One of my biggest parenting pet peeves is bottle propping, when a parent leans a bottle against a pillow or other support instead of holding the bottle. There are many reasons why this is a dangerous practice and not a very good parenting decision. Bonding issues aside, bottle-propping can be dangerous.
There are small openings in the back of our throats that lead to our ears, and though those of babies are shorter, wider, and more flat. When a baby is fed by a propped bottle the liquid pools in the back of her mouth, and the bacteria can then enter her ear and cause an infection. This can lead to hearing loss which will result in difficulty learning to speak and learn. Add this to the increased likelihood that goes along with feeding your baby formula instead of breastmilk, and you’re taking a serious risk.
Choking is another very real possibility. Parents usually do not provide the same amount of supervision when a bottle is propped than they do when they are holding the baby and the bottle. Liquid can keep flowing from the nipple, even if she is not sucking. Even a sleeping babe can accidently breathe in the liquid instead of swallowing. Lying down makes it even more likely that the liquid will go down the trachea instead of the esophagus.
This practice also can also lead to tooth decay, as liquid gathers in a baby’s mouth when the bottle is propped. Baby teeth are important because they guide the permanent teeth. Bottle propping can lead to a child needing serious and expensive dental work by the time he or she is weaned.
Contraptions such as this (http://www.bottlesling.com/) are even more dangerous, because the baby cannot knock the bottle out of the way if he does begin to choke or if he is finished. It is held firmly in place by a device. Even if he manages to dislodge it from his mouth, the liquid could drip out of the bottle up his nose or into his eyes, which can be dangerous and uncomfortable. At least when the bottle is on a pillow, a simple hand swipe could send it flying out of the way of a baby’s airways, though infants shouldn’t have to defend themselves in that manner.
Bottle propping in vehicles is especially dangerous because the car is in motion. A few bumps along the way can make milk come out of the bottle a little more rapidly with every bounce, which is very likely to cause a child to choke. Choking is very serious and dangerous.
Wanting a few moments to yourself, not having time to hold a bottle, or not feeling like participating in a feeding are not worth the many risks associated with propping a bottle. Until your child can hold a bottle himself, he needs you to hold it for him to protect him, his ears, and his teeth. Not only is this healthier, it gives him the physical closeness with you that he needs to develope a strong attachment to you and to feel secure. No matter how much you have going on in your life, it is not worth it to leave supervision and feeding time up to a pillow or sling. You are risking your child’s safety…for what?
If you must attend to something else while bottlefeeding, carry your child with the bottle in her mouth with you. When you need to set her down, do so, and interrupt the feeding. A few minutes of crying is not nearly as bad as death by choking. You could wear your child in a sling, holding the bottle with one hand and having the other free. If you need a few moments to yourself, have them when the children are sleeping. There are methods of dealing with a hungry infant and other children and tasks that do not involve risking the safety of the baby. You simply have to be creative and resourceful. It is worth it find alternatives.
Unknown, “Let’s Talk about Bottlepropping.” Intermountain Primary Children’s Medical Center. URL: http://intermountainhealthcare.org/xp/public/documents/pcmc/bottlepropping.pdf