When Do Babies Hold Their Own Bottle or Cup?

You may be curious to know at what age do babies hold their own bottle or a cup, or you may be wondering how to teach or get your baby to hold a bottle or cup. There are a few developmental milestones your baby must reach before they can do this. It’s also important to know that leaving your baby alone with their bottle is dangerous—bottle-feeding should always be supervised. And even letting them drink from a cup should be done with supervision.

When Do Babies Start Holding Their Own Bottle or Cup?

Between the ages of 6 and 8 months, most babies acquire the necessary fine motor skills to be able to hold objects such as cups and bottles with their hands and fingers.

Here’s a month-by-month breakdown of how your baby may work on and eventually master the skill of holding a bottle or cup:

  • At around 7 months old, your baby may be able to drink from a bottle or cup with your help holding it.

  • At around 9 months old, your baby may be able to put their hands around the cup or bottle while they’re feeding.

  • At around 12 months old, your baby may be able to pick up a cup by themselves; however, they won’t be able to put it down and may likely drop it to the ground if no one is there to take it.

  • At around 18 months old, your child will likely be able to drink from a cup with both hands and put the cup back down.

  • At around 2 years old, your child can hold onto a small drinking glass using both hands.

  • At around 3 years old, your child can hold a training cup by its handle without needing two hands.

But drinking from a bottle or cup involves not only fine motor skills but also gross motor skills—skills that involve larger physical movements—which are needed for a baby to sit up independently. Sitting up on their own is a milestone they'll need to reach in order to begin feeding themselves solid food.

In other words, a combination of many development milestones enables your baby to hold onto a bottle or cup and drink from it.

Learn more about your baby’s development during these months.

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Transitioning From Bottle to Cup

Around the same time your baby would learn to hold on to a bottle is the recommended time for introducing a cup (or sippy cup ).

Whether you’ve bottle-fed your baby or exclusively breastfed your baby, experts recommend weaning directly to a cup as early as 6 months old. That means there would be no reason to teach your baby to hold a bottle. The six-month mark is also the time where you can start giving your baby water in a cup. Giving your baby water would be in addition to continued breastfeeding or formula-feeding; however, you’d still want to avoid cow’s milk until your baby turns 1 and avoid giving your baby juice altogether.

Guidelines for Safe Bottle-Feeding

Even if your baby can hold their own bottle, that doesn’t mean that your baby should hold their own bottle. You may be tempted to let them hold the bottle themselves, or, if they’re not yet wholly adept at holding the bottle, to try a practice called “bottle-propping” using a device called a bottle propper. This practice and this type of device should be avoided for several reasons.

First, feeding time is an opportunity to bond with your baby, so you’d be missing out on an important moment with your little one if you're not directly participating in the process.

Second, it’s dangerous to leave your baby alone with a bottle. They could fall asleep with the bottle in their mouth, which can lead to

  • tooth decay, from the liquid pooling around their teeth

  • ear infections, from the liquid making its way into the eustachian tubes

  • choking, from the liquid blocking the airways.

The safest practice is to never leave your baby alone with their bottle.

Watch the following video to get some tips on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby at night:

The Bottom Line

If you’re wondering when do babies hold their own bottle, it's helpful to know that many babies are able to hold a bottle and/or a cup at around 6 to 8 months old. If your little one has acquired this skill, or is working on it, be sure not leave your baby unattended with a bottle or cup. For one thing, they aren't yet able to keep holding a bottle or cup without dropping it. Your supervision is still required to help your baby feed from a bottle or drink from a cup.

Even more important is that it’s not safe to leave your baby unsupervised with their bottle. And it’s not a good idea to prop your baby’s bottle on any object or to use a bottle propper device. Leaving your baby alone with their bottle can lead to them falling asleep with the bottle in their mouth, which is connected to tooth decay and ear infections, and can even lead to choking.

Use bottle-feeding as an opportunity to bond with your baby. Don’t use this time to multitask or to leave your baby unattended. And, since experts recommend beginning weaning to a cup around 6 months of age, there’s no reason you should teach your baby to hold their bottle, since there will be no need for the bottle soon enough.

In the meantime, you’ll be helping your baby learn to hold a cup and drink from it, which they will eventually be able to do all by themselves!