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?
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. The good news is: your baby will eventually start holding a bottle.
This stage may be different from baby to baby, so don’t compare yourself to other moms or even your older kids. We’ll break down when to expect this stage to come, how you can help your baby learn, and some other invaluable tips.
- Holding a bottle is a skill that babies will learn eventually, but it can happen at different ages, some babies may be able to do it as early as 6 months, while others might take up to 9-10 months.
- Comparison to other babies should be avoided as babies develop at different rates.
- If your baby is not showing any interest in holding a bottle yet, it is not a problem and should not be a cause for concern as long as other milestones are being met.
- To help your baby learn, place one or both of their hands on the bottle when feeding, and gently guide it back up to the mouth when it falls.
- Parents should still supervise their baby while they feed themselves to ensure safety and avoid tooth decay and mess.
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 nine or even 10 months old. But that doesn’t mean your baby isn’t smart or that 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 snuggle him and hold the bottle, so he could fully relax. 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 sides 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 baby 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.
The bottom line is that your baby will learn to do it eventually, if at their own pace.