The truth about babies is that they can be picky eaters even before those first teeth come in. If you’ve got a baby who is refusing formula, know that, unfortunately, this is quite normal. There are many reasons a baby might not like what’s on the menu, but fear not because there are ways you can help your baby enjoy mealtime!
A baby might hate or refuse formula because they do not like the taste or texture, they are experiencing tummy pain from gas, or you have changed to a new brand. As they grow, babies might also get more easily distracted during feedings or simply prefer to eat new solid food that they have been exposed to.
Finding the exact reason your baby is refusing formula will require you to take a step back and think about your baby’s dietary, behavioral, and environmental history.
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What should I do if my baby doesn’t like formula?
The reason your baby is refusing formula could be physical, behavioral, or even a taste or texture preference. Babies can experience digestive issues when trying new foods, so a change in brand or type of formula could cause tummy or gas pain. As creatures of habit, a baby may simply resist a new formula.
Don’t give up! Feeding is a great time to bond with your baby but feeding time fussiness can cause frustration for both parents and babies. It’s likely your baby just needs time to adjust to new tastes, textures, and other changes that accompanied the introduction or change in formula.
Consider some of the following reasons that your baby might not like formula:
- Formula Type: If you’ve ever stood in the grocery aisle staring at the dozens of formula brands and options, you understand that finding one that agrees with your baby’s taste and tummy is going to take time. Start by speaking with your pediatrician and asking for recommended brands or types best fit for your baby’s age and dietary needs. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers an outline of formula styles and how to choose the proper formula type here.
- Prepare it Properly: Just like any recipe, when mixing up your baby’s bottle instructions need to be followed carefully to ensure proper taste and texture are achieved. According to the Mayo Clinic, pay close attention to the following when preparing your baby’s bottle:
- Check the expiration date
- Use clean hands and properly sterilized bottles
- Use tap or bottled water
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions on measurements carefully
- Warm carefully by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water for several minutes. Do not heat bottles in the microwave as this can cause hot spots that could burn baby’s mouth.
- Store properly to ensure freshness.
- Changes in Feeding: Think carefully about other changes that are affecting mealtimes. Have you recently adjusted your baby’s feeding schedule? Perhaps you’ve changed (or haven’t changed) the amount of formula you’re offering? Have you recently switched brands or styles of formula to meet your baby’s needs as they grow? Any of these seemingly minor changes can have a big impact on your baby’s cooperation at feeding times. If baby has transitioned from infant to baby formula, it could take time for them to adjust to the new taste, texture, or digestive changes associated with a new brand or type of formula. As your baby grows, the amount of food or frequency of feedings changes, so consider adjusting your feeding schedule or amount offered to avoid under or over-feeding baby.
- Changes in Baby: Beyond the formula itself, take into account the age and stage of your baby. After the 4-month mark, it’s okay to begin introducing solid foods to your baby. Your baby’s formula fussiness may be a signal they’re ready for other flavors, textures, and more substantial foods.
However, if your baby is not ready for solids and is fussy at mealtimes, it could be that other behavioral or developmental changes need to be considered…
- Overtired: During the first year, babies experience constant changes in their sleep habits and needs. If baby doesn’t feed well, then baby doesn’t sleep well. If baby doesn’t sleep well, then they may not feed well. Ensure baby is getting proper rest according to their needs.
- Distracted: As baby grows, their interest in feeding may change from month-to-month as they become more curious about the world around them. To minimize distractions, try feeding baby in a quiet room away from things that may take their attention away from the task at hand.
- Aversions: Babies who have experienced stress or pain during feeding in the past may develop an aversion to feeding. Things like previously untreated reflux, newly discovered allergies or food intolerance may have caused baby discomfort at feedings. It will take time and patience to help baby understand they can now feed comfortably.
- Illness or Discomfort: A baby who is experiencing a cold, earache, teething pain, or other unpleasant illness will understandably approach feeding time with apprehension.
- Feeding vs Pacifying: Babies are born with a strong reflex to suck, which is developed and practiced in the womb. Your baby may be resistant to feeding simply because, though they may be exhibiting feeding signs like rooting or sucking, they’re not actually hungry. Consider offering a pacifier rather than a bottle in between feedings.
- Bottle Type: Much like finding the proper type of formula, your baby may be particular about how they get their food versus what their food tastes like. As overwhelming as choosing a formula option can be, finding the right type of bottle can be just as challenging. Through a bit of research and trial-and-error finding the right type of bottle that makes feeding comfortable can reduce any fussiness or refusal at mealtimes.
I should point out that not every baby bottle is created equally and I’ve found that one brand, in particular, has performed better for me over the past couple of years – Comotomo. In fact, this is the baby bottle brand that I recommend the most because they are less prone to discoloration, durable, clean easily, and have a unique shape that makes it easier for babies to learn to hold by themselves. Check out the cool design here!
Can babies not like the taste of formula?
It is quite possible for a baby to dislike the taste of formula because it is a synthetic version of breastmilk and can taste quite different as well.
Did you know that your baby’s sense of taste begins developing in the womb? When their mouth and tongue are formed, they begin practicing swallowing and breathing in amniotic fluid and their new tastebuds experience the flavors in the foods you eat and drink while pregnant. It’s no wonder that such a well-developed palate may not exactly love the taste of formula right away!
If you suspect it’s the flavor of the formula that’s causing baby to refuse bottles, try some different brands or types to see which they prefer. It may take 3-5 days for baby to adjust to the new flavor. If you recently made the switch from breastfeeding to bottle-feeding, ask your pediatrician if there is a certain brand that can help with the transition.
Why does my baby hate formula suddenly?
If it seems your baby suddenly hates formula, but has been eating formula for some time, it’s important to consider other changes taking place in their life. Have you changed the brand or type of formula they’re eating? Are they hitting a developmental milestone making them fussy or temperamental? Are they teething or ill? There are many other considerations aside from the formula itself that may be contributing to a sudden change or refusal to eat.
How long does it take for baby to adjust to formula change?
If you change the formula your baby is eating it may take 3-5 days before your baby adjusts to the new taste and texture.
This is just a guideline, however, as some babies might not seem to notice a switch and others may never seem to take to a new brand’s flavor.
When is it time to transition away from formula?
You can begin offering your child whole cow’s milk at age 1. Be sure to introduce this new food slowly into baby’s diet and understand that whole milk is not a meal replacement, so your baby will need a variety of solid foods as well. As your baby eats more solid food, you might also notice that she prefers to eat those instead of formula which is okay.
When a breastfed baby refuses formula
Some babies who are breastfed and are switched to formula, or have supplemented feedings using formula, may have a hard time adjusting to new tastes, sensations, and the physical discomforts a new food can have on them.
A few ways to help babies transition from breastmilk to formula include:
- Gradual introduction over a month or more
- Choose a less critical feeding time to offer formula, like an afternoon feed rather, than morning or before bedtime
- Attempt to recreate the sensation of breastfeeding through skin-to-skin contact and holding them closely during feeding
If both the bottle and formula are new to baby, you can find many ways to make bottle feeding easier for baby like the ones offered here.
Can you mix breastmilk and formula?
While you can mix breastmilk and formula in the same bottle, it may be preferable not to do this simply because if the bottle isn’t finished it could result in wasted breastmilk as the formula will need to be discarded. If you mix breastmilk and formula in the same bottle, it’s important NOT to replace the water in the powdered formula with breastmilk.
To mix breastmilk and formula, prepare the formula as directed and then to meet the desired ounces in the bottle, fill the rest with breastmilk. For example, to create a 4oz bottle, mix 2oz of baby formula following package directions then add 2oz of breastmilk.
To be safe, discard unused bottles mixed like this according to formula package directions.
What formula tastes the closest to breastmilk?
Enfamil Enspire claims to be the closest to natural breastmilk on the market and incorporates key ingredients not found in other brands that help support health and development of baby. Check with your pediatrician for other recommendations and considerations.
At the end of the day, it will be impossible to truly replicate the taste of natural breastmilk with formula.
What if baby refuses breast milk and formula?
If your baby refuses to eat breastmilk and formula, you should contact your pediatrician to discuss any illnesses or aversions your baby may be experiencing causing your baby not to eat.
How to make baby formula taste better
To help make formula feeding more enjoyable for your baby, you may be tempted to add something to their bottles like vanilla extract or fruit purees. Most baby formulas have some sort of sugar included in their ingredients like lactose, for example, which is found in breastmilk, so they already have “flavor” or taste. Your baby does not need additional salts or sugars in their diet other than what’s in formula or breastmilk (depending on their age), so putting added flavors in their formula is not beneficial and could even cause harm.
If you believe your baby would enjoy formula better simply due to the flavor, then try other brands or types. Be sure to follow the preparation and storage instructions carefully to ensure freshness and proper taste is achieved.
What can I add to baby formula to make it taste better?
It’s generally not advised to add anything to a baby’s bottle like fruit, protein powders, extracts or cereal-whether it’s a formula or breastmilk bottle. If you think your baby would benefit from adding some flavors to their bottle, seek advice from your pediatrician on what is safe and beneficial to your baby. If formula is new to your baby, remember it could take 3-5 days for your baby to adjust to the new food.
Formula feeding, much like breastfeeding, can be tricky, especially if you have a picky eater on your hands! To ensure feeding remains a bonding experience and nutritionally beneficial, pay special attention to your baby’s physical cues, feeding preferences, and their development needs. Be sure to speak with your doctor about finding the right formula that your baby will enjoy. Bon appetit!