Bottle propping is when a caregiver uses balance and gravity to hold up a bottle to feed the baby. Feeding time is a bonding time between the baby and the mother or caregiver, and a life hack that removes the bonding experience can have its consequences. Bottle propping can be used in the crib, in the car, and even in the arms of the caregiver. There are even devices on the market that allows babies to hold their own bottle with the assistance of a sling or similar apparatus. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly encourages parents and caregivers to avoid any bottle propping.
When feeding a baby, it is important to attend to the child at the same time. This is because a baby gives cues that they are hungry or satisfied. Their bodies cannot support holding their own bottles and they cannot always move their heads away for the first months of life. Little ones cannot control how much they eat, so it is important for the caregiver to notice any cues including discomfort, lack of appetite, and being full, to name a few.
When a baby is fed with a propped bottle, they have an increased risk of ear infections. If the nipple flow is too fast for your baby to drink, your baby will allow the formula to leak out of the mouth. If your baby is lying down during these feedings, it will dribble down the cheek and into the ear. The combination of saliva and formula, along with any bacteria that is in those liquids, can get into the middle ear and cause an infection.
The sucking action is soothing to many babies. In many cases, a baby will have a bottle before naptime or bedtime. Even though you do not want to disturb them, it is important to bond with your baby while they are drinking their bottle. A bottle in bed can lead to ear infections as well as tooth decay. This is because the milk stays in the mouth and does not get entirely swallowed. For this reason, it is important to wipe your baby's gums after a bottle so that your little one does not develop cavities while they are starting to teethe.
In extreme, but possible, outcomes, a baby can choke to death from bottle propping. There are reports of babies who have died because they were left unattended with a bottle propped for them. Without the ability to control the bottle on their own and without the attention of the caregiver to assist, a baby can be in serious danger because of a propped bottle.