Home > Babies and Toddlers > Babies > Feeding Your Baby > Bottle Feeding > Autistic Four-Year-Old Still Using Bottle

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Autistic Four-Year-Old Still Using Bottle

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: My four-year-old niece is autistic. My sister still gives her a bottle. Is this harmful?

A: While I generally would not recommend keeping a four-year-old on a bottle, depending on the nature of your niece's autism this may not be unreasonable. Some children who have autism have feeding difficulties in addition to language and social interaction abnormalities. They may not eat appropriate foods or swallow certain textures without difficulty. Usually these feeding difficulties can be addressed with appropriate specific behavioral training, but until the child is able to do it on her own she needs to get adequate nutrition in whatever way works. For some children this may mean a bottle containing special formula or else foods that have been through the blender. With therapy, as the child learns how to eat regular food, the amount given by bottle can be limited gradually and eventually eliminated completely.

It is also possible that there is no specific feeding issue, and the girl is receiving the bottle out of habit. For some autistic children this may impair further their ability to interact with their surrounding environment, but for others it may soothe them enough to allow them to interact in a more meaningful way. There is no way for me (or you) to know what the circumstances of her bottle use are without speaking directly with her parents. You certainly could ask your sister in a non-judgmental way, why it is that her daughter still requires a bottle. You must then be willing to listen to her concerns and opinions, and help support her in whatever way may be useful. Parenting an autistic child can be overwhelming, and most families need some help. You can get more information about autism and related disorders (known as pervasive developmental disorder or PDD) from reputable websites such as the Autism Society of America or the National Institute of Mental Health.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


8 Epic Emoji-Themed Crafts, Activities & Recipes
Check out the best emoji crafts, activities, and recipes! They're perfect for an emoji-themed birthday party or anytime you need DIY (and screen-free!) summer activities for kids, tweens, and teens.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme!

10 Free Summer Learning Worksheets
Print these free printables for preschoolers and kindergarteners to help your child's mind stay sharp until September!

Ready for Kindergarten?
Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks