Babies are pretty fickle creatures. When they find themselves inside of a comfortable routine, they stick to it like glue. It's not easy to change, particularly habits around eating — those are especially fraught. Your baby may refuse a bottle or feeding from another person, and if it's your partner, there's probably a lot of confusion. (And hurt feelings.) But the reason why your baby won't bottle feed with your partner isn't as complex or worrisome as you think.
I remember trying to switch my son from breast to bottle — he hated it. I was looking to start school again, and he couldn't be less interested in taking a bottle. He wanted the boob, and that was it. He also had a very set routine. Every two hours from the time he rose in the morning until the time he went to bed. To this day, that kid has the best inner clock I've ever seen. If it's been three hours since he's eaten, he's at me for a snack. It's amazing.
But it made life very difficult for a while. He would barely take an ounce or two from the bottle for me (before I'd give up and whip out a boob), and his jaw would lock up like a church in the apocalypse for my husband. Sure, he'd laugh and coo and burp for my husband, but eat? Yeah, no, that didn't happen.
So why won't your baby bottle feed with your partner, but eat plenty from you?
According to Nurse Practitioner Amy Douglas, babies love routine. Sometimes, this means that any alteration to that routine can cause a backlash. She tells Romper in an interview, "This is usually a problem with exclusively breastfed babies or babies who've only taken a bottle from one person since birth, which isn't that uncommon for moms on maternity leave getting ready to go back to the workforce." She notes it's a problem that can be resolved, but it takes a bit of time. "They don't want to take a bottle from the partner, because they're comfortable with mom, and it's a settled, established routine. Any adjustments to routine are difficult with babies."
Douglas suggests that you start with one or two feedings from your partner per day, choosing the meal they eat with the most leisure — just before playtime or the snack after breakfast. You don't want the baby to be keyed up, just sort of blithely hungry and interested. If that doesn't work, you may have to bring out the big guns. "Sometimes a baby won't feed from a partner because they know that mom is nearby most of the time. It can sometimes help if you bring in an aunt or grandmother who is familiar enough with the baby, but not as present. Ideally, this person has some experience with bottle feeding a baby, and can do it with ease."
Although, it may just be they don't like that specific bottle. Douglas says, "Often, the simplest answer is the easiest. It could be as basic as buying a new bottle with a slower flow or bigger nipple that does the trick. Just make sure your baby feels safe and cared for, and they'll get it."
Like so many things with your baby, it's apparently all down to establishing a new normal for them. While it may be a huge pain in the neck in the beginning, if you keep trying, they will get it. Tell your partner not to get too anxious or take it personally either. If you're worried your baby's refusal to bottle feed is a bigger issue than just routine, contact your pediatrician for guidance — they can really help.