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My almost 3-month-old baby has been refusing the bottle since she was 3 weeks old. We've tried all the tricks that I know, she just likes to gnaw on it and roll it around in her mouth.

I am returning to work and I will be at work about 12 to 14 hours a day, 2 days a week. Of course, I will be leaving her with bottles and plenty of pumped milk, there's even oral syringes if they get desperate. I'm just terrified that she'll continue to refuse it.

We're offering the bottle to her at least once a day but she's only latched to it 2x since she was 3 weeks old. I've ordered foley cups and I'm going to try them next. I'm very stressed about being gone so long, but I have to go back to work. This is my third child, so I'm not new to this.

I hope someone else had experienced a baby who continued to refuse a bottle after they returned to work and could tell me it'll be okay. My main question is how long can a baby go without eating? If she does not take a bottle during those 12-14 hours, will she be okay? Should I try to reverse cycle her the night before (wake her to nurse frequently)?

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    Have you tried different types and brands of bottles? I tried, I think, 8 types before I found one my son would happily take. – Meg Jan 11 at 20:53
  • A 12-14 hour shift, twice a week. Are the shifts back to back? Isn't there some way for you to go to your child (during your lunch break) so you can nurse? Or work shorter shifts more days during the week (ex: 6 hours/day, 4 days/week)? – elbrant Jan 15 at 2:19
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Sorry, but twelve hours without feeding is way too long for a baby.

You also can’t (and probably shouldn’t, if you want to save your own sanity and ability to function) reverse the day/night cycle, because even if you were able to do so, you’d be giving up sleep. And most babies at that age will feed at least once during the night, so this wouldn’t solve your problem anyway.

I suggest you give bottle feeding another try, but don’t do it yourself - many babies will be more willing to accept it if the mother (and her breasts) is not present. If you have a specific place or other routine for breastfeeding, it may be helpful to purposely do it differently - to make it clear that it’s something else. (Or not, you need to experiment.) Also, don’t wait until she’s ravenous, just a bit hungry is better, because she’ll be less fussy.

If you can’t get her to accept a bottle, there are other options, you can feed her with a spoon or a soft-rimmed cup or beaker. These methods are sometimes used even with newborns in hospitals. They can be messy, though.

If you want to try cup feeding or spoon feeding, I recommend that you contact your local nursing consultant or midwife or at least watch a few videos explaining the crucial bits, like sitting the infant upright and never pouring the milk into his mouth. A (somewhat random) starting point could be for example this website.

  • Sorry, i guess i wasnt clear. I will be of coarse leaving her with bottles and plenty of pumped milk. I'm just terrified that she'll continue to refuse it. We're offering the bottle to her at least once a day but she's only latched to it 2x since she was 3 weeks old. I've ordered foley cups and I'm going to try them next. I'm very stressed about being gone so long, but i have to go back to work. – Rebecca Jan 12 at 13:31
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Our three-month old regularly sleeps through the night, which means he goes about 10 hours without feeding (and without asking for it). This means that a baby of that age can go that long without feeding.

But, and that is a very big but, you can't be sure that your baby won't get hungry in that time and when that happens you don't want to be without a possibility to feed your baby. A hungry baby, in my experience, quickly starts to work on the nerves of her caretakers. Especially if they can't do anything to relieve the hunger, you should expect to be called from work to pick up your baby to feed her.

As it can't be guaranteed that a three month old won't get hungry while you are at work, you really should find an alternative to breast feeding that can be used when you aren't there. For suggestions on that, I refer to the answer by @Stephie

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    I'm sure you've thought of this, but the OP asked about a time frame of 12-14 hours. What a difference 4 hours can make! Any baby who doesn't get fed for 14 hours and lives can do it, but generally, it's not a good idea. – anongoodnurse Jan 12 at 3:38
  • @anongoodnurse: My main point was in the second paragraph: Even if a baby can go that long without feeding, don't expect that to be consistent. So, you can't plan your day around it. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jan 12 at 7:42

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