By the time your baby reaches six to eight months old, you can expect them to want to hold the bottle on their own. But what happens when the baby doesn’t hold the bottle? Is this a cause for concern or are they just being lazy? Read on to find out!
Weaker upper body muscles, delayed fine motor skills development, and the weight of the bottle could all be reasons your baby doesn’t hold it on their own. Babies refuse to hold the bottle because they prefer their caregiver to do it for them or they’re not hungry for a feed.
- Weak muscles, delayed fine motor skills, and wanting a familiar feeding routine could be reasons your baby won’t hold the bottle.
- Some babies refuse to hold the bottle because they’re not hungry or it’s too heavy for them.
- Parents need to encourage self-feeding so their baby learns to hold the bottle.
- Tummy time, a smaller or lighter bottle, practicing exercises to develop fine motor skills, and holding your baby are all ways you can encourage them to self-feed.
Reasons your baby won’t hold a bottle
1. Your baby’s muscles aren’t strong enough yet
When bottle-feeding, hands-free parenting, that is your baby holding his/her own bottle, can happen anywhere from between 6 to 8 months. However, if your baby’s upper body muscles aren’t strong by this stage they’ll battle to hold a bottle without help.
In extreme cases, your baby might have a low muscle tone, which means specialty bottles are needed.
2. Delayed motor skills
Babies develop fine and gross motor skills as they grow and reach certain milestones. Fine motor skills engage small fingers and hands to grasp, hold, pinch, and grip. From the age of 6 months old, babies start to grasp items, however, every baby moves at their own pace. Some babies only develop fine motor skills by the time they’re 11 or 12 months old.
3. Your baby doesn’t want to hold the bottle
If your baby is anything like our daughter, they love the comfort of being nurtured by mom or dad while bottle-feeding! Your little one could be refusing to hold the bottle because they love the sensation of closeness and security when held and bottle-fed during feeding time.
The closeness which might have developed out of it we still enjoy in her now toddler years. However, when she was a baby we didn’t think that holding her bottle was really our job at an age when she was supposed to do that on her own.
4. Your baby isn’t hungry
If your baby has been feeding themselves for some time and suddenly stops wanting to hold the bottle during a feed, it could be because they’re not hungry. As babies get older, they take more milk in during a feed with longer intervals in between. Overfeeding can happen when bottle-feeding which also reduces their appetite. This is what I noticed with our daugher when she was small and I was alone with her at home.
Another sign for your baby not being hungry is that bottle refusal might happen via the his / her pushing the bottle out with the tongue.
5. Your baby may not know how to hold the bottle
Some babies simply may not know how to hold the bottle especially if you haven’t encouraged self-feeding as they get older. It took time for our daughter to get used to holding her bottle as she got familiar with the feel of it in her tiny hands. Self-feeding requires gentle encouragement, hand-eye coordination, and getting the right grip on the bottle.
6. The baby is too used to you holding the bottle
Your baby could be too used to your holding the bottle and it’s closely linked to their need to have a comfortable and familiar feeding routine that makes them feel safe. Sometimes, your baby will not take a bottle from nobody, except for mom because she’s part of the feeding routine!
7. The bottle is too heavy
If your baby is still developing muscle strength and fine motor skills, holding a bottle could be heavy work for them! The size of the bottle and the amount of formula in the bottle can make it cumbersome for smaller babies too. When comparing glass with plastic baby bottles, consider the weight factor here.
Solutions to help your baby hold a bottle
Tummy time to strengthen your baby’s arms
Tummy time helps to build muscles and strengthen your baby’s upper body. Laying your baby on their stomach for brief periods can begin soon after birth. Start with 1 to 2 minutes at a time and build it up to 10 to 15 minutes several times a day as your baby gets older.
Watch this video that demonstrates how to do tummy time with your baby.
Use a smaller bottle
Start introducing self-feeding with a smaller bottle that’s easier for tiny fingers and hands to grip. It will also be lighter to hold with less formula – however, make sure your little one is drinking the correct amount at each feed. When comparing 4 oz vs 8 oz bottles, consider using a smaller size made from plastic for a lighter weight.
Put your baby’s favorite liquid in the bottle
Using your baby’s favorite liquid in the bottle could encourage them to hold it on their own. This is a simple trick used by many parents introducing self-feeding but be careful they don’t get fussy as soon as you put breastmilk or formula in the bottle!
Practice exercises to improve motor skills
You help your little one improve motor skills by:
- Giving them toys such as a rattle to encourage them to grasp and shake it
- Gently nudging their hands toward their mouths
- Letting them play with musical instruments
Put less liquid in the bottle
Using a partially full bottle helps your baby get used to the weight and feel of it. Start with half a bottle and remember to refill to ensure your baby gets the right amount of formula at each feed.
Whenever possible encourage your baby to hold the bottle when feeding
When your baby starts showing signs of readiness to self-feed, encourage them to hold the bottle when feeding. You can do this by placing their hands on the bottle while you hold them.
Hold your baby properly while feeding
It’s important to continue holding your baby properly during feeding time. This allows your little one to feel secure and nurtured PLUS you may still need to help them hold the bottle if it’s too cumbersome for them.
At what age does a baby start holding a bottle?
Babies can start holding a bottle from as little as 3 to 4 months old. However, the average age ranges between 8 to 10 months for most babies.
Is it normal for my 5-month-old to not hold the bottle?
It’s normal for your 5-month-old baby to not hold the bottle. Your baby is still developing upper body strength and fine motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination.
Is holding a bottle a milestone in baby development?
While holding a bottle is an important milestone in baby development, infants grow and develop at their own pace. Holding a bottle in their later months isn’t necessarily an indication that your baby is a slow developer.
As a father myself, I’ve learned that babies are fickle things! Milestones help to guide you through their growth and development but not holding the bottle shouldn’t be seen as a problem. There are several reasons your little one doesn’t want to hold the bottle and my solutions will help you to encourage them to accept it more readily.
Comparing 5 oz with 8 oz bottles and getting the right size may be the only solution you need!