When a baby chews on the bottle instead of drinking milk from the bottle, you have got yourself another common motherhood challenge. Let’s figure out what is going on with your baby’s playful behavior.
The first year of a baby’s life is full of adventure for both a mom and a baby. Did you think that breastfeeding was a challenge with a baby latching and unlatching while nursing, baby drinking too fast and choking, biting on the nipple while feeding, or recurring milk blebs? Wait till you introduce a bottle to your baby.
Feeding a bottle to your baby is a special skill, especially when you want to continue bottle feeding and breastfeeding. Even when your baby is exclusively bottle-fed, there are challenges like a baby refusing a bottle even when they are hungry, baby not latching onto bottle properly, or baby chewing on the bottle instead of drinking.
The ironic part is that these challenges show up all of a sudden. You wake up in the morning, and the baby suddenly starts chewing on the bottle instead of drinking or refusing the bottle altogether.
If you are going through the “Baby chews on the bottle instead of drinking” phase, you need to figure out the underline of your baby’s sudden change in feeding habits.
This blog post talks about possible reasons why a baby chews on the bottle instead of drinking and possible solutions to try so you can go back to your regular bottle feeding.
- Why does a baby chew on the Bottle Instead of Drinking?
- 1. Recently weaned a baby from breastfeeding
- 2. Root reflex
- 3. Baby Does not like Nipple
- 4. Change in milk prep routine
- 5. Taste of Expressed breastmilk or formula
- 6. Baby is sick
- 7. Baby is teething
- 8. Feed them in Isolation
- 9. Baby is not Hungry
- A Baby chews on a Bottle Instead of Drinking: Final Thoughts
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Why does a baby chew on the Bottle Instead of Drinking?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer for why a baby chews on the bottle nipple instead of drinking. Some babies are just playful, while others might have some motor skill conditions that are not letting them suck and swallow. But whatever the reason is, we have included a possible solution for it.
Here are several reasons and solutions when a baby chews on the bottle instead of drinking.
1. Recently weaned a baby from breastfeeding
A baby chewing on a bottle nipple or refusing a bottle could happen if you have recently introduced a bottle to your baby because most breastfed babies do not want to give up breastfeeding. After all, it’s comfort, safety, and nourishment for them.
A baby chewing on a bottle nipple instead of drinking could also happen if you are combination feeding (breastfeed and bottle feed) your baby. Even though they are used to combination feeding, they may suddenly chew on the nipple instead of drinking from a bottle when they are sick or going through growth spurts and in need of an extra cuddle for comfort.
Transition is hard for babies, so patience is key when you are introducing a bottle to your baby. The breastfed baby often refuses or play with bottle nipple in their mouth when mommy gives them a bottle. So, you may want to let your partner or someone else offer the bottle to your baby. If you have recently transitioned your baby to a bottle, check out this detailed article introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby.
2. Root reflex
Babies are born with root reflex (which allows breast or bottle to enter the oral cavity) and suck/swallow reflex (activated when bottle touches the roof of baby’s mouth) to help facilitate successful feeding during the first 4 months of baby’s baby life. And as your baby grows, a coordinated suck-swallow-breathe pattern allows them to accept more volume and gain weight. So up until 3-4 months of age, when you breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, they will begin sucking reflexively.
At around 3-4 months, the reflexes that babies are born will subside, and sucking will no longer be a newborn reflex. Instead, it will transform into child-controlled action. So, if you are noticing your baby chew on a bottle nipple instead of drinking at 4 months, he is going through a major feeding milestone, and he will not drink milk if he doesn’t want to.
In this situation, give them some time to go back to their normal feeding routine. Another thing that worked for other mamas was to try a NUK bottle. If your baby is biting or chewing on a bottle nipple, the milk will still flow from the NUK bottle, and your baby has no choice but to swallow.
Related Reading – 10 Best Bottles for Breastfed Baby
3. Baby Does not like Nipple
The breastfed babies are picky about the shape, size, and feel of the nipple. The nipple has to be soft, comfortable and make them feel closer to the breast. Also, the flow of the nipple is also essential. If the nipple is hard and they are not getting the flow of the milk to their liking, they are most likely to reject the bottle or chew or bite on the nipple instead of drinking.
You might need to try different nipples and figure out what your baby likes. Then, try a bottle that resembles the breast. The Comotomo bottle is the best option you have for a breastfed baby.
You might also want to try the level 2 nipple to figure out if nipple flow is the issue for your baby. And if that fails, try latex nipple. Latex nipples are much softer than silicone nipples. Many moms have had success in using NUK latex nipples (rather than silicone) with their babies.
4. Change in milk prep routine
Babies are also picky about the temperature of their milk. Even with the slightest change in the temperature from what they like or are used to, they will reject or play with bottle nipples instead of drinking.
If you are giving cold breastmilk or formula to your baby, try warming their milk. Breastfed babies are used to drinking body temperature breastmilk, so that they may prefer warm milk. If you are giving your baby frozen milk, make sure the caregiver knows how to warm the baby’s milk to avoid chewing on the bottle instead of drinking while mom is away.
5. Taste of Expressed breastmilk or formula
If your baby is willing to take a bottle, but after sucking for a minute, he starts chewing on the nipple instead of drinking, it might be the taste of the expressed breastmilk or formula. Just like the temperature of the milk or formula, babies are also picky about the taste of their milk.
The way you though or warm your breastmilk could impact the taste of frozen breastmilk. Also, if you reheat the expressed breastmilk twice, it will change its taste.
Same with formula, if you have recently introduced formula to your baby, he may not like the taste of it and hence chewing on the nipple rather than drinking from the bottle.
Follow CDC guidelines for thawing and heating expressed breastmilk. Also, always smell or try expressed breastmilk before giving it to your baby to make sure it isn’t gone bad because freezing and thawing may cause breastmilk to go bad.
If you are giving formula to your baby, try changing the temperature of the water before mixing the formula. And if that fails, you might need to change the formula. Try mixing formula with breastmilk for babies who recently transitioned to formula and chewing on the nipple instead of drinking. As your baby gets used to the taste of it, decrease the amount of breastmilk in the formula.
6. Baby is sick
Your baby’s bottle-feeding behavior may change suddenly if he is sick or not well. A baby suddenly chewing or biting on bottle teats could happen if he falls sick or has a cold, fever, gas, or other gastric issues.
Bottle rejection or chewing on bottle nipple instead of drinking due to sickness is temporary. Once the baby starts feeling better, they will go back to their regular feeding routine. Meanwhile, keep them hydrated if they are not drinking milk at all by alternate feeding methods.
Another common reason for chewing on bottle nipples instead of drinking is nasal congestion when they are younger. They can’t breathe and drink from the mouth at the same time when they are congested. In this case, unclog their nose with nasal saline before each feeding. It will help them breathe from the nose and drink milk from the bottle.
7. Baby is teething
If a baby chews on the bottle instead of drinking at 6 months or beyond (some babies start teething at 4 months, too), they are possibly teething. When babies are teething, they have a solid urge to chew on everything to relieve their gum pressure. So if your baby is not getting anything else to chew on, they will chew on the nipple instead of drinking from the bottle.
The teething process starts well in advance before you see any teeth in your baby’s mouth. So, if you see a sign like drooling, crankiness than usual, along with chewing on the bottle nipple, give them teething toys to chew on. If they get something to chew on, they will less likely chew on the bottle nipple during feeding time.
8. Feed them in Isolation
As babies become aware of their environment, they quickly get distracted while feeding with anything happening in their surroundings. Once they reach a new social milestone, they will want to talk to you, hold toys, or watch faces while feeding. They will be more interested in their environment rather than drinking from the bottle hence the chewing or biting on the bottle nipple.
During each feeding session, take your baby to a quiet, distraction-free room. Keep the light dim, get them in a comfortable position to feed in your nursing chair, and give them a bottle. You can also quietly sing a lullaby while they are drinking from their bottle to calm them.
9. Baby is not Hungry
A baby chews on a bottle instead of drinking simply because they are not hungry enough to finish the bottle. As a mother, you have set the expectation for your baby when it comes to feeding. For example, if you have given 4 ounces of milk to your baby in a bottle, you want them to finish it all. And when they drink 3 ounces of milk and then chew on the bottle nipple instead of drinking, you might see it as a problem. But in reality, your baby may not be hungry to finish the bottle. Or their appetite might have changed due to a change in feeding schedule or introduction of solid food.
As mentioned earlier, once your baby is 4 months old, their sucking reflex transforms into child-controlled action. So, if they are not hungry to finish the 4 ounces of milk or formula in a bottle, they will not finish it no matter how hard you try. So, it’s best not to force the feeding. If you think your baby is not drinking enough milk or not gaining enough weight, it is best to talk to your doctor.
A Baby chews on a Bottle Instead of Drinking: Final Thoughts
When a baby suddenly chews on the bottle instead of drinking, it’s heartbreaking. But trust me, you can sail through these developmental milestones with the tips and tricks listed above. If one thing doesn’t work for you, try a combination of the things and be persistent in your feeding routine.
It does take time to stop the baby from chewing on the bottle nipple instead of drinking, but with consistent effort, a feeding schedule, and a quiet room, you can get back to your regular feeding routine.
Meanwhile, talk to your pediatrician if you think your baby is not drinking enough milk and losing weight.
Good luck, mama!!
In a comment below, let us know if you have any tricks to stop the baby from chewing on the nipple instead of drinking. It will help other mamas who are struggling with feeding their babies.
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