kicking the bottle

Most healthcare professionals will encourage weaning off of a bottle at around twelve months of age for a host of different reasons. For starters, prolonged milk drinking and constantly walking around with a bottle between the teeth can lead to early tooth decay. Bottle drinkers tend to drink more milk than cup / breast fed toddlers. While milk itself is not bad, too much may leave your toddler with very little interest in real food. And lastly, by twelve months old your child will have gained the motor skills she needs to sit up and drink with a cup. She will also be in a very sweet spot where she longs to please her parents, she is not yet very stubborn and she has a relatively short memory, all making this transition phase that much easier.

Early bottle busting tips:

-From about 4 months or as soon as your child starts solids you can begin to offer a little water, tea or milk from a sippy cup. Don’t always offer water from a cup and milk from a bottle as this will teach your little one that milk should only come from bottles.

– never give your baby a bottle in her cot or as tool to help her fall asleep. Not only is this bad for your baby’s teeth but it will also teach her that a bottle is for comfort and she will start to associate milk with sleep which will take things to a whole new level when you do decide to take the bottle away.

if you are still breastfeeding by 12 months (or older) simply skip the bottle phase and move straight on over to a kiddy cup.

Decision Made:

Once you have made the decision to start weaning your child off the bottle, you should decide exactly how you are going to do it. You can gradually phase it out, or you can go cold turkey by stopping bottles all together. Ultimately, this decision is going to depend on your circumstances as well as the temperament and age of your baby. Some babies really do a whole better when something is out of site, out of mind while others need to slowly get used to their ‘new normal’. Whatever your plan is, it will best serve your child and ultimately your family if you stick to it!

Bear in mind:

No matter the age, if you are weaning from breast to cup, this is going to be an much bigger deal for your baby. During breastfeeding your baby is receiving so much more than just milk… she is being cuddled and nurtured and that physical touch side of the feed is a big thing to loose. Make sure that you continue to meet these needs by cuddling, kissing and playing with your baby often during this weaning phase.

Gradual weaning looks something like this:

Gradual weaning is gentle and effective for a younger toddler as they hardly even realise that they no longer have a bottle.

Take your child on a special shopping trip and let her choose her new kiddy cup, straw cup, sippy cup or whatever it is that you have decided to use. This will increase her interest in making use of this new tool.

Slowly decrease the bottles that you are offering (over a week or more) one at a time and replace these with milk in a cup or snacks. Usually it is the midday bottles that go first, eventually leaving bedtime and ‘wake-up’ milk only (which will be easily dropped once they are no longer coming from a bottle).

Going Cold Turkey?

This is generally the better option for an older toddler and will require a lot of talking and reasoning.

Start (1 week before taking the bottle away) by building your toddler up. Tell her regularly that she is such a big girl now and how proud you are that she can do things that she couldn’t do before (when she was a baby). Begin to explain that big girls don’t need bottles and that soon you will be getting rid of them. The key here to to allow your toddler to be involved – perhaps there is a farm who needs bottles for their baby animals or a bottle fairy who visits big girls when they are ready… you can be as creative as you like. Whatever you decide, it is important that your child physically see’s that the bottles are gone and that they are no longer in your home.

Many toddlers use a bottle for comfort and so it is important that you replace this with something else such as a teddy bear, taglet or a special blanket.

Offer a reward. This is a big deal and your little one deserves a little something for her bravery 🙂

And finally, enjoy the time that you are now saving with no more bottle washing. Another milestone has been reached and another milestone must be celebrated 🙂

Article by breastfeeding consultant Jenna Richards