With everything else going on that you have to make time for in your parenting schedule, you might be wondering when your baby will start to hold their bottle on their own and free up your hands so that you can get other stuff done as well.
While it is very true that women can be brilliant multi-taskers when the need arises – if you take a minute to step back and think about it, that’s a whole lot of valuable time being spent just holding your baby’s bottle while they’re feeding from it, especially if bottle feeding is your main go-to method.
The less tasks you have on that baby care to-do list, the easier your life as a mother, father or caregiver will be.
When Do Babies Start Holding Their Bottles?
Generally speaking, babies begin holding their bottles on their own between 6 to 10 months of age.
However, it’s not always a necessity that babies begin holding their bottles on their own in this age range.
Some babies surprise their parents and get the hang of this before becoming 6 months old, with many cases having been recorded about 2 and 3 month old babies holding their bottles on their own.
On the other hand, other babies need to grow older than 10 months of age to get it right, so don’t panic if your little one still can’t get the hang of it even after their first birthday.
It all depends on the motor skills a baby manages to develop, and at what age they develop these skills.
How Can I Tell If My Baby Is Able To Hold Their Bottle?
1) Give Them A Bottle And See What Happens
There’s no need to over complicate this at all, just try giving your baby a bottle and see what they do with it!
You don’t have to do this with a full bottle of milk at all. On the contrary, it’s better that you give it a try with an empty bottle and see what happens.
You can try this out with a full bottle of milk in the later stages and after your baby proves that they’ve mastered the technique with an empty bottle at first.
The day you find out that they can put the bottle in their mouth all by themselves when hungry and stop the flow of milk and take it out of their mouth when full, is the day you can say “Hallelujah! One less item on my to-do list for this whole parenting thing!”.
2) Sitting Up Alone
If your baby is able to sit up alone for more than 10 minutes without losing stability and falling back down, then chances are their motor skills are well developed enough for them to hold their bottle on their own.
3) Playing With Toys
Another sign that your baby’s motor skills are advanced enough for them to hold a bottle on their own is when they can hold a toy and nibble on it without much difficulty dropping it on the floor only for you to pick it back up again over and over.
4) Signs Of Being Interested
If your baby is showing signs of being interested in holding the bottle, which usually happens when you see them trying to reach for it during feeding time, that’s also another good sign that things are going on track.
Should I Be Worried If My Baby Still Can’t Hold Their Own Bottle?
Just because your baby’s getting older and older (having passed the 10 month of age mark, at least) and still can’t hold their bottle on their own doesn’t mean that there’s a valid reason for you to panic about things.
It could very well be that your baby just hasn’t physically developed enough to be able to do this task by themselves.
Not all babies physically develop at the same rate, some have it faster while others go about it at a slower pace.
If your baby is reaching every other milestone they should be reaching at their age except holding their bottle on their own, then it’s most probably not an underdevelopment issue that you should be worried about.
You might be worried that this is a sign of low intelligence levels, but that’s almost always not the case if other milestones are being met on schedule.
So, avoid playing the comparison game (which we’re all guilty of taking part in at many times, to be honest here) where you go around comparing your baby to those of other moms in your circle of friends who have nailed this skill down before your little fella/gal.
And if you’re getting any negative comments from other parents you know that are making you stressed out because your baby still hasn’t reached this milestone, ignore that negativity.
You should be worried, on the other hand, if they’re also late on other milestones in addition to holding their own bottle.
What Can I Do To Get My Baby To Hold Their Bottle?
1) Guide Them
Just like anything else you want your little one to learn how to do, the first and most important step is you actually guiding them and showing them how it’s done. Sometimes all that’s needed is just a little bit of encouragement and guidance.
So, the next time you bottle feed your baby, try to place their tiny little hands on the bottle and gently hold their hands against the bottle with yours to help them keep control.
Slowly but surely, this will help them get used to that position.
When you notice their hands are properly positioned on the bottle and they’ve asserted a firm grip on it and are holding it tightly, try letting go every now and then, but still be prepared to prevent the bottle from falling (because it will).
Your baby is still far too young and tiny to be able to handle the bottle’s weight on their own yet, so take it easy on them and keep your expectations realistic.
As soon as you notice the first sign of distress and signal that they’re not comfortable and want to take their hands off the bottle, though, allow them to.
Trying to force them to keep their hands on the bottle when they don’t want to will only be counterproductive.
You might notice that they have poor grip on the bottle or miss their mouth at first, but that’s where your role comes in to help them progress.
You’ll also need to step in to help when they find it difficult to keep the bottle in their mouth for more than a few seconds before it slips out again.
It’s also a good idea for you to support their wrists, arms and elbows while they’re carrying the weight of a bottle, since this is far from an easy task for a baby this small in size.
2) Prop The Bottle
Sometimes, propping the bottle with something like a blanket goes a long way in helping.
It must be made very clear though that you should never, ever, ever, EVER leave your baby alone and unattended when propping their bottle on something like a blanket.
There’s a very high risk that they could choke on the milk they’re drinking if left alone without proper supervision while drinking from a propped bottle.
Also, don’t over-do it with propping their bottle. If you have them feed from a propped bottle too frequently, they could easily overeat just because they don’t know how to stop the flow of milk.
Give things the time they need, and always remember that good things come to those who wait!
3) Early Exposure
Exposing your baby to bottles and feeding them this way from a very early age helps out.
Ideally, you should start exposing your baby to bottles from early as 2 months of age.
4) Bottle Size And Design
The bottle’s size and the way it was designed are also two very important factors that affect how hard or easy your baby finds it to hold the bottle.
Some bottles are designed to make this far easier than others by offering babies a much more comfortable grip, so take this into consideration before making a purchase.
5) Develop Motor Skills
Don’t focus too much on just your baby holding their bottle – instead, focus on developing their overall motor skills.
So, encourage them to hold and grab other items around the house such as toys and small pieces of candy for example.
Gradually make it harder for them by encouraging them to hold and grab smaller items as they progress. The smaller the object a baby is able to hold and grab on their own, the easier it will be for them to do so with their bottle.
Only do this while supervising them, however, because you don’t want them to put anything small enough in their mouth that they might swallow and choke on.
6) Tummy Time
Engaging in tummy time with your baby helps improve their motor skills and their core strength, and improved core strength makes it easier for them to hold something like a baby bottle for a long period of time at once.
Practices To Stay Away From
Now that we’ve covered some of the most helpful tips you could implement to get your baby to hold their bottle on their own, the following list discusses practices you should stay away from to ensure your baby’s safety and that this process goes as smoothly as possible.
1) No Supervision
Never leave your baby drinking from any bottle alone and unsupervised.
No matter how good they’ve gotten at holding a bottle on their own and drinking from it, they should never be left doing so alone because if worst comes to worst, they’re helpless and can’t save themselves.
Even if there’s just a measly 1% chance of that happening, I’d still rather play it safe and ensure no harm ever happens to my little precious one.
2) Over Reacting
Don’t over react and get all stressed out about it if your baby isn’t able to hold their bottle on their own yet. By over reacting and showing your baby that you’re stressed out, this will rub off on them and cause them to be stressed as well.
On the contrary, take it easy and enjoy holding their bottle for them while it lasts, because sooner or later you’re going to find yourself shedding a tear and saying to yourself “those were the days!”.
3) Sleeping With Propped Bottle
Be careful not to have your baby sleep with a propped bottle in their mouth, whether that be in their crib or anywhere else they’re randomly sleeping in at the time.
Not only will the dentist give you a hard time about it since this causes tooth decay, your baby can also choke on all the milk flowing around in their mouth.
4) Lying Down With Propped Bottle
Try to avoid having your baby lying down horizontally when feeding from a propped bottle, because this can put your baby at risk of developing ear infections.
Babies that drink milk while laying down horizontally risk having milk go from their mouths into their ears, which may lead to serious ear infections if the milk reaches the Eustachian tube.
5) Don’t Over Do It
Always remember that the act of feeding your baby, whether that be bottle feeding or direct breastfeeding, is not only about them getting the nutrition they need to grow and develop.
Much of feeding your baby is also about giving them the affection they need, snuggling with them, strengthening the bond between you two, and just having them feel safe when between your arms.
No feeding routine that relies on propped bottles will ever be able to achieve any of that.
6) No Distractions
Try to remove any possible distractions that might shift away your baby’s focus during bottle feeding time, especially when training them how to hold the bottle themselves.
This could be the TV that’s on in the background, any sound or music being played at the time, etc ..
Now is the time for all your baby’s focus to be on properly drinking from their bottle and, if possible, learning how to hold it on their own.
7) Wrong Angle
When your baby eventually does start getting the hang of drinking from their bottle on their own, make sure they’re actually holding it at a proper angle.
Drinking from a bottle while holding it at a wrong angle can cause excessive swallowing of air and, as a result, will cause bloating and gas.
8) No More Holding
Even when your baby is able to hold and properly drink from their bottle all on their own, this doesn’t mean that you should stop holding them while they do so.
Holding your baby as they feed from their bottle will remain important, even if only for bonding purposes and giving your child the feeling of being safe while in your arms.
Talking To A Pediatrician
For reassurance purposes, it’s a very good idea for you to have your baby checked by a pediatrician to determine whether or not they’re underdeveloped.