When it comes to baby feeding, the reality is that it’s very seldom plain sailing. Once you’ve eventually found the right bottle, there’s the cleaning and storing. When that’s all sorted there’s a short window of seemingly easy feeding. The next stage begins when your little one starts hitting their bottle while drinking. What does this mean? What should you do about it?
There are a few reasons that might be attributed to babies hitting their bottle while feeding. Frustration with the nipple flow and trying to hold their own bottle are only two reasons why your baby may be hitting their bottle. While alarming at first, it’s a normal part of feeding in older babies.
- It’s perfectly natural for babies to hit their bottles
- Your little one may be frustrated, bored or simply learning to use their hands
- The baby may be trying to hold the bottle themselves
- There are a few tips you can implement to reduce bottle swatting
Is it common for a baby to hit the bottle while feeding?
You’ll be easily forgiven for thinking your baby hitting their bottle is concerning if it’s your first baby. Fortunately, there’s nothing wrong with the baby or the milk. Hitting their bottles is a natural part of feeding as babies grow and become more self-aware. It’s important to note that your baby isn’t hurting themselves.
Why does a baby hit the bottle while feeding?
Essentially, there are several top reasons why little ones slap or hit their bottles during feeding time. Let’s dive in and highlight a few of these.
Your baby is frustrated
Babies, like adults, can also get frustrated with factors in their surroundings. For instance, if the parent is feeling stressed or anxious, the baby will pick up on it. Too much noise in the room can also be distracting and could be making the baby frustrated.
Your baby is full
The general rule is that your baby should drink 1 to 2 ounces of formula or milk every 2 to 3 hours as newborns and more as they grow. However, you’ll soon learn that babies don’t stick to the rules! A common reason for swatting the bottle away or slapping at it stems from your baby being full, and not wanting any more to drink. This can happen without them having had the usual amount of milk.
Gently take the bottle away and see if they reach to take it back or start fussing. If the slapping is a result of being too full, your baby won’t mind if you take the bottle away.
Your baby is discovering the use of his/her hands
Another common reason for your baby to be hitting at their bottle can be attributed to their developing motor skills. For most babies, this happens between 4 to 6 months. When this happens, your baby will start kicking more and wriggling their arms, especially during feeding and changing.
Your baby will also start realizing that their hands can do different things such as grab, hit and pinch. And, since the bottle is right there, it’s a good item to hit.
Your baby is getting distracted
As babies grow they become easily distracted by the sights and sounds in the room or surrounding area. Your little one may also be distracted by toys they see in the crib or around the room. The baby may also be trying to get your attention to get out of the crib.
Milk flow isn’t fast enough
In many instances, your baby hitting their bottle is a clear indication that they aren’t getting enough milk and they want to drink faster. The formula might not be flowing fast enough to their new developmental stage. If you see your little one slapping their bottle, start by checking if the nipple is still providing the right flow.
It might be time to upgrade to the next nipple size in the range, together with perhaps picking a larger bottle, for example going from a 4 oz to a 8 oz bottle.
What can happen if a baby fights the bottle?
The real reason many parents are concerned about their baby slapping at their bottles is that they fear the little one will hurt themselves. Depending on the bottle and how hard the baby is hitting the bottle, this could happen.
Additionally, trying to drink while simultaneously slapping the bottle can result in choking. Always keep an eye on your baby during feeding.
Do babies fight bottles while teething?
If you don’t know this already, you will soon discover that your baby’s teething phase can be a nightmare. It affects every aspect of their little lives. And that includes whether or not they want their bottle. Again, there’s no hard and fast rule here. Some babies prefer to suck on their bottles to ease itching gums. Other little ones don’t want anything in their mouths and will slap the bottle away.
If you don’t want your little one slapping their bottle the whole time, try switching to a pacifier to help with teething, if you haven’t already!
How to prevent your baby from fighting a bottle
Despite being a natural part of growing, there are a few things you can do to reduce your little one fighting their bottle.
- Don’t feed your little one before feeding time: Ensure they’re sufficiently hungry. However, you might want to give her milk before a mealtime (breakfast) when introducing solids. Another exception is of course feeding your baby (e.g. with pre-made formula) during the night when they’re small.
- Change the scenery: Opt for a spot that’s quiet and has minimal distractions.
- Check the milk/formula temperature: Ensure that the temperature of the milk isn’t too warm.
- Inspect the bottle: Ensure that the nipple is correct and that the baby is getting enough milk.
- Let someone else feed the baby: Alternating with your partner, or letting grandma help with the feeding will keep the baby from getting bored with the same old routine.
- Relax: Ensure that there is a calm and relaxed atmosphere around the little one when it’s feeding time – this will prevent the little one from getting distracted.
- Limit mealtimes: Create a routine where mealtimes only last 30 minutes. Not letting your little one keep their bottle too long will ensure they don’t get bored.
Here’s a short clip that illustrates some useful tips to get your baby to take the bottle.
There’s no need to be alarmed if your baby starts hitting their bottle. Follow the tips I’ve suggested to minimize the behavior. If your little one still seems to enjoy hitting their bottle, chalk it down to evolving motor skills. As long as the little one isn’t hurting themselves, there’s really no harm!
Another issue had to deal with in the past is the bottle becoming foamy. But there are some ways to prevent that from happening as you can read in my other article.