Six months is the time when mothers get to experiment with the child’s diet. They can gradually wean off the baby from breastfeeding. However, breastfeeding is recommended till atleast one to two years of age. In order to acquaint the baby with other forms of feeding (than breastfeeding), you might want to put him on bottle feed. For this, you need to know when a baby can hold the bottle. We tell you about this and also the precautions you need to take when your baby is drinking from a bottle. As the mother has to be very careful about the child not vomiting out the milk.
When Can A Baby Hold The Bottle?
A baby should be able to hold a bottle from the age of six months because it is the time when they develop motor skills to move objects from hand to hand. This includes the grasp reflex, and the baby can hold the bottle using all fingers. In fact, your baby’s ability to hold the bottle by the sixth month is one of the indicators of healthy development (1).
Babies develop the primitive palmar grip from the end of the fifth month. Therefore, it is quite likely that she may grab the bottle and hold it too (2).
However, it is not necessary that all the babies begin holding the bottle by the sixth month. Sometimes, she may not even show an inclination towards holding the bottle independently until 10 months or more.
This does not mean that she is lagging in development. As long as she meets other developmental milestones, this should not be a source of worry for you.
Also, do not be surprised if your baby begins to hold things as early as three months.
Make an effort to help her in accomplishing the task. But initially, it is best to bottle feed the baby by holding the bottle yourself. Keep the head of the baby up to prevent aspiration.
How To Make A Baby Hold The Bottle:
The process needs to be gradual. You need to spend some time and not lose patience as your baby could learn the task after several attempts.
- Introduce your baby to the bottle during the feeding session, by making her touch and feel the bottle to get a sense of its shape, size, and weight.
- Initially, make her hold an empty bottle by putting her hands around it.
- Once she shows interest in holding it, fill the bottle in instalments – quarter, half and then full.
- When filling the bottle, you need to consider your baby’s ability to carry the weight of the bottle.
- Then slowly move the bottle in her hands near to her mouth. Touching the nipple to the side of the lips initiates sucking reflex.
- If she holds the nipple to her mouth, due to the smell of the milk, and suckles, then it is an instant success! Otherwise, you can guide the nipple into her mouth.
- Support the bottle at the other end. Once you are convinced about her ability to have a decent grip on the bottle let go your hold, while keeping a watchful eye.
6 Tips To Help Your Baby Hold The Bottle
Your baby can show an interest in holding the bottle from an early age if you encourage her to do so. Follow these tips to teach your baby the correct way of holding the bottle, and make her associate the bottle with her hunger.
1. Observe patterns in your baby’s motor skills:
Do not force your baby to hold the bottle while feeding. Instead, go by her motor skill milestones. Babies usually learn to open and shut hands firmly by the age of three months. This means that there is a good chance for your baby to clutch her toys firmly, and move them.
Observe for such playtime patterns and if she shows interest in holding objects, you may try to make her hold the bottle. Initially, make her hold small toys.
2. Teach the utility of the bottle:
Make your baby understand the connection between her hunger and the feeding bottle. You can do this by giving her the bottle when she is hungry. Babies learn to recognize faces and objects at distance as early as three months, which means they can easily associate objects with a purpose. Training her little mind to look up to the bottle as a source of food will automatically stimulate her to take it when she is hungry.
3. Cuddle her:
Your baby can feel the warmth of your body when you are breastfeeding her. Make her experience the same even when she is bottle-feeding. This will not make her feel deprived of your proximity. Holding the baby in your arms will make it easy for her to adapt to the bottle. Give her the warmth of the mother while bottle feeding.
4. Maintain peace and silence during the feeding session:
Do not distract the baby with noises when she is feeding. If there are too many things happening around her during the bottle-feeding session, she may not feed to her content or may gulp more air than milk. Distraction during feeding will result in the baby either losing interest in feeding or aspiration of milk. This can be dangerous.
Cuddle her in your arms while feeding. That way you can keep a watch on her while the warmth of your body keeps her calm.
5. Provide some support:
Your baby’s tender arms could hurt holding the bottle for a long time. Therefore, provide support to her arms by putting a cushion or a soft and safe object under them. You might also try holders that will keep the bottle in place. This will not only help your baby relax her arms but also keep the bottle in the right position when she is feeding. Keep the head of the baby in a raised position as compared to the body.
6. It is okay if she does not hold the bottle some days:
On certain days, she may not want to hold the bottle. Just like adults, babies too can have mood swings. She may clench her fist and not open it. If that is the case then leave the matters there. Do not force her to feed from the bottle. She will reach out for it when she is hungry.
Most importantly, do not aim to teach your baby to hold the bottle in the first few days itself. Rushing through the process could make her develop an aversion or harm her physically. Take enough safety precautions to avoid any harm to your baby.
Precautions To Take When The Baby Holds The Bottle:
Following these safety measures will make sure that there is no danger, however minor it is, for your baby.
1. Place the baby in the right position:
The best position for your baby to feed from the bottle is the breastfeeding position: lying on the back cuddled in your arms. If you intend to put the baby on a surface, then keep her in a slightly arched position that mimics the natural breastfeeding position.
Never let the baby hold the bottle vertically straight or tip it over into her mouth (3). This could choke the baby or result in infection, if the contents flow out into her ears. The eustachian tube of babies is smaller and straight and the milk may go into the middle ear leading to ear infection. Instead, let the baby exert strength from her hand and decide the amount of tilt she requires for the bottle.
2. Do not leave the baby unattended:
Even if your little bundle of joy has become independent with bottle feeding, you cannot leave her alone when she is drinking from it. Stay close and monitor your baby when she is feeding. If you feel she is losing her balance with her bottle, gently correct the position.
3. Listen carefully to feeding sounds:
Listen to the sounds your baby makes when she is feeding. If she makes too much noise then perhaps she is sucking in a lot of air. Excessive gas can lead to colic pain. Check the nipple of the bottle for any blockage, and also the position of the bottle in her hand. Ensure that she has placed the nipple properly in her mouth.
4. Help remove the nipple from the mouth:
Your baby could be a pro in holding the bottle but she may still need help in removing the nipple from her mouth, especially if she started holding the bottle at a younger age. Leaving the nipple for too long in the mouth can cause cavities in the baby’s mouth. Therefore, gently remove the nipple from her mouth after she feeds herself adequately. If she shows resistance or puts it back in the mouth then she is not full yet.
5. Never let the baby sleep with the bottle
The bottle is not a toy and should never be left unattended with the baby. She may overfeed herself and it can be a choking hazard. Be watchful of your baby’s feeding habit by being around whenever she feeds. Babies tend to go to sleep while feeding. Do not let that happen.
Holding a bottle is not a difficult task for your baby. She can learn it in no time, especially if she loves to drink the content in the bottle. Have patience and help your baby with the job. And there is no harm if your little one learns the art later than the other babies.
When did your little one begin holding the bottle? Share your experiences with us by leaving a comment below.