Breastfeeding: Father frustrated that baby refuses bottle

My good friend is from the India, which tends to be strongly male dominated. She has a four-month-old girl who has been breastfed. Now the baby refuses to take a bottle while my friend works swing shift and her husband provides care for the baby. He is getting extremely frustrated with the baby because she won't take a bottle. I am afraid that his frustration is going develop into abuse if the baby doesn't start accepting a bottle. They started giving her expressed breastmilk at six weeks of age and she would drink about one ounce by bottle. After a few weeks the baby started to flatly refuse the bottle. We have tried several different nipples, the mom has been away for a feed, the baby has actually gone eight hours without taking a bottle, screaming the entire time. We have tried offering fruit juice to entice her to take the bottle. Her husband is combining breastmilk with cereal and feeding that to her but she is still very fussy. He also has poked a large hole in the nipple and "dribbles" the milk into her mouth, but this takes about 45 minutes with the baby gagging and screaming the entire time. My heart really goes out to this poor little baby. Do you have any other suggestions?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

This sounds like a very difficult situation. If you are still at all concerned about this father's frustration turning to abuse, you need to talk with your friend about your concerns. I would highly recommend that she seek professional counseling for both her and her husband.

Weaning from the breast is not the answer for this baby. She sounds like she could use lots of loving. I would encourage the father to concentrate on providing lots of skin-to-skin contact during the evening, including baths, massage, carrying the baby in a sling, and sleeping together. Focus on intimate contact, and not feeding.

Of course feeding is important in a mother's absence, but you can't force a baby to take a bottle. It is common to see nursing babies reverse their schedule so that they get in the majority of their feeds while their mom is home, and they do absolutely fine on this schedule. Encourage the father to focus instead on loving this little baby who misses her mom.

Another option is to shift the baby's care to a more patient caregiver, though this may be quite awkward. Are any other family members nearby to help with this baby's care?

It is very important while working on these issues to be sure that the baby is being regularly evaluated by her Health Care Provider to rule out any underlying medical condition, and to be certain that she continues a good pattern of growth and development.

This sounds more like a control issue than a feeding problem to me, especially since you say that you and your friend have tried everything. When a baby is forced to eat, or feedings are withheld, the baby rebels. If this poor little baby is screaming the entire time his mom is at work, and she is screaming while being fed a bottle, she is trying to tell everyone something. It's time for this family to really listen to their baby! Hoping that you can help this family to get the help they need during this crisis. Best wishes!

Warmly,
Debbi

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