When Do Babies Hold Their Own Bottle?

Holding a bottle or sippy cup requires fine motor skills, strength, coordination, and cognitive development. Learn when most babies are up to the task of self-feeding.

baby drinking out of bottle
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While feeding your baby promotes bonding, it also takes a lot of time. Some parents long for the day when their little one can hold their own bottle, effectively feeding themselves without assistance. To reach this milestone, your baby needs to develop the necessary fine motor skills, coordination, and strength. Keep reading to learn more about when babies can hold their own bottles and sippy cups.

When Babies Start Holding Their Own Bottle

Because every baby develops at their own pace, there’s no predicting exactly when your little one will start holding their own bottle for feedings. Babies typically start holding a bottle between 6 and 10 months, although some may take a little longer. That's because holding a bottle requires a wide range of skills: cognitive development, fine motor control, coordination, and strength in the core and upper body.

If your baby can sit up by themselves (usually sometime between months 4 and 7) and grasp objects, they may be ready to hold a bottle unassisted. Another sign? Your child may show you a desire for their bottle by reaching for it during feedings.

Tips for Handing Over the Bottle

Never leave the bottle propped in your little one’s mouth as they may overeat or choke on the steady liquid stream. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this practice can lead to ear infections. It may also cause dental caries/cavities. That said, here are some ways you can help your child hold a bottle on their own when they're ready:

  • Place your baby’s hands on the bottle during feeding time. Let your baby pull away if they want, but try again after a few minutes. This will teach your child how to hold the bottle.
  • Don’t fill the bottle too much; your little one may not have the strength to hold it up. You can also practice with an empty bottle.
  • Encourage your baby to play with toys while sitting down. They’ll probably bring the toys to their mouth, which develops the coordination and strength necessary for bottle feeding.
  • Give your baby regular tummy time to build core strength.

Once your baby starts holding their bottle, continue to take the necessary safety precautions. Never leave your baby alone while feeding—especially in the crib. A bottle in bed may sound soothing, but all that liquid pools in your little one's mouth once they're asleep, boosting the likelihood of tooth decay.

Your little one can also choke from sipping a bottle in the crib. Always monitor your child closely while they're eating, and listen to their feeding sounds like sucking and swallowing. You'll probably be able to hear if something sounds wrong.

When Do Babies Hold Sippy Cups?

By the time your baby gets into a groove with holding their own bottle, you can start thinking about introducing a sippy cup. According to the AAP, most babies are ready to start drinking from a sippy cup between 6 and 9 months. And by 12 months, it's best to boot the bottle altogether.

One major reason: Once a baby starts walking, they're likely to carry their bottle around, whereas a baby fed by their parent will generally have the bottle removed right after feeding. If the bottle contains anything other than water, frequent sipping can lead to tooth decay.

Experts recommend introducing sippy cups with a small amount of water to help build fine motor skills and an early preference for water.

Quick Tip

Baby bottle tooth decay commonly occurs from prolonged exposure to the sugars found in juice, milk, and starchy snacks. Acid-producing bacteria feed on those sugars creating conditions for cavities to form. Teach your child good dental hygiene and limit sugary drinks and foods to help protect their teeth.

Whether breastfed or bottle-fed, a baby who can sit up by themselves and open their mouth for a spoon is ready to add a cup to the mealtime mix. (Experts usually recommend using sippy cups during snacktime and mealtime, and not throughout the day). Try these steps to encourage your child to hold a sippy cup.

  • First, do a quick show-and-tell by holding the cup to their mouth and dribbling some liquid onto their lips; take the valve out of a non-spill cup to do this.
  • If you're using a cup with handles, hold them, so your baby sees how to maneuver the sippy cup themselves.
  • If they don't get the hang of it, try introducing them to a straw.
Updated by Nicole Harris
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