When Do Babies Start Holding Their Own Bottle?

Is your baby ready for this milestone?

Feeding your baby is an excellent way to get your fill of snuggles, but sometimes you need to get other things done too. How can you tackle that mile-long to do list if you’re always holding a bottle?

When I first started bottle-feeding my baby, I loved those quiet moments spent together. But eventually, life beckoned and I remembered I had laundry to do, bills to pay and — crazy I know — sleep to get.

I wish I had the luxury of doing nothing but feeding my baby, but as much as I loved bottle-feeding, I did think that life would be a little easier if my baby was more independent. So maybe you’re also wondering — exactly when do babies start holding their own bottles?

How Early Can it Happen?

Most babies won’t have the skills needed to hold their own bottle in place until they are six months old (1), although there are some babies who reach this stage earlier than others.

Some will need a lot of time to figure out how to do it. They may not be ready until they are 9 or even ten months old. But that doesn’t mean your baby isn’t smart or they’re developing too slowly.

Babies develop at different rates (2). Try not to compare your baby to your friend’s baby who might have mastered holding his bottle earlier than your little guy. As moms, our little ones rely on us to love and support their learning, no matter how quickly or slowly that is!

Is Not Holding a Bottle a Problem?

If your baby isn’t showing any interest in trying to hold his bottle at an age when many of his peers already are, don’t worry. I remember with my first baby, I would start to worry whenever my baby hadn’t reached a milestone by the magical date that was mentioned in baby books.

In particular, my baby didn’t like holding bottles. He just preferred for me to hold him and the bottle and do all the work. I was happy to do it, but I started getting a little paranoid when other moms would make comments about how my baby wasn’t holding his own bottle yet.

The only thing that kept me from being frantic about it is that I noticed all his other developmental milestones seemed to be on track. I learned quickly to stop letting other moms’ comparisons bother me because the speed at which babies reach milestones has nothing to do with how smart they are or their future success (3).

It turns out that all my early worrying was for nothing. He eventually showed some interest in holding his bottle, and I started to miss the days when he’d let me do all the work.

You Can Help Your Baby Try

If you want to help your baby learn how to feed themselves, you can place one or both of their hands on the bottle when you are feeding to help them get used to the position.

Once your baby starts trying to do it, they’ll likely struggle with keeping it on their mouths for more than a few seconds. That’s normal, and you can help them by gently guiding it back up to the mouth and making sure their hands are still on the side of the bottle.

You Still Need to Supervise

Once they get the hang of it, you’ll still want to be in the same room as your baby when they’re feeding themselves, and under no circumstances should you ever put your baby in a crib to sleep with a bottle (4). Babies who fall asleep with bottles in their mouth can suffer from tooth decay (5), and it’s never too early to think about dental hygiene. Plus, a leaky bottle can wet the bed and make a mess for you to clean later.

It Will Happen Eventually

Just when it seems like your baby may never take the initiative and start holding their own bottles, it happens, and you’ll wonder why you spent so much time thinking about it.

In the meantime, be patient and try to help them along their way by:

  • Positioning their hands on the bottle, even if you are still holding it.
  • Letting go once in a while when their hands are correctly positioned.

If you have any questions about helping your baby along with their journeys to independence, please let me know. Share any stories you have or advice for those moms stuck in Developmental Comparison Land.

Headshot of Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Reviewed by

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC is a writer, editor, and board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor.
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