Refusing the Bottle

Archived Q&A and Reviews

12 - 14 month olds

11 month old refuses formula and water

Sept 2008

My 11 month old has stopped breastfeeding during the day and now refuses to drink formula or water out of a sippy cup or bottle. She has never been a fan of formula-- and she is a teeny baby. What do i do to get her nutrients and keep her hydrated? thanks! worried mom

You say she doesn't breastfeed during the day which implies that she does nurse at night. At 11 months, if she's nursing at least a couple times night/early morning and she's eating a pretty good diet of solid foods, she should be fine, nutrition- wise. There's no real need to push formula (or any other kind of milk, though it's okay at this age to offer her some) on her. She does, of course, need to stay hydrated, but if she's not a fan of any type of cup (do try some different kinds, including a sippy or sport bottle with a straw, and a plain open cup rather than a sippy), she could probably get by with plenty of whole fruit and other ''wet'' foods. She's so close to ''toddler'' age, and toddlers can go surprisingly long stretches of time eating seemingly nothing. (And then they'll suddenly scarf everything in sight during a growth spurt.) Mom of Picky Eater

You should talk to your pediatrician right away, if you haven't already!!! Try pedialyte or juice (or juice dilute with water). Find out the symptoms of dehydration and look for them. I know your baby is supposed to have several wet diapers during the day. This is serious and important. Good luck. Worried for you

I have a 7 month old who suddenly refuses to take a bottle and his doctor said to mix extra water in his cereal (make it very soupy.) I'm trying to teach him to use a sippy cup, but he will only attempt to sip diluted juice - but not water or breastmilk (he gets mad when breastmilk comes out of the cup.) Good luck! ac

14 month old will not accept a bottle from me

August 2008

I have a 14 month old son. I breastfed him up until he was 12 months old, then I stopped when I found I was expecting a second child. I stayed at home with him for the first four months after his birth. During this time I would nurse a majority of the time and occassionally give him the bottle, which he would accept. Then I went back to work and the nanny would give him a bottle with my milk. He later began taking formula from her in a bottle as well. After I went back to work, I would only give him the breast when I was home. Now that I no longer breastfeed him he absolutely refuses to accept the bottle from me. He throws it and screams when he sees me coming towards him with it. What do I do? I feel so helpless. He does not get any milk on the weekends when the nanny is not here. I get so worried that he will be calcium and vitamin D deprived, not to mention that I feel like less of mother because he won't accept a bottle from me. Any advice greatly appreciated. J.

I don't think it's unusual for a child to refuse to take a bottle from his mom, especially if he associates her nearly exclusively with breastfeeding. From what I've read, though, 12 months is a good time to start weaning off a bottle to a sippy cup anyway. Maybe this is your opportunity to start a new phase with him and if you introduce it during a weekend, before his sitter does, you'll probably have fewer problems. Good luck!

Have you tried a sippy cup? My son never would take a bottle from me, and went straight from the breast to a sippy cup at 11 months. Just a thought? saved by the sippy

Maybe it is time to use a new medium..sippy cup. Fourteen months is a great age to wean a child from a bottle. Our bottles disappeared on their first birthday (we'd been working with sippy cups for a few months prior) even though I did continue to nurse for a few more months...Just a thought. -anon

Well, this will make it easier to give up the bottle. Really, at 14 months the bottle is no longer a good thing for him. Prolonged bottle use is bad for the teeth and bad for weight gain (it's a risk for obesity). He doesn't *need* milk the way he needed breastmilk or formula. He needs a balanced diet with adequate protein and vitamin D, and milk happens to be one way to get those. If he drinks enough milk for the week with the babysitter, then you don't need to worry about it. If he doesn't, he just needs to get the protein and vitamin D in other forms -- dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, sunlight (but no sunburn). There's a million reasons moms make themselves feel inadequate that aren't really their fault, but not taking a bottle from you need not be one of them. Kate

I think your son is weaning! Don't fret, sounds like you will soon have another to breastfeed. It's all part of growing up. It's really okay that he's not nursing anymore. You now have to think about what foods you can give him that will give him the calcium and vit. D (and all the other vitamins) that he will need. I suggest getting a book on child nutrition. anon

Two things: many babies won't accept a bottle from mom. So don't worry about this. It has nothing to do with being a good mom or not! Second: your son is probably getting too old for a bottle. It's time for a sippy cup or a regular cup. Try offering milk in those. If he doesn't take milk, that's OK. No human NEEDS milk after they are weaned. You can get all your nutrition from solid foods, and vitamin D from the sun. We are lucky here in the Bay Area that we can get all the vitamin D we need year-round from the sun. A short bit of daily exposure to full sun (10 to 30 min) wihtout sunscreen should do the trick. (Don't do it between 10 am and 2pm in the summer.) Have a little more sun exposure if your son has dark skin. Calcium can be had from other dairy products or leafy green vegetables. Anon

It sounds like your son is doing some self weaning. I assume at 14mos he's eating some kind of solid food, and he may associate you and nursing with comfort. I wonder why you refuse to breastfeed if he won't take a bottle. Is it discomfort, or you think he's too old? My mom breastfed my siblings until we were 3, and at that point it's not really about nutrition (though the immunity is good). I know several children who would take a bottle from dad but never accepted it from mom. Sounds like he'll take what he can get from the nanny, but he's insisting on the real thing from you. I suggest going back to breastfeeding if you're comfortable and working him onto solids if you're not. good luck. mgb

At about 16 months my son (now 18 months) just decided he wasn't going to drink milk from a bottle or cup anymore. He won't take cow's milk (warm or cold) or my breast milk from a cup or bottle. We were starting to ween, but now I still feed him when I get home from work, before he goes to bed and first thing in the morning. I am no longer pumping and I don't think that I am producing a lot of milk.

I spoke to my pediatrician about it who said I could try soy milk, but that it's up to me (I have not tried). She said to continue to offer milk to him regularly, sometimes it's just a phase. We do continue to offer milk to him in a cup at meal times, and he'll take a sip or two but nothing major. Sometimes he'll see his older sister drinking milk and he'll want her cup. But then he'll only take a few sips and then ditch the cup.

To make up for what he's missing, I make sure he gets plenty of other dairy: cheese and yogurt, and calcium containing veggies like broccoli. Fortunately he loves all the things. A vitamin supplement doesn't hurt either. I would recommend speaking to your pediatrician about your sons diet. Perhaps she can recommend a good nutritionist. Good luck! -In same boat but making do

Maybe try giving him milk in something other than a bottle? Sell him on the novelty of drinking through a straw, out of a colorful cup, or out of the same kind of cup/mug mommy and daddy drink their coffee/tea/whatever from? Mama of ''milk in a mug'' boy

Do I understand correctly that your son has been weaned now for 2 months? In this time have you offered sippy cups, or other means of drinking? A 14 month old does not need to take fluids from a bottle, and is entirely capable of drinking from something else. I imagine that part of the refusal is knowing that you were the source of the breastfeeding comfort. Why should your baby want to settle for less than your breast? I think it is understandable that he refuses knowing that you actually have something much better. If everything else fails, try offering popsicles made out of milk, breast milk, or water. You can place frozen ice into a mesh feeder. 14 months is also teething time. The ice might help with that as well. Anon

my daughter is 15-months-old, and your son seems much better than mine - at least he gets calcium and vitamin D 5 out of 7 days! have you tried sippy cups? you could also try a regular cup, though that takes LOTS of time and patience. also, try a cup using a straw. perhaps the novelty of all these different methods will distract him enough to intake a few ounces of liquid.

if nothing's working, i'm assuming that your son is eating solids, so for calcium, you can try other dairy products like cheese, yogurt, etc... for vitamin D, the sunlight is great, but they also have vitamin D drops.

but your son should be fine since the nanny can feed him sufficiently. and congratulations on your pregnancy!!! i wish i could get prego, but i'm not even ovulating yet... bottleless mom

Give him milk in a sippy cup that he can hold himself. Voila. anon

I weaned my daughter at 16 months and she never drank milk again. In other countries I don't think this is that unusual. Literally billions of people around the world don't drink milk and none of them are walking around and having their bones suddenly shatter. In a million years of human history we have only been drinking the milk of other animals for less than a 1/10 of that time, yet somehow our race has survived. This being the case, there is absolutely no way that if your son doesn't drink milk for 2 days per week that he is going to be unhealthy. Getting kids to drink milk is an expectation of our culture, not one based on fact, like eating vegetables. You have way more important things to worry about, despite what the lobbyists and advertisers of the milk industry want you to think. You can let this one go without harming your beautiful boy. dairy free

Gosh, where did you get the idea that a ''good mother'' should be feeding her baby from bottles? I'd expect the opposite, if anything, from most Berkeley-area people! I'm sorry you are having such a hard time over this issue but actually, you don't have a problem.

To be honest, your 14 month old should not be taking a bottle from anyone, least of all you. Extended (through toddlerhood) use of a baby bottle can lead to dental and orthodontic problems, plus (although this isn't relevant in your case since you've already weaned him from the breast and apparently don't plan to change that) can encourage bottle preference and premature weaning. The dental risks are not a big deal until maybe 3 years old but it's usually a lot easier to ditch the bottles at 1 year old than at 2 or 3 -- so there's certainly no reason to encourage your son to take one if he's not attached to it! Please relax and be grateful that you won't have to endure a difficult weaning from the bottle.

Given that he is no longer nursing, your toddler probably should be drinking formula or some kind of milk in order to most conveniently cover his nutritional needs for protein, ''healthy'' fats, and calcium -- but he can drink it from a cup, with meals or as a snack. And if he doesn't like formula or milk, he can get all the nutrition he needs from other sources; it's just a little bit harder to do. Lots of foods have calcium. And the natural source of Vitamin D is sunlight -- really just a few minutes a day -- not food. Most Californians get plenty of sun exposure (especially at this time of year!) so it just isn't an issue. I know there have been past discussions of nutrition for kids who don't drink milk, which may be in the archives, so you could take a look. Should be reassuring. Holly

I have a 12 month old daughter and I have the opposite problem. She had her 12 month check up this past week and our Dr. said that she's getting too much milk! She's a milkaholic and the Dr. suggested that we take the bottle away and only give her milk in a sippy cup with the idea that she'll consume less. Which is fine by me because frankly, I find it pretty boring just watching her guzzle down milk. Your son probably refuses the bottle from you because he associates you with breastfeeding. Maybe think of it this way: now you have extra time on the weekend to spend playing with your son or doing something else you both enjoy.

My daughter is mostly on solids now, so she should be getting most of her nutrients through the foods she eats. There are other food sources for vitamin D and calcium, such as cheese, fortified breads and cereals, and yogurt. My husband believes that the milk industry has programmed us to believe that babies need milk in order to thrive. If you're really concerned, check with your pediatrician. Tiffany

you might try introducing him to a cup (either sippy cup or regular cup). If he won't take milk in a cup, try offering water (or juice) in a cup first, until he accepts that, then try introducing milk in the sippy cup/regular cup. After about 3 months old, my daughter refused the bottle from anyone. It was very stressful until she finally took a sippy cup at around 10 months (had to try lots of different kinds - she finally took one by Munchkin - it wasn't non-spill, but at least she would drink from it!). She first started taking sips from a cup when I would drink water, and then offer her sips from my cup. So it was less a substitution for a bottle or the breast, but more letting her drink water/milk from a cup like mom & dad. It was a process, though, so be patient! Good luck! been there