Parents often ask when they should transition their babies from drinking out of a bottle to drinking out of a cup or a sippy cup. Are you wondering how to wean your toddler off a bottle? If so, keep reading, you’ll learn everything you need to know about it here!
For some toddlers, the bottles provide them comfort and security. In other words, they are emotionally attached to it. The bottle is not simply used to feed your baby and add calories to their diet anymore. With this in mind, it makes sense that for some of them it is so difficult to give up their beloved bottle. Even though the transition can be difficult on you and your baby, it’s very important to wean your baby off a bottle.
Your baby may be using the bottle to self-soothe at bedtime, at night and for naps. If this is the case, your baby is most likely using the bottle as a sleep association and needs it to fall asleep. In order to create healthy sleep habits, I would recommend weaning the bottle first and then start a sleep training program. I like to use a gradual approach to make sure the baby or the toddler is managing this transition well.
Why we should wean the bottle
The American Association of Pediatrics suggests to start weaning your child off a bottle before they are 18 months old. At that age, your baby is old enough to understand the transition, and young enough to let it go without too much fuss. Each family is different, each baby is different…this means that the ideal timing varies between children. That being said, it comes a time where the bottle can start causing potential problems you’ll want to avoid.
Babies and toddlers using a bottle tend to drink more than they really need. They are getting full from the milk, and this can prevent them from getting the nutrients they need from proper mealtimes.
Additionally, drinking milk in a bottle can cause tooth decay. Toddlers with bottles can be coating their teeth with liquid, and if it’s not water, it contains acid. This can eventually lead to cavities.
Now that we clarified why removing the bottle is important, let’s look at how to wean your toddler off a bottle!
1- Introduce a sippy cup
First, ask yourself; is my baby ready to use a sippy cup. If your baby is able to sit up and hold their head by themselves? If your answer is yes, your baby is ready to transition to a sippy cup.
Using a gradual approach to wean your toddler from the bottle works well. I recommend introducing the sippy cup in a playful, fun and exciting manner to show your toddler how the sippy cup works. Most toddlers are excited to try new things and to mimic what we do. Use this to your advantage, and make that transition fun and loving! The goal is to help them become familiar with it over time and to ensure they don’t see the sippy cup as a “threat” to the bottle.
2- Replace feed during the day with a sippy cup
Gradually replace the bottle with a sippy cup. Eliminate the bottle starting with lunch, and serve milk or water in his new favorite cup! After a few days, take away the dinner bottle. Once the bottle at dinner is gone, tackle the morning bottle. Instead of handing your child a bottle as soon as they get up, go right to the table for breakfast. Lastly, let the bedtime bottle go. As long as your toddler had a good dinner, they don’t need extra milk to make it through the night.
You may even be able to just skip the bottle at this point, since your little one got used to doing without it during the day. But if they put up a fuss, take a gradual approach to remove the bottle, outlined below.
3- Gradual approach
Feed your toddler in the same place you would if you were feeding from a bottle, and cuddle them just as you would if you were offering the bottle. This will help make the transition easier.
Follow these steps to slowly wean the bottle. First, begin to reduce the amount of milk in the bedtime bottle by at least two ounces every two days. An alternative is to gradually dilute the formula until it gets so watery he decides it’s not worth getting up for. I usually find reducing the total ounces in each bottle every few nights works best.
When you reach the two ounce mark, offer a cup of water instead of a bottle during his bedtime routine. But doing this, he will eventually be more hungry during the day and consume the calories he needs then.
If you’ve convinced that your baby has to have milk before bed, then work towards serving that’s milk in a cup and brushing his teeth before he goes to sleep
4- Praise your toddler
Praise your toddler when they use the sippy cup. Tell your little one that they are big now and don’t need the bottle anymore. Make a big deal about what that means and how grown up they are now. If your toddler has an older sibling or cousins, compare him to them. Your little one will be proud! Keep reminding them every day of how big they are, and how they won’t need the bottle soon.
You can also let your toddler choose a sippy cup, this will help the process. A toddler who’s still attached to a bottle will only latch on tighter if they are allowed to have it as a source of comfort. You can introduce other attachments, such as a blanket, stuffed animal or toy.
5- Say goodbye to the bottle
As soon as your toddler is weaned from the bottle, throw away every single one in the house. Even the spares you keep tucked in the diaper bag and car. You don’t want him to discover a leftover bottle. You can also do a big “goodbye” ceremony and praise your little one, a lot!!! They are big now, and don’t need the bottle, make it a big deal for them. It’s time to celebrate!
6- Focus on creating healthy sleep habits
Now that you know how to wean your toddler off a bottle, you can now focus on your baby and toddler’s sleep habits. If your child was using the bottle as a sleep crutch or sleep association, and is not using the bottle anymore, you can now start a sleep training program!
At any point during this process, I can help you and offer guidance to ensure you and your baby are progressing and managing the transition well.