutes of beginning to feed

A simple and minimal pain procedure can be performed to reverse this frenulum restriction and help make feeding easier.


Growing a whole set of teeth is no easy task. Many babies experience discomfort during this process and will even stop feeding as a result. There are several methods to help relieve your babies discomfort. These methods will help making bottle or breastfeeding possible again until the teeth have grown in.

 Teethers can assist the baby in minimizing the amount of pressure they feel on their gums. *Cold Teethers work best as they numb the area of pain*

Here are a few examples of some teethers that may help your baby:



-ice cube

-cold, wet washcloth


In some cases, babies may not be refusing the bottle but rather the milk inside of it. When the Lipase enzyme breaks down the fat in breastmilk, it can alter the taste. Excess Lipase, as a result, causes an odd unusual taste. This kind of breastmilk is not bad for your baby but can cause them to refuse your breastmilk.

Lipase can occur after just a few hours or it can sometimes happen in 24 hours or more.

Excess Lipase can be avoided with a few simple tips:

-Taste your own milk periodically to quickly determine if its starting to develop excess Lipase.

- Before the milk turns, the only way to remove the excess lipase is to scald the milk at a high temperature. Low temperatures aren’t sufficient in removing the bad taste of milk.

There are a few methods that work in scalding the milk. Two of the most popular ways involve the stovetop or a bottle warmer. It’s important to remember that the milk must reach a certain temperature so either route you choose, you will need to monitor the temperature.

One option is to heat to 180 degrees and then cool right after the milk reaches that temperature. Another option is to heat the milk to 144.5 degrees over the course of one minute and yet another temperature option is to heat to 163 degrees for 15 seconds followed by cooling. If you use the bottle warmer, heat to 180 degrees and use a digital thermometer regardless of the route you use.

Having to go through this process can reduce the anti-infective properties as well as the nutritional value of the milk but as long as your baby isn’t drinking scalded milk all the time, it’s not enough to affect the baby. 

If you determine you have excess lipase in your milk, many milk banks will accept this kind of milk and you can donate it. This does mean you have to start over now.

Lastly, give your baby time to adjust to the new milk. If you’ve been giving your baby milk with excess lipase from a bottle, they’ve associated the bottle to have bad milk so they may still have trouble taking the bottle. Just be patient and know that they will get there eventually.


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