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Baby Dribbling Milk When Bottle Feeding? [5 Reasons Why]

Baby Dribbling Milk When Bottle Feeding

Babies need food to grow strong and healthy. The first responsibility of a new Mama is making sure they get it.

The process of feeding your hungry newborns has plagued mothers since the dawn of time.

Whether you prefer bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, there is always a risk that your baby isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.

That risk is caused by your baby dribbling milk out of their mouth.

This article will cover 5 reasons why your baby dribbles milk while drinking it and why you should check your baby’s mouth more often.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Why Is My Baby Dribbling Milk While Bottle Feeding?

Formula milk or expressed breast milk is the natural substitute for breastfeeding.

There’s nothing wrong with feeding your baby the formula. Unlike breast milk, it lasts longer in the stomach and has all the right nutrients, such as Vitamin D.

However, if you noticed that your baby isn’t gaining weight, gets fussy during feedings, or dribbling milk, here are 5 reasons why.

1. Tongue-Tie

Ankyloglossia or more commonly known as tongue-tie is an inborn condition that causes restricted tongue mobility.

Essentially, tongue-tie is where there are extra tissues under the tongue, which makes it hard to stick your tongue out.

Some cases of tongue-tie cause no problems at all, and even when it does, you can get them easily fixed by going to a doctor (pediatrician) or lactation consultant.

Now, why is this a problem for babies?

The tongue tie condition makes it hard for your baby to form a proper latch to the bottle’s nipple.

They won’t be able to suck or swallow the milk properly, causing them to squirm or dribble milk (more on this below).

2. Milk Flow Is Too Fast or Strong

Bottle feeding a baby could sometimes be too efficient that it becomes problematic.

Instead of feeding, your baby could be drowning.

Getting the right milk flow is quite challenging since babies have their limit on how much milk they can eat.

You have to match your baby’s sucking skills with how much milk flow to allow.

NOTE: Not all babies hate a strong milk flow; some of them enjoy a faster pace.

Are Baby Bottles Supposed to Drip?

There are mothers out there that occasionally let the baby bottle drip, but these bottles aren’t supposed to.

Baby bottles that drip and leak could be defective, or the parent isn’t controlling the pressure that well.

If your baby bottle leaks while preparing or warming the formula milk, then the water might just be too warm.

How Fast Should a Newborn Bottle Drip?

The feeding time or duration is a good indicator that tells you if the milk flow is too strong or slow.

Here are the times for bottle-fed babies:

  • 5 to 10 minutes is too fast
  • 15 to 25 minutes is good
  • 30 to 45 minutes is too slow

Beyond the pressure applied to the bottle, there are also times when the bottle cap’s nipple size contributes to the milk flow.

3. Wrong Bottle Nipple Shape or Size

Each bottle brand has a different nipple size.

You can choose from preemie or newborn sizes.

What’s the difference?

The preemie is for those angels that couldn’t wait another month or two to come out into the world.

Since they’re a little tiny, the preemie is a smaller size nipple that won’t be too fast for your baby to swallow.

The general rule of thumb is that the bigger the size, the bigger the baby.

Their mouth can withstand the fast flow, but keep in mind that not all babies can.

4. Reflux

Instant reflux could also be a reason why your baby dribbles milk.

This phenomenon is common for healthy babies that eat multiple times a day.

The food in their bodies could go rushing back up, which could sometimes be caused by overfeeding or the milk flow being too fast.

With that being said, you should go to your lactation consultant just in case your baby might have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

5. Bottle-Feeding the Wrong Way

Another reason that your baby dribbles milk is found in your feeding technique.

If this is your first baby, then chances are you feed your baby the wrong way.

Not only will your baby’s mouth dribble milk, but they can also choke, take in air while sucking, or even get an ear infection.

The DON’Ts when it’s time for your baby to eat:

  • Do not feed them while in a vertical position
  • Do not bottle feed your baby in their sleeping position
  • Do not mix breast milk and formula milk

Is It Normal for a Baby to Spill Milk While Feeding?

It is completely normal for a baby to dribble milk when being breast or bottle-fed. A baby dribbles milk almost always.

This usually means that your babies have had enough milk and are full.

To avoid choking, they will stop swallowing, and your baby’s mouth will already be spilling.

Many moms would just also assume that their babies are just messy eaters.

However, there could be underlying issues like a tongue tie, that make it hard for your baby to swallow and drink the milk.

Tips on How to Bottle Feed Your Baby Properly!

Look no further than this article for tips on how to bottle feed a baby.

Start With a Pacifier

It is very important that you first introduce the idea of a latch to your baby’s tongue. The latch is a skill that your baby won’t be able to master overnight.

With that being said, you can start by getting a pacifier.

This will help your baby get used to breastfeeding or bottle-feeding alike.

Additionally, pacifiers might have the extra benefit of reducing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Proper Steps of Bottle-feeding

Before you do anything, the most important thing is getting the good stuff.

Choosing the right formula milk could be tricky since you first need to find out if your baby is allergic to milk, lactose intolerant, or has other health concerns.

Always get milk powder that is iron-fortified. You may have heard rumors floating around that iron makes babies gassy or unable to poop; those are just simply untrue.

Iron is necessary for producing hemoglobin (red blood cells) that carry oxygen and it also helps the neurological development of your child.

Here is a quick checklist of steps that you need to do:

  1. Make sure that the bottle and the nipple have no milk or soap residue. It is recommended that you get those dish soaps with natural and baby-friendly ingredients.
  2. Seal it tightly and shake the bottle properly. The milk should be room temperature or a little warmer.
  3. Cradle your baby in a semi-upright position and ALWAYS support the head.
  4. Tilt the bottle and control the flow.
  5. The last and most important step is to hug your baby or child tightly to make them burp.

The Inclined Side-Lying Method

The side-lying technique is when you lay your baby sideways and have them suck from the bottle horizontally.

The baby’s shoulders, ears, and hips should be aligned.

You then incline their head a little bit to the side. The bottle should also be held parallel to the ground to make sure that the nipple releases the right amount of milk.

Why is this an EXCELLENT method to use for paced bottle feeding?

This method mimics the breastfeeding position and milk flow.

The side-lying method allows your baby to control the flow, which gives them a positive bottle-feeding experience.

With this technique, you can also lessen your baby’s mouth dribbling milk, coughing, and choking.

Additionally, your baby is less likely to get an ear infection when fed like this.

Why Is My Breastfed Baby Dribbling Milk While Drinking?

Breastfeeding is also not safe from babies dribbling milk.

Here are 3 reasons why your breastfed baby is likely to dribble milk out of its mouth.

1. The Baby’s Mouth (Tongue-Tie)

As mentioned earlier, tongue-tie results in restricted tongue mobility and makes it hard for babies to do a proper latch onto the nipple.

They won’t be able to open their mouth wide enough to receive the food, causing them to dribble milk

Tongue-tie isn’t only a problem because of the dribble; it can also bother the mama.

A shallow latch while breastfeeding is caused by tongue-tie and can make your nipples sore or crack because your baby keeps trying to suck.

Furthermore, your baby might bite your nipples, which is quite painful.

Can You Still Breast Feed your Baby with Tongue-Tie?

As mentioned earlier, there are times when tongue-tie isn’t a big issue.

A baby can learn to position their tongue better and latch properly. Some might even have no problem whatsoever when drinking milk.

Tongue-tie will only be a problem if it restricts natural tongue movement.

Can You See Tongue-Tie Without Going to a Professional?

The answer is YES!

It is possible to tell if your baby has tongue-tie just by looking in your baby’s mouth.

Here are the signs to watch out for:

  • The tongue of your baby has a heart-shaped appearance on the tip.
  • Being unable to stick out their tongue.
  • Have difficulty moving their tongue side to side. 

2. Oversupply of Breast Milk

Your body needs to adjust to giving birth and this same concept applies to the milk supply of your breast.

This adjustment takes about 4 weeks of breastfeeding, but some mothers are not able to adjust to just having a sufficient amount of milk supply.

This phenomenon is called having an oversupply of breast milk.

How does it affect your baby?

An oversupply of breast milk means that you have a strong milk flow.

The result of having a large breast milk supply is what moms call the “fast let-down.” This happens when your baby is choking on milk or dribbling milk.

Your baby will forcefully stop the breastfeeding process, and there is a chance of reflux.

NOTE: Oversupply of breast milk is either caused by hyperprolactinemia or a congenital predisposition.

3. Lip Tie

Similar to the tongue-tie, a lip tie is when there is extra tissue inside the baby’s mouth.

However, instead of it being on the tongue, it is behind the upper lip.

This condition will restrict movement of the mouth, which will make your baby unable to latch onto your nipple.

Lastly, your baby will likely dribble milk if they have this genetic condition.

Do not worry because just like tongue-tie, a quick visit to the doctor will fix it.

How to Stop Your Baby From Dribbling Milk While Feeding

#1 Try a Different Nipple Size and Shape

Getting a smaller size nipple when bottle-feeding is one solution for strong milk flow.

The smaller the circumference, the less milk will come out. By doing this, your baby is less likely to dribble milk.

If this doesn’t work, then your next move could be changing the shape of the nipples.

Your messy eaters can also stop dribbling milk if their tongue latches properly onto a different-shaped nipple.

In addition to other important baby supplies, here are some of the bottle caps you can go for beyond the standard silicone or latex nipple:

  • Vented Nipples
  • Orthodontic Nipple
  • Multi-flow Nipple
  • Breast Mimicking Nipple

#2 Expressed Breast Milk

For the mothers that have an overabundance of milk supply, it is quite difficult to control.

Expressing a bit of breast milk before breastfeeding is a great way to make sure that milk flow is regulated.

Keep in mind that pumping breast milk can also boost milk supply when done after breastfeeding.

Additionally, your child will also have extra food saved for later!

#3 Get Some Help!

If you’re having difficulties figuring out what’s wrong and why your baby’s mouth keeps on dribbling milk, then getting professional help might be necessary.

Going to a professional will shed light on the reasons why your baby dribbles milk.

A lactation consultant can also help you decide on what nipple is best for your baby.

They can also guide you in how to position your baby, proper steps of nursing and feeding, tongue-tie, and all of your breastfeeding and bottle problems.

Signs to Look Out for When Feeding Your Baby

Your babies will tell you what they need, but since they can’t talk, you as their parent need to be perceptive and sensitive to their baby’s feeding cues and actions to get used to paced bottle-feeding.

When Your Baby Needs More Milk…

If your child isn’t getting enough milk supply and needs more milk, here are the signs indicating so.

  • Not gaining weight at the 2-week mark.

The average range of weight gain around this time is 5.5-8.5 ounces.

  • Less energetic than usual from either being sleepy or lethargic.

Your child doesn’t have enough food to turn into energy, which will mean that they will sleep for more than 4 hours at a time.

  • Taking too much time or too little time to finish feeding.

You may notice that your baby falls asleep at the beginning of feeding or takes longer than 30 minutes to finish.

  • Breastfeeding is painful, or your baby dribbles milk while feeding.

A poor latch makes it so that your baby can’t swallow the food being put in their mouth. Furthermore, it hurts the breast of the mama.

  • Your baby is not stooling or urinating enough.

The digestive and urinary system of your baby is quite small, so they should have 3-4 stools per day and 6-8 wet diapers per day.

  • Your baby has dark urine.

Having darker color urine means that your child isn’t drinking enough milk because they are dehydrated.

When Your Baby Is Getting Too Much Milk…

If your child is getting too much food, here are the signs that you need to watch out for.

  • Your child vomits up milk.

Overflow of milk will make your baby throw up during or after bottle feeding and breastfeeding. If there’s a lot of milk inside, then the only way out is through the mouth.

  • Your baby cries after feeding.

Though not always the case, crying after feeding could mean discomfort from overeating. A shrieking cry is almost always a sign of difficulties during feeding.

  • Pulling up their legs up to the abdomen.

When babies do this position, it means that they are either having gas issues from feeding or they have more milk than they can consume.

  • Your baby dribbles milk out of the mouth.

As mentioned earlier, feeding your baby large amounts of milk when bottle-feeding or breastfeeding will result in your baby dribbling milk out of their mouth.

  • Your child is gaining a lot of weight in a short time frame.

Too much formula or breast milk can cause your baby to become too heavy (overweight). In hindsight, it’s a good thing that your baby eats a lot.

However, it can also cause health issues like congestive heart failure, renal anomalies, and more.

When Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk…

Let’s stop with the negative signs and talk about the ones that put your worry to rest.

  • Gaining the right amount of weight (5.5-8.5 ounces).
  • Consistent light-colored urine.
  • Energetic and content after bottle-feeding or breastfeeding.
  • Less of dribbling milk out of their mouth and more of swallowing.
  • Nursing frequently (8-12 times per day).

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Bottle Feed My Baby Right Away?

If you are planning to bottle feed a baby with no chance of breastfeeding, then you should do it right away.

However, the recommended time frame to introduce bottle feeding is about 3 weeks.

Why Is My Baby Refusing the Bottle?

Here are some of the reasons why your baby is refusing the milk bottle:

  1. They could be too full to eat/not hungry.
  2. They would rather be breastfeeding since bottle feeding could be stressful for them.
  3. Uncomfortable position.
  4. Does not like the taste and temperature of the milk.
  5. Sick or unwell.

How to Fix Bottle Aversion?

There is no quick-fix solution to bottle aversion in newborns.

Don’t lose hope because here are some tips that could help fix it.

Firstly, try creating a relaxed atmosphere because babies can sense stress from their parents. When they sense that their mom is uncomfy, the chances of their refusal will be much higher.

Secondly, you can try to help the baby suck the milk out.

  • After making sure your hands are clean, you can stimulate them to suck on your finger.
  • Then you can proceed to stroke the roof of their mouth and gently press on their tongue while stroking it outward.

This exercise will help your baby learn how to suck and latch properly. There is a chance that they might no longer avert the bottle which could also help them to stop dribbling milk.

Always remember that you cannot force the milk down their throats.

You will traumatize your babies, and it will make it harder for them to take the bottle.

Lastly, the most simple tip is to try giving the bottle to daddy.

How Long Does It Take to Fix Bottle Aversion?

Once you choose a consistent plan to fix bottle aversion, it usually takes 3-4 weeks before it is completely gone.

However, each baby is unique, so don’t be worried if it takes longer than 4 weeks. 

Bottle aversion isn’t fixed overnight. You need to be patient since fixing bottle aversion is a gradual process.

At What Age do Babies Stop Dribbling Milk?

It usually takes around 6-12 months for a baby to stop dribbling milk.

But as mentioned earlier, if tongue-tie is the reason why your baby dribbles milk, then by the time you visit the doctors, it will be fixed.

As babies grow older, their digestive system matures, and their diet becomes more consistent.

With that being said, the fact that your baby dribbles milk will no longer be true.

Wrapping Up

To summarize, your baby dribbles milk when breastfeeding or bottle-feeding for these reasons:

  • Tongue-tie
  • Oversupply of breast milk
  • A strong flow of milk
  • Having the wrong bottle nipple and the improper position when feeding
  • Other mouth conditions
  • Reflux

You also have to pay close attention to the signs that your baby communicates to you.

Always remember to consult a pediatrician or lactation consultant if there are other symptoms, concerns, or difficulties.

We hope you learned more about why your baby dribbles milk and other advice to help you nurse your baby!


Changelog:

November 17, 2022 – minor content edits

About the author

Angelica Graham

A few years ago, Angelica found out about all the plastic and toxic ingredients that got into most children’s products. And this worried her to no end. Because of this, she began to research what the best ingredients and materials were for children and made it her mission to share this information with other mothers.