When will your baby be ready to hold his or her own bottle?
Babies require fine motor skills in order to grasp a bottle before they can self-feed. These fine motor skills, picking up and voluntarily grasping objects, typically develop between 6-10 months of age.
You may notice your baby is ready if he or she:
- Picks up toys and transfers them from hand to hand
- Brings toys to her mouth
- Grabs the bottle during feeding
Remember: the smaller an item your baby can pick up the more advanced her fine motor skills are.
As a new parent it seemed like once I mastered one transition, it was already time to start practicing for the next milestone in Layla’s life. I was lucky that Layla enjoyed her bottles, but she resisted holding them herself.
Once Layla demonstrated she was capable of holding her own bottle, I was determined to have her do so. Self feeding would allow her to become more independent and strengthen her grasp on holding objects.
Do not attempt these tips if your baby is a newborn or is not showing developmental signs of being ready for this skill. Never leave your baby unattended.
Read the following tips order to encourage your little one to self feed and hold her own bottle.
1. Explore the Bottle
Children learn through practice. Hand your baby an empty bottle and monitor how they use it. If your baby is:
- Grasping the bottle
- Bringing the nipple of the bottle to her mouth
This means she understands how a bottle works!
2. Remove Distractions
Around 6-10 months of age many babies are interested in any sound, toy, or person they see. Like learning any new skill, your baby needs to concentrate. When teaching your child to self-feed it may be helpful to:
- Keep the television/music off
- Put desirable toys away, especially ones with bright lights or sounds
- Feed in a quiet room away from other adults and/or siblings (if possible)
3. Provide Support
Self-feeding is a skill that most often doesn’t happen overnight. Holding the bottle with your baby shows them the proper grasp and angle to use with the bottle.
You can place their hands on the bottle and put your hands on top of theirs. If you feel they have a firm grasp, let go and let them hold the bottle themselves.
You can also provide support by lightly holding the bottom of the bottle. this allows your baby the opportunity to grab the bottle and see what feels comfortable for them.
4. Use Less Milk
Often a baby who has the ability to self-feed is unable to hold the weight of a full bottle. Two ways to help your baby are:
- Put a few ounces of milk in the bottle at a time. While this may be more time consuming, you can slowly increase the amount of milk at each feeding.
- Support your baby while she is feeding with a full bottle. When the bottle only has a few ounces left, remove your support and let her self-feed. Over time, slowly release support with more and more milk.
The goal is the same: your baby has the strength to self-feed with a full bottle.
5. Put Baby Down
As much as I still love my snuggles when feeding Layla her bottle in my arms, she was unable to gain independence with self-feeding when I was doing all of the work for her. By simply sitting her on the ground or couch next to me she felt the comfort of having me nearby, while having both arms free to grasp and lift her bottle.
When she was still craving more contact, I would put her down, but resting against my legs or stomach.
6. Prop Baby Up
Using a pillow, boppy pillow is my favorite, or a blanket prop your baby’s head up. Try to have baby’s head raised higher than the level of her feet to reduce the risk of choking on milk or having milk leak and flow into her ears.
Baby bottles come in all different shapes and sizes. It is important that you use what bottle is best for you and your baby. However, if your baby is having trouble hold his own bottle, you may want to explore other options.
8. Helpful Products
There are a variety of products created to help your baby self-feed.
Baby bottle handles provide a great support for your baby to feed herself. These handles can also help transition your baby off of the bottle when they are ready.