It is always a conscious decision by mothers to feed their babies using the bottle. Many ask, when do babies hold their own bottle? It is the mother who knows when the baby is ready developmentally to start bottle feeding independently. And as they develop and grow, they become more independent and can reach their feeding bottle and feed on their own.
When Do Babies Hold Their Own Bottle?
Babies differ in their rate of developing motor skills; some have fine-motor skills whereas others take longer to hold their bottles. Some take six months while other will begin at ten months. As a mother, you can encourage the baby holding bottle. Hand him the bottle and see what happens. If their motor skills are developed enough that they can reach the target and be able to pull the bottle out when the mouth is full, then the exercise can continue frequently.
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However, avoid propping the bottle in the baby’s mouth as a way to make them hold their bottles no matter how old they are. This can result in overfeeding or even chocking. Also be vigilant that the baby does not fall asleep with the bottle in his mouth. The milk or formula will pool around the teeth resulting in tooth decay at an early age, don’t hand him the bottle or prop it in his mouth then leave him with it.
Propping also increases the risk of ear infection as the liquid can flow from their mouth to the ear causing the infection inside the Eustachian tubes. Propping the bottle in the baby’s mouth denies him snuggle time with the mother. Holding the baby as he feeds gives them a sense of security and safety that promotes bonding. When you prop the bottle before this session, the child grows without this essential intimacy that is necessary for healthy development.
Teaching a baby to hold a bottle
Knowing when the baby can hold the bottle is just one step, the main challenge is to patiently teach babies holding bottle and feed as required. These steps can help:
1 Be patient till the right time
The feeding process must not be hurried, from the age of six months, your baby will have developed physically and will have the ability to coordinate the movements of the bottle from the hands to the mouth. This process requires time, and there is no need to rush it. You will know the baby is ready when you see him or her holding objects and grasping onto things tightly. Giving the baby an empty bottle can also help you know if he is ready to start holding it himself, the observations you make will help you in assisting the baby along.
2 Hold the baby when bottle feeding\
Follow the standard feeding process of holding the baby when feeding. Introduce the bottle gradually but while holding the baby so that they can feel secure and comfortable in your arms. This allows you to bond. Hold the baby at a tilted angle, slightly inclined backward to make it easy to swallow, keep the liquid from spilling on him or you and for the baby to be comfortable. Help the baby know the relationship between the bottle and feeding, so they can begin associating the two.
3 Hold the bottle with the baby as early as possible
A good way to guide the baby to learn to feed independently is to hand the bottle while holding it with one hand and the baby’s hand holding the other side. With your free hand, grasp onto the baby’s hand, so you both hold the cup together as you support the baby’s hand. This way, the baby learns to hold the bottle even before they develop enough physical strength to hold it on their own.
4 Observe what the baby does
As a mother, the best way to learn sometimes is just to watch what the baby does and follow or correct accordingly. Re-position the bottle, change the bay’s position and make all the necessary adjustments till the baby learns to hold the bottle on their own to feed.
5 Monitor the progress over time
At every step in the learning curve, you must monitor the baby’s progress. Provide the necessary support to the elbows, wrist and fingers as well as forearms to properly prop the bottle. The more you do it correctly, the faster the baby will learn to do it independently.