Alex Masters, tragically died in 2015 by choking on his bottle of milk that his Godmother had propped up in his car seat, and then fell asleep an inquest heard.

Claire Sawyer used a blanket to prop the little boy’s bottle up, she then fell asleep on the sofa. When she woke, he dialled 999 and the baby was taken to the hospital.

History of drug abuse

The post-mortem found that the baby had inhaled milk into his lungs after being looked after by his Godmother overnight at Sawyer’s flat.

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She had a history of drug abuse.

Not charged

Alex’s Mother was unaware that he was sleeping in a car seat at Sawyer’s flat. The cause of death could not be determined as other injuries were found that could not be accounted for.

As a result, Claire Sawyer was not charged.

It isn’t illegal

It is not illegal to feed your baby in this way, but the Senior Lincolnshire Coroner Stuart Fisher has issued a warning to parents to supervise the baby if you choose to feed them using this method of ‘propping’ up the bottle.

What is ‘bottle propping?'

It is where you lean the bottle against a pillow/ cushion or object and the baby can feed themselves from it without you needing to hold them or the bottle to do so. When looking on parenting forums and threads such as Mumsnet it is a very controversial method with many warning of the risks.

Choking risk

Feeding your baby like this increases their chances of choking according to Share Care, especially if they are unsupervised. The liquid will continue to come out of the bottle until it is empty even if the baby does not want it to.

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The baby could end up breathing the milk in as it is more likely the baby will be laying down and so the milk could go down the baby’s trachea rather than the esophagus.

Infection

With a continuous flow of liquid, it could begin to pool in the baby’s ear leading to infection. If the baby is not supervised then it is unlikely they will be given the chance to burp, leading to wind problems.

This method is not featured in the NHS Bottle feeding guidelines or information, and although there are ‘safe’ prop devices on the market many warn against the use of them.

It can be a world of conflicting advice when dealing with infant feeding. What some will deem acceptable and safe, others will be aghast at. The multiple arguments for breast vs bottle, when and what to wean older babies with, what bottles to use, can be confusing for parents.

Hands-free

Although the cause of Alex Masters’ death could not be found, the coroner has publicly warned against the dangers of using this method to feed your baby.

While it does allow you to be ‘hands free’ and not have to hold the baby and bottle it looks as though there are far more risks that outweigh that benefit. The lack of bonding time could also come into play when leaving babies to feed themselves.

Have you, or do you know someone who has used this method? What was your experience? What age do you feel a baby could feed themselves unsupervised, if ever?

We would love to hear your thoughts via our Child Health Channel.