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Our 8 month old baby girl has been exclusively breastfed until she started solids 2 months ago.

Now she is happily eating pureés etc, to which we sometimes add water or juice, but she refuses all other liquids other than by nursing.

Just wondering if anyone out there has had a similar experience in the past?


Things we have tried:

  • Expressed breastmilk
  • 4 varieties of formula
  • Water
  • Juice
  • Bottles of different sizes/shapes
  • 4 different shapes of nipple, with 3 different flow rates
  • Sippy cups with soft spouts
  • Sippy cups with hard spouts
  • Room temperature, slightly warmed, body temperature, and cold from the fridge drinks.
  • Drinks offered by Mom, Dad, Aunts, Grandparents, etc.

No combination of the above has worked.

Our baby has no medical issues that we know of. Her mouth is perfectly normal, she is teething but the bottle refusal thing started before the teething.

This is a concern for us because, now that nursing has been reduced, we're not sure that she's getting enough liquids. Plus, baby can't be apart from her mother for more than a few hours for fear of dehydration. This spells trouble as mom is due back to work soon.

Note: When she was 3 months old, our baby was apart from her mother for 24 hours (mom had surgery). During that time she flatly refused all attempts to bottle feed her, effectively going on hunger strike. I feel that this experience might have stuck with her.

  • Welcome to Parenting.SE! Thanks for asking a thorough question -- I hope you'll get some good answers. – Acire May 29 '15 at 14:33
  • Hi! I just wanted to mention that you should only ever give very dilute juice (1 part juice to 10 parts water) to children and that it's preferable to have them stick to water or milk. You also mention "sippy cups" - it's important to never use valved cups because these can cause hearing problems. You should use free flow beakers. This doesn't answer your question, sorry! – DanBeale May 29 '15 at 14:47
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    The fruit juice was only tried (a) in desperation of trying to get some kind of liquid into her, and (b) prune juice was added to her pureed food when she was constipated (which had us worred that she was getting dehydrated). Otherwise, its all water or milk for our kids – user16490 Jun 5 '15 at 11:29
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Signs of dehydration include:

1) sunken fontanelle

2) dark urine / less than six wet nappies in 24 hours

3) dry sometimes sticky lips

If you're worried about dehydration you might want to speak to a doctor or health visitor.

Your baby is probably getting enough fluid from breastmilk.

For the first year the baby will have either breast milk or infant formula. After one year you will want to make water or full fat cows milk available. It's best to start using a normal cup as soon as the child can handle it. You might find a free-flow spout helps. Avoid "sippy" or "valved" cups -- these can cause hearing problems. Fruit juices have way too much sugar and should be heavily diluted. One part juice to tend parts water is the current recommendation in the UK, and that's only for children who refuse to drink water or milk.

As a rule of thumb the child should be off bottles by the age of 12 months. This is to avoid the teat disrupting tooth development. It is only a rough rule of thumb though!

Let the child see the liquid, and let them play with it and explore it. Imagine it was you and someone gave you a strange food to eat - you'd poke it a bit, and smell it, twist it around and so on.

Model good behaviour. Make sure you all have drinks in similar cups and frequently drink from them.

Copiously reward good behaviour. When the child touches the cup say "Yes! That's your cup!" And when she touches the drink say "Yes! That's your water!"

Feeding and drinking is something that is considerably stressful for parents! Please do remember that your child is probably fine; is probably getting everything from the food and nursing you provide; and that this is a short term thing that will probably clear within a few months. Just make sure drinks are always available and that the child knows the drink is there and they'll move over when they're ready. You say that Mother is returning to work soon - this problem will likely resolve itself then, as a source of hydration is removed the child will seek out replacements.

Here's the current UK recommendations: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/drinks-and-cups-children.aspx

  • I agree with 90% of this - but I'm a bit curious about "boiled cooled water". Is water in the UK that bad? I would think an 8 month old otherwise has a sufficiently developed immune system to protect against normal microorgamisms in water, at least at the US standard? Or is there another reason I'm unaware of? – Joe May 29 '15 at 16:31
  • @Joe thanks! I made a few mistakes which I've edited and provided a link to current UK guidance. I think I've caught them all but please feel free to edit (to match the supplied guidance) if I missed anything. – DanBeale May 29 '15 at 17:25
  • Ah, I see - below six months that makes more sense. It would be interesting when I have time to compare and contrast AAP and UK NHS - I feel like they're different, but I can't enunciate how, other than the NHS seeming to be a bit pushier about some things ("are not appropriate" versus "should be minimized" type of language). – Joe May 29 '15 at 17:29
  • Thanks for your comments. I found "Let the child see the liquid, and let them play with it and explore it" the most useful of all. We've tried spilling some water from a free flow cup onto the high chair table and letting her splash it around a bit. After this, she's more interested in drinking from the same cup. Still not in the quantities we would like, but it's a start! – user16490 Jun 5 '15 at 11:31
  • @DanBeale can you please provide a source that says sippy cups and valved cups should be avoided? I'm having a hard time finding anything myself and I'm trying to find a good substitute. My 15 month old has gotten the hang of a sippy cup (a valved one, unfortunately), but doesn't get along with a cup. I'm fine with using a cup at home, but I need something else when we're out. – eagerMoose Jul 4 '15 at 19:47
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Have you tried decreasing the association between the breast and drinking liquid by giving her skin-to-skin cuddling time that doesn't involve beast-feeding? You or your wife could hold her in the crook of your (shirtless) arm while you turn the pages of a baby book or walk "tickle fingers" across her tummy, perhaps. Also see if she'll accept a cup or bottle from someone this way.

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