Many parents do not realize that it is recommended to wean babies from the bottle by 18 months. Getting rid of the bottle can turn into a frustrating experience for both parent and baby! However, there are some things that you can do to make it easier. Here are some ideas on how to wean your baby off the bottle and using normal cups.
When should I wean from the bottle?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning before 18 months of age.
Why should I take the bottle away?
Prolonged bottle use can cause:
- Tooth decay and cavities
- Frequent ear infections
- Milk can replace other nutrients
- Weight gain
- Low iron
- Speech delay
There are lots of different ways to get rid of the bottle. Here are a few ideas:
- Cold turkey: Pick a day and stop all bottles. Prepare yourself, this might be hard for a few days, but your child will adjust.
- Gradually. Slowly take away bottles during the day. You could also put in less milk in the bottle each time. The nighttime bottle is the hardest, save that for last.
- Do not let your child see bottles. Out of sight, out of mind.
- Start early, introduce a cup at 6 months and allow your child to get used to it.
- Never put juice in a bottle.
- For many children, the bottle is a source of comfort. Offer something else that comforts them, a blanket, extra cuddles, stuffed animal, or reading books together.
- Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle. This is a very hard habit to break and can damage their teeth.
- Have a consistent bedtime routine. This can help them know it is time for bed, without using a bottle.
How do I Introduce a Cup?
You can introduce a cup as early as 6 months!
- Use small cups, cups with recessed lids, or straws.
- Start by putting a little bit of breast milk or formula into a cup. Help baby take small sips
- Let baby try to hold the cup. This might get messy, but that's okay!
What if it's not working?
Many babies are very attached o their bottles. It can take time for them to transition.
- They might let you know very loudly that they are not happy.
- Keep trying. Be consistent with schedules and bedtime.
- If they wake up crying, try to comfort them in other ways. Give them sips of water, rock them, make sure they are eating enough during the day. Some kids need a snack right before bedtime.
- Visit your local WIC office to get ideas and help
- Work with your pediatrician on weaning.
Jessica White is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She works with Utah County's WIC program.