Weaning—Why It Is Important
It is very common for parents to delay weaning. It is also very common for an older toddler to become attached to their bottle. The dilemma—the longer you wait, the harder it will be for your child to break the habit.
Most pediatricians recommend parents to start weaning their child off the bottle at around 12 months, for a host of reasons. The two major ones are:
Baby bottle tooth decay: Prolonged bottle drinking can damage baby teeth and even cause tooth decay.
Missing out on solids: While milk is very healthy and is an important source of nutrients, children who are dedicated to their bottle tend to ingest more milk and may not want to eat enough solid foods. Weaning your child off the bottle can be challenging, but once you think your child is ready, here are some tips and tricks to make this transition easier for both you and your child.
How to Wean Your Child
“You’re a big boy now, so you can use the big boy cup.”
Some suggestions on how to wean your baby off the bottle:
Start early: Allow your baby to get used to holding a cup. This can be introduced as early as 3 to 6 months old. Just make sure there’s no liquid in it!
Substitution: Give him spill-proof cups or “Sippy Cups” as they are called. These cups have spouts designed just for toddlers. Choose a feeding time when he usually drinks just a little, rather than at a major mealtime. Use this same feeding time to use the “Sippy Cup” every day for a week. Routine is key!
Wean gradually: Start by gradually cutting down on bottles from feeding schedule, starting at mealtimes. For example, if your baby drinks 3 bottles a day, start by cutting the morning bottle. Encourage him and suggest that since he’s a big boy now, he’s allowed to drink from a cup instead. This will make it seem like a reward rather than a chore.
Be coy: Give your little one the liquids he likes best in the cup and the ones he likes least in the bottle.
Consistency is Key
How long does weaning to a cup take? It varies, but generally anywhere between a couple of weeks to a couple of months. It also depends on the age and development of the child and how consistent the parents are. Don’t start weaning your child when your lives are busy or stressful. If you’re starting a new job, moving home, or if your child is going through a new developmental stage, wait a month or two before weaning.
There will be rough spots on the way. Remember to be encouraging and patient and most importantly—resist the urge to backtrack on the progress you’ve made. If you continue to have problems or concerns about stopping the bottle, have a chat with your doctor.