A Guide to Weaning from Bottle

Your toddler is slowly growing up and becoming a child that can eat on his own. He may still rely on his bottle for comfort as this is a huge form of security. However, as he grows, you will eventually need to wean him from his bottle. Here is everything you need to know about this difficult process.

Why Should I Consider Weaning My Baby from Bottle?

Most parents realize early on that the one of the biggest reasons their baby still uses his bottle is because of the great sense of security it gives him. Despite this, most pediatricians say that weaning from bottle should start when he is about twelve months old for multiple reasons including the following.

1. Dental Health

It is common for a toddler that is mobile to carry his bottle around and keep drinking while he is on the go. This is different than with babies who will only have access to the bottle while in their parents’ arms for a feeding. The problem is that if the bottle doesn’t have water in it, then it is a solution that is acidic and washes over your toddler’s teeth, decalcifying them and increasing his risk of cavities.

2. Nutrition

When your child is a toddler, he only needs to have two or three servings each day of dairy and this comes out to between 16 and 24 ounces of milk. It is true that milk is health, but if your kid drinks too much, he might not want as much solid food and miss out on nutrients. The problem is that bottle drinkers will usually have more milk (up to 32 ounces each day). When your child is a year old, he can sit up while holding a cup and drink using it, making the nutritional needs of a bottle no longer necessary. Most of the time a one year old will be less stubborn than a six month year old and therefore more willing to part with his bottle.

When Is My Baby Ready for Weaning from Bottle?

Most experts suggest you introduce a cup when your baby is about 6 months old. Be aware that in the early stages, the contents will mostly end on the floor. By the time your baby is 12 months, however, he can probably hold it and use it to drink. Conveniently, this is the age that doctors suggest you switch from formula and start giving cow’s milk and switching to a cup can make the transition easier. Breastfeeding moms can give the breast milk in a cup (or try water or diluted juice).

Keep in mind that every child is different, but some signs that your breastfed baby is ready to start weaning include:

  • Sucking your breast several times and stopping or completely refusing to breastfeed
  • Getting distracted while breastfeeding
  • Showing interest in cups

How to Help Baby in Weaning from Bottle

1. Make a Plan

To help yourself phase out the bottle and switch to a cup (when your child is 9 to 12 months old), you need to plan. Let him sometimes use a sippy cup starting at about 6 months. You can also let him get used to the cup while taking a bath. He can drink from it, dump water or just have fun. Be sure that you don’t limit one drink to a cup and another to a bottle as this may confuse your child later on. If you only breastfeed until your child is 9 or 12 months, then don’t introduce the bottle and go right to a cup.

2. Switch Gradually

This approach is good for young toddlers. Do the following during a month or so:

  • Limit the number of bottles offered (one by one), replacing them with snacks or cups.
  • Give undiluted milk in the cup while watering down milk in the bottle.
  • Phase out midday (or unimportant) bottles first.

You can make the process easier on your child by using a fun straw or letting your child pick out his own fun cup. If you wean your child at 12 to 15 months gradually, you shouldn’t have a problem.

3. Ease the Process

If your child is very attached to his bottle, it may be too hard for him to wean gradually. Although it can be painful for him, a sudden withdrawal might be best. You can make it easier by:

  • Start talking to your child about being a big boy and the fact that he will stop using bottles before you start taking them away.
  • Let your child feel like he’s participating. Tell him what is happening so he understands (if he’s old enough).
  • Offer a reward if he goes a day without a bottle.
  • Keep a cup of juice or water handy during the part of the day he usually wants his bottle.
  • Try replacing the bottle using a soothing object such as his favorite teddy bear.

4. More Tips on Weaning Baby 

Here are some final tips to help you wean your baby from a bottle.

  • Wait until a time that isn’t stressful to start weaning. This includes avoiding changes in your baby’s developmental stage.
  • When your baby is sick, go back to the bottle or breastfeeding to soothe him.
  • Follow your child’s cues.
  • Make sure your child gets enough calcium (from cheese or yogurt) if he has less than 16 ounces of milk a day.
  • Be sure your child has some solid food by six months old as he will need more nutrients by the time he’s a year.
  • Try putting the baby formula or breast milk in a sippy cup to keep your baby interested.
  • Remember that your child won’t drink much liquid once he starts eating solid food as there are liquids in his food. Don’t expect him to have as much out of a cup as he did breastfeeding or from a bottle.
  • Remember that weaning can be a gradual process. The important thing is finding a strategy that works for you and your baby.

Want to find out how this mom weans her baby to a cup? Check this video out:

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