Bottle Blues: Why Won't He Feed Himself?

I arrived home from work last night to a frazzled nanny. My teething boy was cranky all day long and had refused to eat, but the biggest problem was that he screamed every time she tried to get him to feed himself with his bottle or his sippy cup. Big deal, I thought trying not to roll my eyes. But clearly it was a big deal, I just didn’t get it yet. She schooled me on why it’s so terrible that my 11-month-old son won’t feed himself from a bottle or cup. “The baby is almost 1!” she criticized. “You’re going to have a real problem if you don’t fix this.”

OMG, now I got it. She left and I called Chris and let it all spill out in a panicked, breathless jumble. “Mason’s behind! What are we going to do?!” Now Chris was stressed out. “We’ve clearly dropped the ball somewhere along the way,” he said. “We have to work on it.” We hung up, action plan undetermined. I felt helpless so after Mason went to bed I did something that always relaxes me: I washed and chopped up every piece of fruit in the fridge and freezer and made 34 ounces of fruit puree for his oatmeal and yogurt.

I’ve been trying to get Mason to drink his formula independently for months and we’ve gotten nowhere.  It’s the same story over and over. I put the bottle down in front of Mason, he hunches over, and he sucks on the nipple hard. He doesn’t understand that he needs to tip the bottle back to get the milk so he swallows lots of air. Frustrated, he starts to scream. It’s a similar story with the sippy cup. You gave me great advice, we tested lots of cups, and the sippy cup with the straw works best but he isn’t sucking hard enough on the straw to actually bring up the milk. I show him what to do, actually drinking from the bottle and the sippy cup myself, but it doesn’t help. Finally I cave in and feed him.

Help! Have we blown it since Mason still hasn’t mastered self-feeding from the bottle or sippy cup yet?

12 thoughts on “Bottle Blues: Why Won't He Feed Himself?

  1. You know the saying follow the leader. If you know anyone with a child that uses a bottle or cup that they use independently then get your son to go on a play date to see how other babies do it. I think children love to copy what other children do. As for the nanny, my god what a horrible woman. So what your son doesn’t yet drink out of a cup/bottle, so what, he will get there just ignore her, babies do things at their pace not yours or anyone elses. You can’t force a child to do something they don’t want to. He will get there in the end. Perhaps look for a cup your son can look into when he drinks so he can see the milk and they he may realise

  2. Bottles are bottle-up-nipple-down, and straw sippies are cup-down-straw-up, so there are two different techniques going on there. Is it possible that he gets them confused?

    I wonder if you’d have success with better straw use by changing things up and trying one of the organic baby food pouches available. They have a wider, straw-like opening, and they collapse (are squeezable) as the contents come out, so that once they get started it doesn’t take much to suck some out.

    I’m also guessing that you’ve helped him hold the bottle (cupping your hands around his) so he gets the feel for how a bottle should be held to eat from it?

    Wish I had better advice. Good luck!

  3. hit return to soon,any away to finish what I was saying. Your son may ralise that he has to lift the cup up to drink the milk. I am trying to get my 10 month old to learn to take milk from a free flowing cup, has been breastfeed until now,she spills it all over herself but is’t half the battle. Good luck, if your son is happy and healthy you have nothing to worry about.

  4. We had success with the sippy cups with the soft insert in the lid rather than the hard top. More like a bottle and easier to transition. Next time you feed your little one try encouraging Mason to help you hold the bottle at the right angle and over the course of several feedings let him support more of the weight.

    Always remember that kids hit milestones at varying times and the one that learns to feed himself a little later might be the first to use a fork and spoon. Hope this helps.

  5. I wrapped my lil man’s hands around the bottle and held them there, slowly letting go during the feeding like the other poster said. At first he would just drop it and cry, so I would pick it back up, put it back in position with his hands, and let go immediately. It’s tough not to get frustrated, but I had to let him do it. If he is hungry enough, trust me, he will figure it out. Once he realizes you are no longer going to do it for him, he’ll pick it up. I had finally come to the realization that it wasn’t that dylan COULDN’T do it, it was that he WOULDN’T do it. He wanted to be catered to, which is fine, but eventually they have to learn to feed independently.

  6. Oh, like pp brad said, he had more success with the soft-top sippies at first. I like the nuby ones that have the built-in valve in the spout because they are very easy for baby to get milk/formula from and control the flow themselves. They are also easy to hold.

  7. My wife and I dealt with the same thing with our son. We went through 6 or 7 different sippy cups thinking it was the nipple or the texture, but he never wanted anything to do with it. He only wanted the bottle and then only wanted someone to feed him. We would try to put his hands on the bottle/cup and tip it back for him to no avail. Eventually he spent more time with kids who used cups and fed himself that he seemingly picked it up. But I think honestly he just didn’t want to feed himself, he had no reason to learn and he didn’t mind being lazy.

    He’s 15 months now and has been feeding himself on a consistent basis since he was 13 months. So don’t worry, you’re not ruining your child. They all pick up things at a different pace. Happy feeding!

  8. My son wouldn’t pick up his own bottle or learn how to use a sippy until I and daycare had enough and we worked on it. I cupped his hands around the bottle and/or sippy (we used straw and wiggled the valve lose so it’s a bit easier to suck) – shortly thereafter he learned to hold the bottle and at 11 months he was holding and drinking out of the straw sippy. They need patience and consistency (don’t give in – they’re perfectly capable at this age. If they can hold a toy, the can hold a bottle). I don’t think it’s like a tragedy or anything, but I do agree they should be eating and drinking independently as soon as they’re physically able.

  9. Have you tried a smaller oz bottle…s o it is smaller and lighter? my 5 mo old really wants to be in control and it always trying to hold his own bottle…the little 2.5 or 5 oz bottles he can. I just have to give him a refill.

  10. My son (10 1/2 months) learned to hold his bottle lying down. I know some people get scared because they think that if baby is laying down he may choke, my son didn’t choke, I gave him his bottle on his crib, or on the floor, he figured it out and now at feeding time I put the bottle on his high chair tray and he knows what to do.

  11. I just did a search for answers to this problem and am relieved to read the responses to this question. Our 11 month old daughter is advanced in some stages of development (has already been walkimg for almost a month, saying a few simple words) so I’ve been completely perplexed as to why we can’t get her to feed herself a bottle or take a sippy cup. After reading your posts on this subject and going through the famous Ferber Method to break her of bad sleep habits (which worked like a charm by the way) I’ve realized that this kid just doesn’t WANT to feed herself a bottle. She wants to be catered to just like she was getting when we were getting up with her twice a night to hold and console her! With that said, I’m going to start being more proactive with showing her what to do and also plan to try the Nuby sippy cups that were mentioned more than once. Our daughter is extremely bright but as a first time mom, it doesn’t take much to make me panic. Here’s hoping the new approach works. Thanks for easing a first time parents nerves!

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