When I came across this new invention that made it on to Shark Tank recently, my first thought was “huh”. The “Beebo’s industry-leading technology holds your baby’s bottle for you, allowing you to use your free hand without restriction.”
When describing what the Beebo does, the biggest draw for parents is that it is “hands-free”. According to the manual found online, here are some of the perks:
“Hands free feeding lets you:
Read a book to your baby.
Answer the phone.
Digging into what these perks actually mean is what got me, though. Let’s take them one at a time. Read a book to your baby. Yes, reading to your baby is a good thing. But where are your eyes when you are reading? On the book. NOT on your baby. When you are feeding a baby, especially a newborn, it is very important to pay attention to their cues and signals. Is the flow too fast? Do they need a break? When the bottle is tilted continuously like this contraption does, the baby does not have control over the flow of the milk, so the milk can flow more quickly than your baby can swallow, increasing the risk of choking or aspiration (liquid in the lungs). If the baby falls asleep while the bottle is still in her mouth and you aren’t looking at her (because you are reading a book or looking at the TV/phone), she is at risk for aspiration as well because the milk keeps flowing into her mouth and she isn’t actively swallowing.
Making the feeding the priority creates the opportunity to observe and be responsive to the baby and his needs. Talking to your baby while you feed him is arguably just as calming as reading a book to him. The eye contact that occurs during infant feeding is vital to the attachment process; as the baby looks at you, they are learning your face, mirroring your facial expressions, and making a strong connection to you.
The next one- answer the phone. In this day of constant connection, it is hard to stay away from the phone. In my experience as a feeding therapist evaluating babies who are struggling to feed well, though, I see how important it is for new parents to pay attention. When the baby feeds well at first but problems show up mid-feed or toward the end, it may be hard to recognize. Having all of your attention on the baby while she feeds gives you the best chance to identify any problems. Needing to answer the phone while you are feeding a baby may happen from time to time, but usually that call can be returned when you are finished.
The last one had me puzzled. “Use the remote.” Just like I pointed out in the first example, looking at your baby when you feed them is part of trust-building and attachment. If you are using a remote, this implies you are watching TV when you are feeding the baby. Is the tv ever on when feeding a baby in real life? Of course. But even the manual says just one page later…
“Always pay attention to your baby when using the Beebo.”
This warning seems to imply that the Beebo allows you to feed without paying attention. And that it does. I have to consider how we are quickly becoming a society of device-staring people, unable to take our eyes away from the next Tweet, ‘like’, or text. The image of a dad feeding his baby while he works on the computer is the epitome of NOT paying attention. Taking even more attention away from our children can’t possibly be a good thing. We don’t need any help having our attention pulled away, and the Beebo creates an environment where not paying attention to the baby while feeding could become the norm. This is basically bottle-propping and feeding is no longer “responsive” if you aren’t watching the baby’s cues. As Catherine Shaker, one of the leading practitioners in cue-based feeding writes: “Interaction during infant feeding aids the development of social interaction, communication, and being responsive to others among both parents and the infant.”
What happens if the baby needs a break or wants to stop eating? She has to actively move her head away from the bottle- which is gravity-flow– so the milk is still flowing out of the nipple even when she has moved her mouth away. Many websites like this one, which is backed by pediatricians, advise against this. Healthychildren.org says “We do not recommend devices to hold a bottle in a baby’s mouth—they could be dangerous.”
It seems to me that if you have something over your shoulder that is, in essence, feeding your baby for you, you are bottle propping and you don’t have to pay attention to the baby. Making something easier doesn’t necessarily make it better, and in this case, I believe this device can actually make feeding worse.
I’m sure many parents would love this device and obviously, the investors on Shark Tank thought it worthy. On the surface, it seems like a life-saver for our multi-tasking world, and Ashton Kutcher (I missed where he became a parenting or feeding expert?) apparently agreed. For me, however, it doesn’t make the cut.
*photos from Beebo website