Although feeding on a bottle may seem rather simple, but every parent should know how to bottle feed your baby safely.
Have you heard or seen any babies drinking milk through the act of bottle propping? What is “bottle propping?” Bottle propping is an act of ‘allowing’ babies to drink from the bottle independently using objects or devices to keep the bottle in the baby’s mouth. It’s akin to a hands-free mode of bottle feeding. Although this act may be convenient for parents, this practice is dangerous and should never be attempted.
What are the risks involved in bottle propping?
Bottle propping increases the risk of ear infections. Your baby has an opening at the back of the throat called the Eustachian tube. By propping the bottle, the pooled milk can go to your baby’s ears through this tube. This not only leads to ear infections but if the infections are frequent enough, it can cause hearing loss.
By allowing your baby to fall asleep while sucking on a bottle, milk may pool around the formed teeth leading to tooth decay. This condition is also known as nursing bottle caries. Baby teeth are meant as a guide for permanent teeth to come out later. Hence it is essential not to allow them to be decayed or fall out too early.
Gently wipe any milk residues from the gums after feeding and before putting your baby to sleep.
Risk of choking or aspiration
In bottle propping, milk will continue to flow continuously, increasing the risk of choking in your baby. The swallowing muscle (esophagus) and the windpipe (trachea) are closely situated. If your baby is sleeping, your baby may even breathe in (aspirate) the milk leading to the lungs’ flooding. This can result in breathing difficulties and even death.
Less interaction with parents
Bottle propping creates a weaker bond between babies and parents due to the lack of interaction.
Here are tips for safe bottle-feeding
Hold your baby close to you while feeding.
Make sure the nipple hole is of the right size. A large nipple hole may cause your baby to gag or gulp down the milk too fast. Meanwhile, a small nipple hole may cause your baby to suck harder, leading to frustration.
Keep your baby in a semi-upright position.
Angle the bottle so that your baby does not suck on air.
Your baby might need to be burped a couple of times throughout feeding.
Do not force your baby to finish the bottle once he or she shows signs of fullness. This is to prevent your baby from drinking more than is needed.
Take the opportunity to communicate with your baby, even while bottle feeding. Make feeding time enjoyable by maintaining good eye contact, talking, and hugging your baby. Most importantly, practice safe feeding habits!
Dr. JoAnn Rajah is a child specialist that provides pediatric care to baby and children in Selangor and KL. Her core strength lies in diagnosing early signs of child health issues and guiding parents on how to manage them.