Baby’s switch from drinking from a bottle to a cup – whether sippy or glass – can be as dreaded a transition for parents as getting rid of a pacifier, or teaching him to recite the Gettysburg address – an endless process filled with tears and misunderstandings. Because the bar of expectation for the experience is set so low, though, many parents are actually surprised by how low-key the transition can be. Still, even for the most well-adjusted babies, the change can be an adjustment – for one thing, they have to learn a whole new skill, and while Baby is probably pretty good at that by now, anything to do with feeding or comfort can be a touchy subject, and bottles are often both.
Why should I switch Baby from bottles to cups?
Using a bottle a little longer than recommended isn’t the end of the world, and many parents do without any problems coming from it. However, extended bottle use has been linked to health concerns like tooth decay, problems with dental development, and delays in feeding skills with solids. This last one is perhaps the most serious, as it can lead to anemia in babies who get too much of their nutrition from milk, and not enough from solid foods.
When should I start weaning Baby off the bottle?
Baby’s first introduction to cups can happen as early as he can start eating solid food – probably around 6 months old – because the physical developmental milestones he needs to reach to be ready for cup-handling are about the same as those needed for solid food. These milestones – sitting up on his own, showing an interest in table food, eating from a spoon – and the mealtime routine they contribute to give Baby a solid skill and experience base, so that he is ready when you put that cup in his hands.
Six months can be a good time to start the process of weaning to a cup, and for precocious babies who start eating on their own quickly, cups can be introduced even earlier. However, even the most eager parents might want to wait until at least 9 months before trying to wean their babies all the way from bottle to cup, as younger babies could still be using sucking as a way to soothe and comfort themselves, and some doctors recommend waiting to start introducing cups until 9 months. The American Dental Association recommends trying to make the switch to cups by the time Baby is about a year old, while the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests trying to cut out bottles entirely between one and two years old.
Times when Baby starts eating more solids can be good starting points for introducing cups. This is because as eating solids increases, he needs less nutrition from breast milk or formula, which can make the transition easier, as learning to drink from a cup can be a messy business to begin with, and some babies resist it entirely, which can result in less milk getting to him, at least for a little while.