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Why Is My Baby Playing with His/Her Bottle Instead of Drinking

baby playing with his bottles instead drinking

As a parent, it can be frustrating when your baby is playing with their bottle instead of drinking. You want to make sure they are getting enough nourishment, but they seem more interested in batting the bottle around than consuming the milk or formula inside. This behavior, while frustrating, is a normal part of a baby’s development. Babies are naturally curious about the world around them, and they use their hands and mouths to explore everything, including their bottles. They may shake the bottle to see what happens, squeeze it to watch the nipple change shape, or chew on it to soothe their gums. 

Why Is My Baby Playing with His/Her Bottle Instead of Drinking

Babies also use their bottles for comfort and security. The soft nipple and the familiar feeling of the bottle can help them feel calm and relaxed. For some babies, playing with the bottle can be a way to distract themselves from hunger. If they’re not quite ready to eat, they may play with the bottle to calm themselves down. As babies get older, they’ll start to understand that bottles are for drinking. However, they may still play with them from time to time. This is perfectly normal and doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your baby. Bottle-playing behavior can be puzzling for parents who expect their little ones to focus mainly on feeding during bottle time. However, this behavior is frequently linked to a baby’s natural curiosity and desire to learn about their surroundings.

10 Common Reasons Why your baby plays with the bottle instead of drinking

Absolutely! As a expert pediatrician, I am mentioning some common reasons why babies might play with their bottles instead of simply drinking from them:

1. Exploring Their Environment:

Babies play with their bottles because they are naturally curious about the world around them. They explore the textures and shapes of the bottle, investigate cause and effect relationships, satisfy their oral curiosity, and engage in playful learning. Parents should encourage this exploration by providing a variety of textures and shapes, introducing different sounds, observing their interests, encouraging exploration during feeding breaks, and supervising playtime.

2. Teething Discomfort: 

Babies may play with their bottles instead of drinking due to teething discomfort. Teething can cause swollen and sore gums, which can be relieved by chewing on the nipple of the bottle. Additionally, rubbing their gums against the bottle or playing with it can distract them from the pain. To encourage babies to drink when they are teething, offer them the bottle when they are calm, use a slow-flow nipple, ensure the bottle is clean, offer small and frequent feedings, and experiment with different types of bottles and nipples. If you are concerned about your baby’s fluid intake, talk to their doctor.

3. Seeking Independence:

As babies grow, they begin to claim their independence. Playing with the bottle might be their way of claiming control during feeding times.

4. Curiosity and Learning:

Babies are naturally curious and love to learn, so they explore everything around them, including their bottles. This means they might play with their bottles instead of drinking from them. Babies like to feel different textures and shapes, so they touch and grab their bottles to learn about them. They also like to see what happens when they do things, so they shake their bottles to see the milk swirl inside or squeeze them to watch the nipple change shape. Babies also like to suck on things, so they chew on their bottle nipples or suck on the bottles themselves. All of this playing helps babies learn and grow, so parents should let them explore their bottles in a safe way.

5. Developing Motor Skills:

Manipulating objects like bottles aids in the development of fine motor skills. Babies might play with their bottles to enhance their hand-eye coordination.

6. Engaging Their Senses:

Babies explore textures and shapes through touch and play. The bottle might engage their senses, providing a different tactile experience.

7. Distraction and Stimulation:

Babies might get easily distracted during feeding. Playing with the bottle could be a way to break the monotony or regain their attention.

8. Expressing Disinterest or Fullness:

Sometimes, playing with the bottle might indicate that the baby is not hungry or has lost interest in feeding at that moment. Baby gets fussy and shows no interest in bottle feeding may be due to fullness and maybe he prefers breastfeeding. He might find breast feeding more nourishing and comfortable as compared to bottle feeding. Shifting to breastfeeding can resolve this issue.

9. Mimicking Behavior:

Babies may mimic adult behavior and play with their bottles instead of drinking. Parents can encourage proper bottle usage by modeling appropriate behavior, avoiding non-drinking uses, providing distractions, maintaining a feeding routine, and responding to cues promptly.

10. Comfort and Security:

The bottle might offer a sense of comfort and security. Playing with it could be a source of reassurance for the baby.

Understanding these reasons can help parents interpret and respond to their baby’s behavior during feeding times. It’s essential to observe and engage with your baby to determine their specific needs and preferences during feeding.

Related: Baby Fussy During Bottle Feeding? (The Most Common Reasons!)

Tips for Encouraging Your Baby to Drink

Why Is My Baby Playing with His/Her Bottle Instead of Drinking

As an expert pediatrician, I am mentioning some of the tips for encouraging your baby to drink and not to play with bottles. Keep reading!

  • Make sure the flow rate of the nipple is appropriate for your baby’s age and sucking ability. If the flow rate is too slow, your baby may get frustrated and give up. If the flow rate is too fast, they may choke or spit up.
  • Offer your baby their bottle when they are hungry, but not starving. If your baby is too hungry, they may be more interested in playing with their bottle than eating.
  • Try different types of bottles and nipples. Some babies prefer certain types of bottles or nipples over others. Experiment until you find one that your baby likes.
  • Create a calm and relaxing environment for feeding. Avoid feeding your baby in noisy or distracting environments.
  • Encourage your baby to latch on to the nipple properly. This may take some practice, but it will help them to get more milk or formula out of the bottle.
  • Take breaks during feedings. Let your baby rest for a few minutes every few ounces. This will help them to pace themselves and avoid overfeeding.4 ounce baby bottles are best for infants up to 10 months.
  • Be patient. It may take some time for your baby to learn how to drink from a bottle. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t get it right away.

Related: 5 Best Baby Bottles for Feeding-Complete Guide

What To Do When You See Your Baby Playing With A Bottle Instead Of Drinking?

Why Is My Baby Playing with His/Her Bottle Instead of Drinking

When you notice your baby playing with a bottle rather than drinking from it, here are steps you can take:

  1. Assess the Situation: Observe your baby’s behavior and the reasons behind the bottle play. Look for cues like disinterest, discomfort, or distractions.
  2. Ensure Comfort: Check if your baby is comfortable and not experiencing any discomfort, such as teething pain or hunger. Address any immediate needs before encouraging feeding.
  3. Encourage Engagement: Gently guide your baby’s focus back to the feeding by interacting and gently encouraging them to drink. Use soothing words and maintain eye contact to re-engage their attention.
  4. Modify the Environment: Create a calm and comfortable environment for feeding. Minimize distractions, reduce noise, and find a quiet space to encourage focused feeding.
  5. Offer Assistance: Support your baby during feeding by holding the bottle or adjusting its position to ensure ease and comfort while drinking.
  6. Be Patient: Stay patient and understanding. Avoid rushing or forcing your baby to drink. Allow them time to explore and gradually transition to feeding.
  7. Experiment with Feeding Times: Try adjusting feeding times to coincide with when your baby is more alert and less likely to get easily distracted.
  8. Use Interactive Techniques: Incorporate interactive techniques like singing, talking softly, or making gentle movements to keep your baby engaged during feeding.
  9. Seek Professional Advice: If your baby constantly plays with the bottle and refuses to drink or shows signs of distress, seek guidance from a pediatrician or a feeding specialist.
  10. Embrace Individual Preferences: Respect your baby’s preferences. Some babies might prefer intermittent play during feeding, and that’s okay as long as they’re getting adequate nutrition.

Remember, each baby is unique, and their feeding habits vary. Being attentive, patient, and responsive to your baby’s cues can help create a positive feeding experience for both you and your baby. If concerns persist or escalate, seek professional advice to ensure your baby’s health and well-being.

Read also: 8 Best Ideas To Keep Baby from Climbing Out of a Pack and Play

12 Signs That Your Baby Is Not Drinking From The Bottle

Here are some signs parents need to notice that babies are not drinking from their bottle.

  1. Pushing Away the Bottle: Your baby might push the bottle away or show resistance when you try to offer it for feeding.
  2. Refusing to Suckle: They might refuse to latch onto the bottle nipple or show disinterest in sucking, even when hungry.
  3. Fussiness or Irritability: Increased fussiness or irritability during feeding attempts could indicate discomfort or dissatisfaction.
  4. Turning Head Away: Your baby may turn their head away from the bottle or consistently move away while feeding is attempted.
  5. Crying During Feeding: Crying or becoming upset when offered the bottle can signal an aversion or discomfort with feeding.
  6. Taking Only a Few Sips: If your baby starts feeding but only takes a few sips before refusing the bottle, it might indicate an issue.
  7. Lengthy Feeding Sessions: Prolonged feeding sessions without consuming adequate amounts could be a sign of difficulty in sucking or swallowing.
  8. Lack of Weight Gain: Insufficient weight gain or inadequate growth despite regular feeding attempts might suggest feeding challenges.
  9. Arching Back or Squirming: Arching their back, squirming, or displaying restlessness during feeding could signal discomfort or a dislike for the bottle.
  10.  Spitting Out Milk: Your baby might repeatedly spit out the milk or appear to gag while attempting to drink.
  11. Signs of Hunger After Feeding Attempts: If your baby shows signs of hunger soon after feeding attempts, it might indicate incomplete feeding sessions.
  12. Decreased Wet Diapers: A noticeable reduction in wet diapers or decreased urine output might signal inadequate fluid intake.

Observing these signs during feeding attempts can help you understand your baby’s cues and address any potential issues with feeding. If you notice persistent or concerning signs, seeking advice from a healthcare professional is advisable to ensure your baby’s feeding needs are met.

Why is my baby fidgeting while bottle feeding?

Babies may fidget during bottle feeding due to discomfort from gas, reflux, teething, or improper milk temperature, distraction from noisy surroundings, missed hunger cues, or other sensory needs, or a need for self-regulation through sucking or oral exploration. To address fidgeting, establish a consistent feeding routine, respond promptly to hunger cues, offer distractions, and practice patience. Consult a pediatrician if fidgeting persists or is accompanied by other concerns.

What do bottle aversions look like?

Bottle aversion manifests as a combination of behaviors indicating a negative association with bottle feeding. Common signs include refusal to latch, excessive fussiness, poor sucking, limited milk intake, intense aversion to the bottle, favoring alternative feeding methods, and changes in growth or development. If you suspect bottle aversion, consult a pediatrician or lactation consultant for personalized strategies to overcome the aversion and ensure adequate nutrition for your baby.


It is natural for babies to engage in playful behavior with their bottles rather than merely drinking from them. This behavior signifies their innate curiosity, exploration, and attempts to understand their surroundings. Babies may use bottle play for comfort, teething relief, or as a means of expressing independence. Encouraging this exploration in a safe manner supports their learning and growth. However, understanding the reasons behind this behavior helps caregivers respond effectively during feeding times. Patience, observation, and adapting to their preferences are key in creating a positive feeding experience. Recognizing signs of bottle aversions and addressing them promptly ensures babies receive adequate nourishment. Each baby is unique, and nurturing their feeding habits in a supportive environment is crucial for their well-being.


Q1. Is it normal for my baby to play with the bottle more than drinking from it?

Yes, it’s normal for babies to explore their bottles through play. They often use this as a way to learn about textures, shapes, and cause-and-effect relationships. It’s part of their developmental process.

Q2. How can I encourage my baby to transition from playing with the bottle to drinking from it?

Gradually guiding your baby’s focus back to the feeding by using soothing words, maintaining eye contact, and providing a calm feeding environment can help encourage them to drink from the bottle.

Q3. My baby often plays with the bottle during feeding time. Should I try a different feeding method?

If your baby is gaining weight appropriately, seems content, and has sufficient wet diapers, playing with the bottle during feeds might not be a cause for concern. However, if you’re worried, consult with a healthcare professional to explore other feeding methods.

Q4. Can bottle-playing behavior lead to problems with my baby’s feeding habits in the future?

In most cases, bottle-playing behavior is a temporary phase and doesn’t lead to long-term feeding issues. However, if you notice persistent refusal to drink or significant weight loss, seek guidance from a healthcare provider.

Q5. My baby seems more interested in playing with the bottle than drinking. How can I ensure they’re getting enough nutrition?

If your baby seems content, has regular wet diapers, and is gaining weight appropriately, they might be getting adequate nutrition. However, if you’re concerned, discuss feeding strategies with a pediatrician to ensure your baby’s nutritional needs are met.

Q6. How can I differentiate between my baby’s playful bottle behavior and signs of feeding problems or aversions?

Signs of feeding problems or aversions might include consistent refusal to drink, excessive fussiness or crying during feeds, poor weight gain, or significant changes in feeding patterns. If you’re concerned, seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

Read also: How to Stop Your Baby Eating Sand at the Beach! (Plus Safety Info)

Emiley Walker Author & Writer | Parenting and BabyCare at Mamaadoptation About I'm a passionate writer committed to using storytelling to support and uplift families on their fostering and kinship care journeys. At Mama Adoption, I create engaging content that empowers parents and caregivers navigating the joys and challenges of raising amazing children. Expertise Childcare Parent coaching Parenting Attachment parenting Parent-child Relationships Baby Products Newborn Baby Knowledge of different parenting approaches (e.g., authoritative, permissive, authoritarian) Strategies for managing and modifying children's behavior communication techniques Understanding child psychology Specialized knowledge in supporting children with disabilities Highlights Certified in Family dynamics, Parenting guide, Effective communication skills. Education Emily Walker holds a Master's degree in parenting guidelines from Air university where she cultivated her expertise in understanding child development, effective communication, and family dynamics. Her academic journey ignited a lifelong passion for unraveling the complexities of parenting and helping others on their parenting journeys. Experience Emily Walker's professional journey is marked by a wealth of experience: Nurse (RN) - Pediatrics or Mother-Baby Unit Babysitter Authorship: Emily has authored numerous articles, essays, and books on parenting guidelines, all crafted with a blend of academic knowledge and practical wisdom. Parenting Workshops: She has conducted workshops and seminars, both online and in-person, providing parents with actionable tools and strategies. Consulting: Emily has worked as a parenting consultant, offering personalized guidance to families facing unique challenges. Media Contributions: Her insights have been featured in various publications, including parenting magazines and television programs. Emily's Approach to Parenting: Emily advocates for: Positive Discipline: Promoting non-punitive methods for teaching and guiding children. Open Communication: Fostering open and respectful communication within families. Child-Centered Parenting: Prioritizing the well-being and development of the child while supporting parents in their roles. Thank you for visiting Emily Walker's author page. Join her on a journey of discovery and empowerment as she guides you through the fascinating world of parenting guidelines. Together, let's nurture the next generation with love, knowledge, and understanding.

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