All good things come to an end, and that includes bottle-use, even for babies who really, really love using bottles. Most healthcare professionals and authorities aren’t worried about transitioning babies away from bottles any earlier than around a year old, but with that first birthday coming up fast, parents whose babies are a little more attached to their bottles might be starting to feel some concern that they’ll make the deadline. There are a few ways parents can work on trying to help their little ones come to terms with letting go of bottles, though, even in cases where bottles stopped being just another piece of dishware, and started being more of a comfort object.
When and why to wean
As children get older, bottle use can impact their speech patterns and teeth, which is why most doctors, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend weaning babies off of the bottle when they’re between a year and 18 months old. As babies start to learn to talk, and have more teeth come in, phasing the bottle out becomes more important. Around the time, solids are probably becoming a much more significant part of their diets, which is an opportunity for the way your little one gets his liquids to change as well, to keep up with their growing-up eating habits.
How to make the transition easier
If Baby has started using the bottle as a comfort object, the two may be closer than Romeo and Juliet. This might make it harder to persuade him to let go of the beloved bottle. Introducing Baby to cups and sippy cups before it’s time to start phasing bottles out can help this transition, since it gives him the chance to get familiar with this new piece of equipment before he has to figure out how to use it. It also won’t directly associate the sippy cup with the loss of the bottle he loves so much. You can start by offering him the empty cup to play with, and then, if he seems interested, you can offer him a full cup along with the bottle at a meal, to see what he&;ll do.
If you’re setting the bottle and cup up in competition with each other by offering them both at the same meal, you can try to turn the odds in the cup’s favor by putting especially tasty drinks in cups, and filling bottles with just water. If you make the bottle seem a lot less interesting, Baby may be willing to let it go without even knowing that it’s your idea.
If Baby is proving a little bit more reluctant to let go, there are a couple of different ways to remove bottles from the scene entirely – little by little, or all at once. If you think going cold-turkey might be too much of a shock for Baby, you may want to start by transitioning away from using the bottle one meal- or snack-time at a time. If you start by swapping a bottle for a cup just at breakfast, when Baby is fresh as a daisy and may not have had enough time to get cranky yet, there may be less of a chance of fireworks than starting with dinner time, when he may be hitting a low ebb for his energy for the day. You can then start whittling down until all that’s left is his most difficult feeding times. Often, this is the last feeding before bed.
The bottom line
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how Baby lets go of the bottle, just as long as he does. Even then, at this point, there’s definitely no rush for Baby to let go of one of his oldest friends. The fact that the two of you are moving in the direction of a bottle-free world is the only thing that’s important.