Bottle Feeding Problems

Most mothers will experience problems when bottle feeding their baby. Most are minor ones that can be easily resolved when small adjustments are made. Of course, for more major concerns, your doctor should be the first point of call.

Air needs to enter the bottle to replace the milk your baby has taken in order to balance the pressure in the bottle. Air enters the bottle either between the nipple ring and bottle OR through the holes in the end of the nipple (some orthodontic nipples have an extra hole at the base of the nipple, near the nipple ring, for this purpose). Feeding difficulties can develop if air cannot enter the bottle e.g. if the nipple ring is screwed on too tight and your baby also maintains a seal over the holes of the nipple with her tongue. So do experiment with loosening and tightening of the nipple ring and see if this fixes the problem. You will know you have it right, when you can see a steady and continuous flow of bubbles entering the bottle as she drinks. If you can’t see any bubbles, loosen the nipple ring just a little more.

Stick to a regular feeding pattern

Some babies develop a feeding pattern where they will only drink small amounts of formula at a time but want to be fed very frequently, possibly every hour or two. Although this will not cause any problems for your baby, provided she drinks enough formula in total over a 24 hour period, this can become very tiring for you to keep up with her constant demands for feeding. And you will have further problems when you try to wean the baby. Therefore, try to encourage your baby to consume a little more milk each feeding session. Be patient; sometimes a baby will stop sucking, leave the teat in its mouth and most times the baby will resume sucking again. Feeding time should last no longer than about 45 minutes. You can further encourage your baby to feed more by increasing the interval between feeding times. As baby gets used to longer periods between feeds she will also take more milk.

Is baby really hungry?

Babies are born with reflexes, such as the rooting reflex and sucking reflex, that help them to feed instinctively. (A reflex is an automatic or involuntary response.)

Often these reflexes are misinterpreted as signs of hunger and a formula may be offered. If your baby was not actually hungry, she may take only a small amount and refuse the rest.


For babies, sleeping and feeding are closely connected. It’s almost impossible to deal with one and not the other. If a child doesn’t feed well, she won’t sleep well. However, tiredness can be the cause fussy, unsettled feeding behavior or falling asleep before the feed is completed. To deal with any feeding problem, first ask yourself – “Is my baby getting enough sleep?” If the answer is “No”, look for ways to improve her sleep pattern. Often feeding difficulties improve automatically, simply because sleep has improved. Always try to feed your baby before she becomes too tired.

For a normal, healthy baby, nighttime feeds are no longer required after 6 months. A baby only needs a certain amount of nutrients and calories for any given day. If after 6 months of age, she continues to receive calories from night time feeds, she will not need to drink as much formula during the day, and she may either fuss or refuse some of her daytime formula feeds.

Cows milk formula allergy

Some babies are allergic to cows milk formula. In such cases, switching to a soy based formula. If your child has symptoms that could indicate a milk allergy such as wheeze, recurrent cough, eczema, diarrhea, blood in stools, failure to gain weight, then seek your doctor’s opinion immediately.

Baby reflux or Gastro-esophageal reflux (GER)

Babies with GER may develop feeding difficulties because they begin to associate feeding with the discomfort of heartburn. Reflux occurs when stomach contents are brought back up into the esophagus (food pipe), throat or mouth. It is a treatable condition and, if managed correctly, it should not cause your baby considerable distress. If feeding difficulties continue after treatment, it may be that reflux is not the ONLY reason for your baby’s feeding difficulties.

It is estimated that approximately 50% of all healthy, thriving babies have ‘reflux’ and will spit up occasionally or regularly during the early months. 100% of all healthy babies will occasionally bring up milk into their throat and reswallow it; this is commonly referred to as ‘silent reflux’. For babies, this believed to be a physiological response to protect against overfeeding.

If your baby is otherwise healthy and thriving and experiences no (or minimal) discomfort as a result of reflux, he doesn’t need any special treatment. However, you may find using some of the following strategies helpful to reduce the amount of spitting up.

  1. Change diapers before feeding and not after, on a full tummy.
  2. Feed your baby in a semi-upright position.
  3. Slow down the feed.
  4. Avoid overfeeding. Smaller, more frequent feeds throughout the day can help to alleviate reflux. Also, avoid feeding your baby just before bedtime.
  5. Burp your baby frequently during feeding.
  6. Hold your baby in an upright position for 15 or 20 minutes following a feed; in a semi reclining position and not slumped forward (which will increase pressure on his full tummy).
  7. Try thickened milk feeds. The added weight of the cereal in the food helps to keep the food from splashing around in the baby’s belly and can help keep it down.
  8. Especially in older children and babies, it is known that certain foods make reflux worse (eg. whole milk, chocolate milk, fried or creamy style vegetables, tomatoes, citrus: such as oranges, grapefruit, pineapple, anything prepared with whole milk or high-fat, cold cuts, sausage, bacon, fatty meat, chicken fat/skin, all animal or vegetable oils, chocolate, carbonated beverages, chicken, beef, milk, or cream-based soups).
  9. Changing infant formula might help. If your baby has a milk allergy or sensitivity then soy based or hypoallergenic will likely help the reflux improve.  As well, hypoallergenic formulas are pre-digested (either partially or completely) so they tend to move through the stomach faster than standard formulas.  Moving food out of the stomach faster can be beneficial for two reasons.  If the baby is a picky eater it may help them get hungry again faster.  It also means the food isn’t sitting around in the stomach waiting to be refluxed. Only change formula after consulting your doctor.
  10. Discuss sleeping your baby on his tummy with your pediatrician. Although sleeping on the back is recommended in order to reduce the risk of SIDS babies with severe GERD benefit from sleeping on their tummy. Only do this under doctor’s orders.

Although commonly recommended, recent studies suggest elevating the head of the crib offers no significant benefit.


While teething (when a babies first set of teeth are breaking through the skin), a baby may fuss with feeding or fail to drink as much formula as normal. Feeding difficulties related to teething generally don’t last longer than a couple of days. Teething.

To help reduce the pain associated with teething the following measure may be helpful.

  • Gently, but firmly, massage or press on your baby’s gum with a clean finger or soft cloth. If this obviously upsets your baby don’t continue.
  • Give your baby something cold to suck or chew on. You can buy plastic teething rings which you can cool in the refrigerator. Some babies find it great to chew on a face washer that has be moistened and cooled in the freezer for a few hours.
  • Regularly clean teething rings, toys or anything else that your baby chews on, to prevent the growth of germs.
  • Prevent skin rashes on the face by washing away saliva with a warm, clean face washer and applying protective ointment.
  • A teething rusk is good to chew on, but be careful pieces don’t break off.

Oral Thrush

Thrush is commonly known as yeast infection; fungal infection; Candida; Candidiasis; or Moniliasis. 90% of babies will have this yeast ON or IN their bodies by the time they are 6 months old – as do most adults. And in the vast majority of cases it does us no harm and we don’t even notice its there.

Feeding difficulties associated with a thrush infection in a baby’s mouth are rare, but can occur if the infection is severe. If a baby has oral thrush, there’s a chance that he may ALSO develop a yeast infection on his little bottom, because the yeast can PASS from his mouth through his gastro-intestinal tract.

Things to look out for:

  • White or cream colored patches like milk curds can be seen on the roof of his mouth, inside his cheeks and on his tongue. These may be surrounded by red areas. OR his entire tongue may have a solid white coating; don’t mistake milk residue as thrush. Milk residue on the tongue is quite thin and usually wipes off easily, whereas thrush does not.
  • Fussing, unsettled behavior during feeding (due to a sore mouth) is RARE and generally ONLY occurs if the infection is SEVERE, i.e. if an infection reaches the stage of causing ulcerations (which SELDOM occurs in healthy babies even when thrush remains untreated).
  • If your baby sucks his thumb or fingers, he may also develop a yeast infection around his fingernails.
  • Should your baby have thrush, cleanliness is vital. Ensure all bottle and nipples are washed thoroughly and sterilized. Rinse your baby’s mouth out after a feeding. A few mouthfuls of water from a medicine cup will help remove the milk from his mouth. Milk residue encourages the growth of thrush.
  • Also make sure to clean your baby’s hands frequently. Use plain soap and water.

Some natural remedies include;

Acidophalis & Bifidus

Eating natural yogurt or taking acidophalis capsules will help to colonize your body with lactobacillus acidophilus (good bacteria that will help to control the yeast in YOUR digestive system).

Since an infant’s digestive system is more sensitive, bifidus is recommended rather than acidophilus for children less than a year old. Bifidum occurs naturally in the intestinal flora of humans, including infants.

Grapefruit Seed Extract (not grape seed extract)

Also known as grapefruit seed oil, grapefruit seed extract is a broad-spectrum anti-microbial compound made from the seeds and pulp of grapefruit.

Make up a solution by adding 5 drops of grapefruit extract to 1/2 cup of cooled boiled water. This can be separated into two containers; one to wipe over your baby’s mouth after feeding, using a cotton swab (it can also be used on your nipples after breastfeeding), the other portion can be used as a wash for your baby’s bottom, as part of each diaper change. Use this solution at least 3 or 4 times each day and make up a fresh solution daily.

WARNING: DO NOT use grapefruit seed extract in a concentrated form.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil, which is well known for its antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s also good for combating yeast infections, such as thrush. For a thrush diaper rash, rinse your baby’s bottom with diluted tea tree oil – 5 drops to 1/2 cup of cooled boiled water. This can also be used on your nipples and wiped off before feeding.

WARNING: Tea tree oil can be very irritating and should NOT be used in a concentrated form.


Other natural remedies include the use of vinegar OR baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to alter the acid balance of the environment, making it less appealing for yeast to grow.

Make up a solution of 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to 1 cup of water. (Put the solution into separate containers if you plan to use this for your baby’s mouth and bottom). Use a cotton swab to wipe the solution onto your baby’s mouth after feeding. This can also be used on your nipples following breastfeeding. A separate portion of this solution can be used to as a wash at diaper changes. 

WARNING: This solution can sting if thrush is SEVERE.

In the laundry: Pour one cup of white vinegar to the final rinse of cloth diapers OR clothing.

Baking soda (bicarbonate soda)

Dissolve a level teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of water. Use a cotton swab to wipe the insides of your baby’s cheeks, gums and tongue after every feed. You can also dab this onto your nipples following feeds. Make a fresh solution every day.

Yeast diaper rash: You can use a separate potion of the same solution above as a wash during diaper changes OR you can add 2 tablespoons of baking powder to a couple of inches of water in a small bath to soak your little one’s bottom for a few minutes. This is generally quite soothing.

>Other natural remedies used for treatment of MATERNAL thrush only include:

One of garlic’s many healing properties is it’s ability to kill yeast, bacteria and other micro-organisms. Use it in your cooking. Odorless garlic capsules are available from health food stores.

Lactic acid is unfavorable to many forms of yeast and bacteria such as candida albican. This is a relatively new product now available at chemists or drug stores. The wash (to be used externally only) contains lactic acid that help maintain the natural pH balance of the vaginal area.

Like lactobacillus, this also helps rebalance the helpful organisms in YOUR gut flora.

This fatty acid, derived from coconut oil, has been shown to have antifungal properties.

Olive oil contains linoleic acids, which are antifungal and may cut off the yeast’s oxygen supply.

The green hulls containing the walnut are processed into oil which has antimicrobial properties. Black walnut is also used to treat thrush infection and can be used internally or externally. Black Walnut should NOT be taken internally if you are breastfeeding because it can stop lactation.

Pau d’Arco is a South American tree that resists fungus growth. Pau d’Arco or Taheebo tea, are both believed to have natural fungicidal properties. Drink 2-3 cups daily.

Is a natural plant antimicrobial. Goldenseal can be used on the skin as a poultice but should NOT be taken internally.

WARNING: Because a product is ‘natural’ does NOT meant it is without side effects. Many natural remedies are NOT suitable for use in infants, small children OR breastfeeding mothers. Read instructions carefully and ask lots of questions at the health food store. If in doubt DON’T use herbal remedies.

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One response to “Bottle Feeding Problems

  1. Acidophilus is a microorganism, the digestive system and intestinal health aids. Acidophilus Lactobacillus is recognized in the dairy-free form, since many people consume lactose intolerance or animal products. Acidophilus, additional health benefits together with strengthening the immune system.


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