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Some babies have the fine-motor skills required to hold a bottle — and get it to its target — as early as 6 months. For others, it will be closer to 10 months. The only way to tell if your baby can hold his own bottle is to hand him one and watch what happens. If he has the motor skills to put the bottle in his mouth and to take it out when he's full, you can offer him one every now and then.
But no matter how old your baby is, don't be tempted to prop a bottle in his mouth as a way to hasten the feeding process. A propped bottle could force your child to overeat or even cause him to choke.
And if your baby falls asleep with the bottle in his mouth, the formula or breast milk can pool around his teeth and lead to tooth decay. So, to prevent tooth decay, don't prop the bottle or hand your baby a bottle and put him to bed.
Propped bottles can also increase your baby's risk of ear infections, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If your baby's lying down during feedings, the liquid can flow from his mouth into his ears' eustachian tubes, where it can linger and cause an infection.
Another important reason not to prop a bottle or always let him hold it himself: It can deprive your baby of key snuggle time. Holding and cuddling your baby during feedings gives him a sense of safety and security and helps promote bonding.