10 Things to Do If Your Baby Goes on a Bottle Strike

A bottle strike can be frustrating for parents and stressful for babies. Here are 10 tips to help you navigate this phase and get your little one back to drinking from a bottle.

Bottle Strike

It happened out of nowhere. All this time, my baby had been taking his bottle like a champ. It didn’t matter whether he was drinking expressed breastmilk or formula—he’d finish a whole bottle with no problem.

But around 8 months old, the bottle strike happened. He no longer sat still long enough to finish a bottle, pushing it away or simply playing with it, hoping that would “pass” for drinking. And he preferred to be up and about, not sitting in one place finishing his meal.

As predicted, he’d get hungry later on. He’d cry in the middle of the night hungry for milk or wake up cranky from a nap because of an empty stomach.

If your baby isn’t drinking milk either, don’t worry. I experimented with a few ways to put an end to a bottle strike, and I hope they can work for you too. Take a look at these parents’ stories after trying these tips:

“The last couple of days I have seen a real change in him. He had a lot yesterday which he hasn’t done in a month. Hopefully he can keep it up. I will keep you posted. Thank you kindly!” -Sarah

“Thank you so much. My 8 month old would not take his bottle at all, but I read this article and the bottle in a more boring room tip really works. Again thank you!!” -Brayden

1. Offer smaller amounts of milk more frequently

With your baby more mobile and curious about his environment, drinking may not be a priority. Rather than sitting him down for a long time to finish a bottle, offer smaller amounts more frequently.

After all, we adults break up our calorie consumption throughout the day, too. Rather than sitting down for three large meals, we sometimes take regular meals and snacks throughout the day.

See if your baby will take to a similar schedule. You might offer half the amount you usually do, then reserve the other half to drink with his snack. If he continues to refuse, you may even want to keep the bottle nearby and offer it a few minutes at a time.

The downside is that this doesn’t establish the habit of sitting at the table for meals. But if he prefers to snack on the go, frequent feedings may be a temporary solution to look into.

Either way, fill the bottles in smaller amounts so you don’t waste the milk and just add more as needed.

If you pump, divide your usual amount into two bags to avoid wasting excess milk he doesn’t drink. For instance, if you usually fill a 5 ounce bag, fill two 2.5-ounce bags instead.

The same is true with formula. Don’t fill a whole bottle he won’t finish any time soon. Instead, measure about half what he normally takes and make another bottle when he finishes the first.

Free resource: If you’re struggling with putting your baby to sleep, you can teach him to self soothe and sleep on his own. Whether you’ve tried to teach him to self soothe in the past or are just now considering it, take a look at the 5 key mistakes to avoid.

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5 Mistakes That Keep Your Baby from Self Soothing

2. Feed earlier than usual

Have you ever tried to reason with a wailing toddler throwing a tantrum? If I had to guess, you weren’t able to get anything through her. The same can be said for wailing babies as well. If your baby is throwing a fit about drinking from a bottle, she might feel more adamant (and vocal) about not doing so.

But see what happens if you feed her a bit earlier than usual, even by just 15 minutes. You might catch her when she’s not in a bad mood or when she’s more willing to drink from a bottle.

A similar scenario is to offer the bottle before you feed solids. She might have more of an appetite for milk if she hasn’t already had solid food first.

3. Change your environment

With so much to see and do, no wonder your baby would rather explore than drink her bottle. Take away the temptation and instead offer the bottle in a “boring” room.

This could be her bedroom after a nap when the environment is still dark and quiet or a subdued room in your home that lends itself to a calm mood. Avoid bright, loud rooms, especially those with distractions that can prevent her from finishing her bottle.

If the boring room doesn’t work, do the opposite and feed her in a “new” room. The novelty of feeding in this unfamiliar place may capture her attention so much that she continues to drink the bottle without a fuss.

You might offer the bottle in your backyard, in a different bedroom than where you normally do, or in her high chair. Any place where you don’t usually give her bottles might be enough of a change to draw her curiosity and allow her to finish her milk.

I noticed that my baby was more likely to finish a bottle when I sat with him on my lap outside on our patio. The new environment, plus being outdoors, curbed his resistance and instead encouraged him to drink.

Make sure you feed your baby upright or at least at a slight angle, like in your arms or an infant seat. Feeding flat on her back makes it more difficult to swallow and digest the milk she drinks, causing her to potentially spit up. Instead, keep a slight angle during feedings to eliminate the discomfort she might feel.

4. Change the bottle nipple

Bottle nipples come in different shapes, materials, and flow. What once worked for your baby in the early months may not be cutting it now. For instance, a slow nipple flow could make it more difficult for him to suck. Or perhaps you’ll have more luck with the brown nipples instead of the clear.

Experiment with changing the nipple shapes, material, and a faster flow to see if one works better than what you currently use.

A similar option is to offer different bottles. You might want to experiment with a bigger size, faster flow, or a new type of bottle to help him drink. The novelty of having a new bottle might even be enough to convince him to drink once more.

5. Experiment with the temperature

Babies can have a preference for milk temperature. Some are fine with cold, while others like room temperature, and still others like their milk warm.

See if your baby will take to a different temperature. If you’ve been giving room temperature formula, for instance, test if warm formula makes a difference.

Do you store milk bottles in the fridge to feed her later? Consider warming the nipple along with the bottle, too. She may not like the feeling of the cold nipple that touches her mouth.

See what happens if you not only warm the milk bottle in warm water but the nipple as well. Make sure that the bottle is tightly secured, then lay the bottle on its side so that even the nipple is also warmed. That way, she isn’t sucking on an ice-cold nipple come feeding time.

Another option is to store the bottle in the fridge with a different nipple and cover and keep a separate nipple at room temperature. Come feeding time, swap the cold nipple for the room temperature one. That way, the nipple she does use won’t be so cold.

6. Offer a freshly pumped bottle

Most of us offer the baby a bottle because we’re not there to nurse. Unless you’re exclusively pumping, you probably don’t pump milk only to hand the bottle to the baby right away.

But in this case, it’s worth a shot to do just that.

Instead of storing the milk in the fridge for future use, see if she’ll take your recently pumped milk in a bottle. Drinking warm, familiar milk might make her more likely to take to the bottle than if it were stored in the fridge for a length of time.

As she gets used to the bottle, she’ll hopefully then be more open to drinking stored milk as well, even if it’s not freshly pumped.

7. Let your baby latch onto the bottle nipple

If you breastfeed, your baby likely roots around to find your nipple before finally drinking. Let her latch on the bottle nipple as well, which mimics this type of rooting. Don’t just put the bottle in her mouth, and instead let her “initiate” and find the nipple with her tongue herself.

There might be a chance that she doesn’t like having the nipple put into her mouth, but would take to it more if you, say, place it next to her lips.

8. Wean from night feedings

Ask your child’s pediatrician if your baby can sleep through the night without feeding. If so, consider weaning from night feedings.

You see, he might be struggling to finish his daytime bottles when he’s eating so much at night. After all, you and I don’t eat throughout the night, and instead take our calories during the day. At some point, so can your baby.

Help him drop nighttime feedings and encourage him to take in his calories during the day. Here’s a quick summary of how to do that:

  1. Record when he typically wakes up for the night. For instance, he might wake at 11pm and 3am.
  2. Set your alarm 30 minutes before those wake up times and wake him to feed. This helps break the association between crying and getting milk. Don’t wait for him to wake up to cry for milk.
  3. Reduce his milk intake at each feeding. Let’s say he typically drinks two 5-ounce bottles at each wake up time. Now, you’ll offer two 4.5-ounce bottles.
  4. Give extra milk the next day. Increase the amount of milk he gets by the same amount you had reduced the night before. If he had two bottles reduced by half an ounce each, add half an ounce to two of his bottles the next day.
  5. Reduce the amount even more the next night. Wake him up at the same times, but decrease the amount of milk you offer by another half an ounce. Now you’ll offer two 4-ounce bottles at those wake up times. Again, add those ounces the next day.
  6. Continue to repeat every night, reducing the milk by half an ounce each night until it’s so little you don’t need to bother waking him up to eat.

9. Introduce solid food

If your baby has been drinking the same formula for months, there’s a good chance he’s getting tired of it. A quick fix? Learn how to make baby food at home. Not only can solids help supplement his calories, but they can also add the variety of flavors he craves.

If you already offer solids, give it to him along with his milk. He can either drink milk with his meal or drink it beforehand. That way, he can associate different tastes with the experience of drinking from a bottle.

10. Let go of control

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to let go of control. I have things planned, down to the ounces of milk my babies took or the times they napped. So, when things don’t go according to plan, I get frustrated and wonder why they don’t do the things they’re supposed to.

Except even adults don’t work that way. You and I don’t always have the same appetites day by day.

This is why we need to let go of control. We shouldn’t impose our plans on our babies when they’re not ready or willing to oblige. Take it week by week and see if he takes the bottle then.

Give his pediatrician a call if you have any concerns, or bring it up at his next appointment where she can see if he’s gaining enough weight.

Frequently asked questions

Why does a bottle strike happen?

A bottle strike can often happen when babies are more mobile. They’re interested in their ability to crawl, sit, and touch everything in sight. Their bodies also don’t grow as fast and don’t need as many calories as they did during the early stages of infancy.


A baby bottle strike can be worrisome and test your patience. Thankfully, you can find different ways for him to take the bottle, from feeding in different rooms to eliminating nighttime feedings.

And most importantly, let go of the control you might be forcing on him. While you can decide when and what he eats, ultimately, he decides how much—even if that means he goes on a bottle strike once in a while.

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  1. All of your tips are fantastic, and I think you’ve covered just about everything that could possibly cause a bottle strike and how to deal with one.

    I wanted to add one tip though for teaching a breastfed baby to take a bottle. I have helped several mamas who haven’t been able to get their baby to take a bottle, simply by warming up the formula or breastmilk a bit warmer than you normally would.

    In the hospital, and in a lot of baby classes, moms are instructed to heat the milk to room temperature and to test it out on the wrist to make sure it isn’t too warm.

    I have actually found (I have 9 children, and have used formula for the youngest 3), that room temperature milk will end up being too cold for the baby by the time you actually sit down to give the bottle. And if the milk is too cold, the baby will not want to take more than a sip or two.

    So, if you warm the milk up a little bit more than room temperature, it ends up being perfect.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      This is such fantastic advice, Ashley! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m going to add it to the post as a reader suggestion 🙂

  2. This was so helpful! Even with this being my 3rd boy, I thought I was an expert, turns out, not so much! Each baby is different after all! 😉

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad it came in handy! Isn’t it interesting how different kids can be, even with the same parents and household?

  3. Christina says:

    My son is 8 months old and he has never been a huge fan of formula, but now he will barely eat 4 oz at a time. He LOVES his pureed food, but we are a little worried about him getting enough calories. Are there any foods we should consider giving him that will be a little more hearty? I am going to try your other suggestions too – his sister was a food vacuum, so this is all new to us!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Christina! I can see why you’d be concerned, especially since formula or breast milk is the main source of nutrition for babies up to a year old (with solids only as a supplement). It’s fantastic though that he loves his purees, and you should keep encouraging his curiosity and excitement about solids. If you’re looking for hearty food, you might try calorie-rich solids like sweet potatoes, avocados, hard-boiled eggs, and some meat.

      I’d actually check with his pediatrician to see if they’re concerned with his weight gain, because often kids start drinking less because their bodies just aren’t growing as fast a pace as they used to. Add to that their curiosity with their environment and new mobility, and sitting a while drinking from a bottle may not be as exciting to them. More often than not, they’ll say that he’s growing just fine and that there’s nothing to worry about. Either way, it’s always good to have that reassurance.

  4. Hi, i understand the point of baby temporarily choosing not to drink, but any pointers on how can i get him to stay hydrated? He is not yet drinking water in large quantities, and still learning to drink from a sippy cup.

    This might sound funny, but could he have suddenly developed an aversion to my breastmilk?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi May! I’d check with your pediatrician to see if there are any signs of dehydration in your little one. More than likely, he’s simply preferring other things at the moment than drinking, but it doesn’t hurt to ask about possible signs of dehydration and what to do moving forward.

  5. My 4 month old has been having lots of trouble with his bottle feeding for about a month now. He was having alot more when he was born to what he is now. I’ve tried changing formulas, swaddling him, dream feeding. I’ve pretty much tried everything. Its absolutely stressing me out. The most he will have in a bottle is 120ml and that’s during his night feed, during the day he has 60ml – 80ml if we are lucky. He does have shocking wind and has been teething and two teeth have come through.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Sarah! It’s definitely stressful when our babies don’t get enough of what we think they need, whether it’s formula, food, sleep. I can relate to that panicky feeling when you realize your baby hardly ate, or that he’s been awake for hours. I’d double check with his pediatrician to see what they think about his feeding patterns. They’ll be able to weigh him and see where he falls in the growth charts. Even though the amount he drinks feels super small, you might find that the doctor says this is okay. And if it’s not, hopefully they can recommend even more resources to help you through. I’d also check your baby’s diapers to see if he’s peeing and pooping enough, and record those, so that you can report it to your doctor. That’s usually another indicator of whether they’re getting enough food or not (for instance, not enough soiled diapers can mean not enough food). Hang in there Sarah and keep us posted on how it goes.

      1. Thank you for the reply. The last couple of days I have seen a real change in him. He had 880ml yesterday which he hasn’t done in a month. Hopefully he can keep it up. I will keep you posted. Thank you kindly!

        1. Nina Garcia says:

          You’re welcome, Sarah! I’m glad the article was helpful 🙂

  6. My 9 month has not been gaining weight. He is such an active baby, he needs extra calories to keep up. We have just started him on a higher calorie solid food diet per his dr, and just as quickly as we started, complete bottle strike. Just when we are trying to get his weight up, he wants nothing to do with the bottle and will even go out of his way to find it so he can throw it. Only drinks 2 oz at a time. He is now up all night long hungry. I don’t know how to wean him off night feeding when he is drinking 12 oz or less during awake hours. This little guy has me very stressed!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Big hugs, Amy! It’s hard when we can’t get them to do what they need to do. I’d start each meal time with a bottle so that you can at least offer it when he has an empty tummy. Hopefully he’ll be more willing to drink more than the 2 oz per sitting that way. And of course ask his doctor what they recommend, given this new behavior.

  7. Melishka Matthysen says:

    Hello Nina

    My son is 8 month old, well will be in 5 days, all of a sudden he is refusing to drink his bottle, during the night he drinks his bottle, he used to finish it once but now leaves 20ml or so, not much. During the day he refuses to drink his milk, he does drink water and is eating his food very well. He is also teething now and is very irritated with his gums. the bottom two is out and now the top one is starting to come out. He is also crying allot when he wakes up, day or night. Is all of this normal or should we worry?

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Melishka! The decrease in milk and teething could be related. Just like when you and I lose our appetites when we’re feeling sick, he could be doing the same because teething has made mis feel uncomfortable. Reach out to his pediatrician though to confirm. They can also take his weight and make sure he’s gaining enough.

    2. Hi did you ever get this sorted I’m having the exact same
      Problem with my 8 month old completely refuses milk but loves food and juice lol
      My health adviser isn’t the best to be fair ?

  8. My baby is 5 months old and has started drinking less at each feeding, but otherwise healthy. I’ve tried feeding in a boring room, changing nipple flow, feeding more frequently or just on demand, and nothing seems to work. She’s been sleeping through the night since she was 6 weeks old, so I don’t feed her overnight and after sleeping 9-10 hours, she doesn’t seem as hungry as she should be. Could she be tired of the type of formula or type of bottle? I don’t know what to do! Please help!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Hi Andrea! It can definitely feel alarming when she doesn’t drink as much. I’d check in with her pediatrician to see if she’s gaining enough weight. More than likely, she is, and the decrease in intake could simply be developmental. She might not need as much as when she was younger, coupled with milestones and her growing curiosity that could be making her less likely to sit and drink.

  9. Brayden shaw says:

    Thank you so much. My 8 month old would not take his bottle at all, but I read this article and the bottle in a more boring room tip really works. Again thank you!!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad the tip helped and that your little one is drinking milk again, Brayden!

  10. Our baby is 11 weeks old and we’ve been bottle feeding (with breast milk) almost exclusively since the beginning. But she suddenly stopped taking the bottle about a week or two ago. Up until then, she loved feeding from a bottle and never had a problem. Now, whenever she sees a bottle near her or has a bottle put into her mouth, she will scream and cry. She won’t even accept a pacifier! She will only accept mommy’s breast and nothing else.

    Since then, we’ve tried many things commonly suggested: faster flow nipples, different bottles/nipple designs, different breast milk temperatures, different feeding positions and environments, smaller amounts… no luck. She simply won’t put anything in her mouth other than mommy’s breast … and her own hand, which she is now frequently sucking.

    With mommy’s return-to-work date coming up, we’re terrified the baby won’t come back around to the bottle in time. Is there anything we can do?? Thanks!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      It can definitely feel worrisome when you see your baby refuse to drink from a bottle, especially if mom is set to go back to work soon. I can assure you though that, however difficult that first day or two will be, she will eventually learn to take the bottle knowing that mom isn’t going to feed her any time soon.

      Also, the things you’ve done have been great, so don’t feel like you’ve failed because they still haven’t worked. For some they do, while for others it takes a different strategy.

      One thing I didn’t hear you mention is seeing what happens if you feed her a bottle without mom being in the room, or even in the house for that matter. I’m not sure if you’ve already tried it, but some babies can find it strange if mom feeds them the bottle, or even if you feed her but mom is still around. It’s almost like she’s thinking, “Why would I drink from the bottle when I know mom is around?”

      Another suggestion is to feed her after waking up, not before going to sleep. Again, I’m not sure if you’re already doing this, but it might be worth a try to feed her after naps, not to put her to sleep. That way, she has a bit of hunger from waking up, and won’t be as picky. She might also be using the breast to fall asleep, not just to feed, whereas feeding her after waking up eliminates that association.

      I hope that helps, Matt! If anything, reach out to your pediatrician to ease your concerns. They might be able to point you to resources available for you as well. Hang in there!