Alternatives To Baby Bottles

Some babies just don’t take to the bottle that easily. This can be very worrying for parent as they will have concerns their baby isn’t getting enough milk. But there are some alternatives. You can use spoon feeding, cup feeding, a syringe, a breastfeeding supplementer and finger feeding. In this article, let’s take a look at some of these alternatives in more detail as well as some tips on how to help your baby feed from the bottle.

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How do you bottle feed a baby that refuses the bottle?

Here are some strategies to try if your baby is struggling to take to the bottle.

  • Try feeding your baby in a different position.

Some babies are just a bit fussy how they feed. For some, the traditional feeding position of resting them on your arm just might not work. Try something else instead. For example, try putting them on your knees in a slightly elevate position.

  • Try a different teat/nipple

Your baby might not like drinking from the choice of nipple you have for your bottles. If you’ve opted for silicone, try latex instead (and vice versa). Make sure you pick a slow flow one for newborns.

  • Try offering the bottle when they are not hungry

Some babies need to get used to the sensation of drinking from a bottle. Offer it to them between feedings so they can get used to it faster.

  • Have your partner try feeding your baby instead

If you’re breastfeeding, your baby might just associate you with nursing. Consequently, when you offer the bottle, your baby can become confused and frustrated. Ask your partner to try bottle feeding and see how it goes.

  • Move around the room when feeding

By gently rocking and moving with your baby, they might just calm down a bit before you give them the bottle.

  • Try something that smells of mum

Babies love being close to mum, from the sound of their voice, to their smell. You can try wrapping the bottle in something that you have worn or been close to. In fact, some mothers sleep with muslins/burp cloths a couple of times so their smell goes on to them.

  • Put a bit of milk into their mouth

You can try to whet your baby’s appetite for milk by just placing a couple of drops into their mouth before bottle feeding.

For some other strategies on helping your baby take the bottle, take a look here.

baby bottle

Why do some breastfed babies refuse the bottle?

Some breastfed babies can refuse the bottle for many of the reasons listed above. However, one of the main causes is if you’ve been solely breastfeeding for the first 3 months, and your baby is just not used to the feel of the bottle. While you want to avoid nipple confusion and their refusal to take your breast at all, which can happen if you introduce the bottle too early, a little exposure to the bottle in the first 3 months is probably a good idea.

Will they eventually take it?

Yes, they probably will, but don’t worry if it takes a while. Just be patient and your baby will learn in time. If you’re desperate to have a break from breastfeeding, and the bottle just isn’t working, you can take a look at the alternatives below.

Baby Bottle Alternatives

Here are some other options to consider if your baby is just refusing the bottle.

Spoon feeding

Hold your baby in an upright position and slowly move a spoonful of milk to their lower lip. Don’t pour it down their throat but let them open their mouth and drink from it themselves. You can use a spoon made from silicone as this will be softer on their gums.


  • No nipple confusion if you’re breastfeeding.
  • A clean solution (assuming the spoon has been sterilized first)


  • Quite time consuming.

Cup feeding

For this, just have your baby in an upright position on your knee or lap (you can do this yourself, but it will be easier if your partner can help). Using a medicine cup or soft-rimmed cup, place it next to the lower lip of your baby’s mouth and gradually tilt it, so the milk just touches their mouth. Don’t pour it down their throat or they might cough or choke a bit, but let them fulfil the action of drinking the milk with their tongue. This method may make the transition to a sippy cup a little easier.


  • The cup feeding approach is quicker than other baby bottle alternatives.


  • It can be a little messy. Ensure you use burp cloths or bibs to mop up any spills.
  • Your baby doesn’t learn how to suck.

What can you use to cup feed a baby?

Ideally, you want to choose a cup with a soft round rim. Medicine cups are fine for newborns, but you will quickly need something bigger as they grow. Some parents use shot glasses to cup feed and find it works well.

One useful product you can consider is the Medela SoftCup Feeder. My wife and I used this with my daughter a few years ago, as you can conveniently measure the right amount of milk, and it’s very easy for your baby to drink from. It also avoids any risk of nipple confusion if you are breastfeeding.

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Using a syringe

You can use a syringe or eye dropper to feed your baby. It works best if your baby is in a slightly upright position. Fill the syringe with milk, and put your finger inside their mouth. Once they start sucking on your finger, insert the syringe alongside your finger and slowly squirt the milk into their mouth as they are sucking. Just don’t squeeze the syringe too quickly as you don’t want to give your baby too much milk in one go.


  • No nipple confusion


  • The technique is a little trickier than other methods, but it’s fine once you’ve mastered it.
  • Not as clean as other baby bottle alternatives because you have to put your finger inside your baby’s mouth.

Finger feeding

This method can work well with newborns who still have the strong sucking reflex. It involves using some tubing which attaches to your finger and a container for the milk. You insert your finger into their mouth and as the baby starts sucking, they also bring in milk through the tube.


  • A good option to help your baby to learn how to nurse from the breast.


  • Not very clean as your finger has to go inside your baby’s mouth.
  • Not a long-term solution as your baby can prefer this method to breastfeeding.
  • A more cumbersome method to set up, and for cleaning.

Breastfeeding supplementer

This option can provide your baby with extra milk when they are breastfeeding. A cord hangs around your neck with one end attached to a container of milk, and the other to your nipple. When the baby starts nursing, they are able to drink from the breast and receive milk from the container at the same time.


  • No issue with nipple confusion as your baby is just receiving extra milk when they are nursing.


  • Requires more effort to set up than the other methods.

If you want to try this option, you might want to take a look at the Medela Supplemental Nursing System.

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