Did you know that something as easy as adding handles to baby bottles can have an immense impact on your baby’s health and development?
As parents we all want to see our babies grow and develop in healthy ways. The key areas of babies’ development from birth to one year of age, is in their fine motor skills, gross motor skills, cognitive development, language development and emotional development. Furthermore, healthy development of fine motor skills can be important markers for healthy communication development.
This is due to communication development drawing on the skills from the other developmental areas such as being able to move, touch and interact with people and the world around them. Highlighting, the importance of fostering healthy development of motor skills in babies. Here we will explore how using bottles with handles can play a big role in encouraging healthy fine motor skill development through making it easier for baby to hold the bottle, have more control and independence in their feeding, reduce dropping the bottle, increased hand eye coordination as well as reducing the strain on the muscles of the mother’s wrist.
When choosing a baby bottle, it is essential that you select one that is appropriate for their age and developmental stage. For example, a newborn baby is not going to be able to hold the bottle at all, while a baby who is 3-6 months will be able to be active in holding a firm bottle with handles and a 12-month-old baby may transition to a Sippy cup with handles. It is important to remember that babies can’t control the flow of milk, so to avoid choking on the milk always hold your baby, watch your baby and do not prop your baby up on pillows when they are being bottle fed.
advantages of handles for baby bottles
There are many advantages of baby bottle handles for both the baby and the caregiver. Some of these advantages include:
- - Making gripping the bottle easier and more comfortable to control - movement of the bottle. This can help to build their coordination and fine motor skills.
- - Helps develop your baby’s independence with self-feeding, therefore giving them more confidence in their own ability.
- - Reduction in spills and dropping the bottle which can reduce wastage of any milk or damage to bottles.
- - Reduced stress on the caregiver’s hand and wrist from holding the bottle at a specific angle for a long period of time, which can strain the muscles of the wrist.
how baby bottle handles can improve fine motor skills development
Fine motor skills refer to the small muscle movements in a baby’s hands, fingers and wrists. There is a crucial window in the first year of life where fine motor skill development is more sensitive to sensory feedback from the grasping motion when your baby holds the bottle handle. This means that when a baby grasps the handle of a bottle, they are sending messages to their brain to develop their hand use therefore, leaving long lasting impacts on the baby’s brain development.
Babies are born with a grasping reflex, where they can actually grasp and hold their own body weight through their hands. This is a primitive, involuntary reflex present in all newborn babies and usually disappears by 6 months of age when movements become completely controlled by the brains motor centres.
3 - 4 months
From around 3-4 months of age your baby will begin to have interest in the world and will start voluntarily grasping the objects around them. This is the ideal age to be introducing a bottle with handles to your baby. Handles on your baby bottle, encourages your baby to practice using their grasping motion as they bring the bottle to their mouth. Thus, strengthening their hand muscles each time they grasp the handle for the duration of each feed.
Every time that your baby assists you with bringing the bottle up to their mouth, they are developing their hand-eye coordination and their arm muscles. Additionally, the different textures integrated into the handles of a baby bottle can stimulate your baby’s senses and provide learning about the world around them.
As babies continue to develop from around 3 months to 9 months, the grasping motor skill allows them to become more controlled in their grasping movements and grasp for longer periods of time. Overtime the improved grip with baby bottle handles can further assist with your baby learning and refining this new skill. This means that your baby can become more confident in holding the bottle and can hold the bottle for longer periods of time. Furthermore, the use of handles on bottles can promote the equal use of both hands simultaneously, thus reducing the risk of unilateral brain development and hand preference. Therefore, helping your baby to develop in healthy ways!
Next, at around 6 months of age, the use of handles on a bottle can help a babies develop a sense of self independence as they are able to grasp and feed themselves more effectively. This skill will continue to be developed throughout your baby’s first year of life. Furthermore, having your baby as an active participant in their feeding journey has been shown to encourage a greater enjoyment of food, reduced fussiness and a reduction in over feeding.
different types of handles available for baby bottles
There is an array of different baby bottle handle designs available which can make it confusing when trying to choose the perfect handle for your baby’s bottle.
So, here’s the low down…
Detachable handles are designed to attach to the neck of the baby’s bottle and enable you to use the bottle throughout all of your baby’s developmental stages. Thus, the bottle can be used during the newborn stage and then around 2 months a handle can be added to the baby’s bottle to encourage development, self-feeding and hand eye coordination as they grow. Having detachable handles for your baby bottles means that they can then be removed when your baby is able to hold the bottle without assistance.
Built-in handles are handles that are integrated into the design of the bottle and you are unable to detach the handle from the bottle. These baby bottles with built in handles are generally designed for older babies. They have the advantage of providing a little more stability to the baby bottle handle design as the handles are less likely to move around.
sippy cup handles
Sippy Cup handles are often larger handles designed to be easier for older babies and toddlers to grasp onto the handle.
baby bottles with textured handles
Baby bottles with textured handles allow for improved grip along with increased sensory development as your baby grips onto the bottle. Improved grip with baby bottle handles means that your baby can master their grasp reflex and reduce the risk of your baby dropping the bottle. Furthermore, baby bottle handles that are visually attractive to babies as well as designed to fit easily within their hands encourage a baby’s curiosity to reach out and hold the bottle as well as further encouraging independence through making self-feeding easier.
When choosing a handle material for your baby bottle look for materials that are going to make your baby feeding themselves easier and therefore more enjoyable. Handle materials that are rigid are more beneficial for babies from 3 months onwards, this is because more rigid handles require less coordination to lift and bring the bottle to their mouth for self-feeding. Therefore, they can self-feed and begin enhancing their development from a younger age.
It is essential that baby bottle handles are made from materials that are safe for your baby, especially products that are BPA free. PP (polypropylene) plastic a great option for baby bottle handles. PP Plastic is strong, has a good heat tolerance, doesn’t release any toxins and is BPA free. Other safe materials are food grade silicone, however baby bottle handles made from silicone may not be the best choice for younger babies as the malleable material may be too difficult for your baby to hold.
Baby bottles that are made from plastic are also lightweight and thus easier for your baby to self-feed. Plastic baby bottles and handles are also less likely to break while your baby is developing their grasp reflex and learning to hold their bottle when compared to glass baby bottles, which are considerably heavier. Therefore, when you are choosing a baby bottle handle for your baby it is important that you choose one that is appropriate for their age and development as well as handles that are made free of toxins and therefore safer for your baby.
how handles can promote independence and self-feeding in babies
Adding handles to baby bottles can encourage self-feeding and independence by:
- - Making the bottle easier to hold and guide the bottle up to their mouth more easily.
- - Give babies more control over their feeding thus reducing frustration and encouraging exploration and discovery of their feeding as well as the world around them.
- - Being able to reach and grasp the bottle handle easily means that your baby doesn’t need to rely on you, thus helping them develop their independence.
- - Reduces spills thus boosting your baby’s confidence in their ability to feed themselves, this can then further assist your baby in having confidence in exploring and discovering new foods and textures when they start solids.
Adding handles to baby bottles helps to foster your baby’s confidence and ability to feed themselves. Therefore, improving their fine motor skills, sense of control, discovery of the world around them and help support their growing independence.
In conclusion, adding handles to baby bottles is a simple yet effective solution for promoting independence and self-feeding in babies. As parents, we all want to help our babies grow and develop in healthy ways. One way that we can help our baby’s development is through carefully choosing the right baby bottle with handles that are appropriate for your baby's age and developmental stage.
With the right handles, babies can improve their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, have better control over their feeding, and feel a sense of control and independence while they are being fed. Thus, creating positive associations with food and creating confidence in their own abilities.
It is essential that you always supervise your baby while they are being fed to ensure their safety as well as proper use of the bottle.
Written By Lauren Brenton
Endorsed Midwife and Founder of One Mama Midwife Pty Ltd
I’m Loz and I’m an Endorsed Midwife who runs Antenatal Classes in the Sutherland Shire. I have completed a Bachelor of Midwifery and a Master of Midwifery. My favourite area is in the labour ward, this is where you can find me most days. One Mama Midwife came about in the height of Covid in 2020, when so many women were missing out on the chance to have antenatal education. Aimed at empowering you with the tools you require to have the pregnancy, birth and postpartum journey that you want to have, with advice and recommendations you can trust.
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