Bye-bye Bottle: When, Why, and How to Stop Bottle Feeding
Were you making a bottle recently and thought to yourself “Does my child still need to be drinking out of a bottle?”
Do you think your child might be too old to still be drinking from a bottle, but are having a difficult time getting her to accept a sippy cup?
Prolonged bottle feeding can pose risks and make weaning more difficult. But how do you know when your baby is ready to start transitioning away from the bottle and how do you make this process as stress-free as possible?
In this article, we will discuss the risks associated with prolonged bottle use, when you should start booting the bottle, and tips to ease the transition.
Why Boot the Bottle?
A bottle may seem harmless (I mean it helps deliver nutrition to your baby, so how bad can it be?), but prolonged bottle feeding can pose some health risks for your child.
- Increased risk of tooth decay: Nursing on a bottle nipple throughout the day means prolonged contact with milk or juice, which can lead to cavities and tooth decay (source). Giving a bedtime bottle without brushing your baby’s teeth afterward is the biggest culprit for “bottle tooth decay” as the milk pools up and will sit and “eat” on the teeth all night.
- Prolonged use linked to obesity: Babies and toddlers tend to drink more milk if it’s from a bottle rather than a sippy cup, and toddlers shouldn’t be getting any more than 16-24oz. of milk daily. Bottles can also be a comfort measure for both babies and caretakers, as it’s often instinct to offer your baby a bottle when they start crying. But milk has the same amount of calories as food does, and so this calorie-dense comfort measure can quickly lead to weight gain and possibly even obesity.
- Iron deficiency anemia: Cow’s milk can block the absorption of iron by the body. So if your child is drinking too much milk, which often happens with prolonged bottle use, some of the iron they eat isn’t going to be able to be utilized by their body to help them grow and develop (source).
- Could mess with their smile: Recent studies have shown that babies who are bottle-fed are twice as likely to have crooked teeth. The way babies suck on bottles can affect the development of their muscles, mouth, and palate, which in turn could affect teeth and jaw alignment (source).
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When to Boot the Bottle?
The longer you wait to boot the bottle, the tougher it will be for your child to let go, as they start to get more independent and opinionated. It will also cause more stress and chaos for you.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends starting weaning from the bottle by 12 months of age and for bottles to be completely phased out by 18 months (source). However, the earlier they are phased out, the better.
It’s best to introduce a sippy cup around 6-9 months. Start by offering your baby expressed breastmilk, formula, or 1-2oz. of water in a sippy cup with their meals. It may take them a few weeks or even a month to get the hang of the sippy.
When your little one is closer to a year and has got the sippy cup all figured out, start the weaning process by replacing one regular bottle feeding a day with a sippy. Around a year is a great time to make the switch, because you’ll also be starting to switch from formula to milk.
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Booting the bottle can be a difficult and stressful time for both you and your baby. Here are some tips that will make the transition smoother and more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Use a sippy cup with a hard spout or straw: Dentists recommend using sippys with a hard spout or straw rather than ones that have soft spouts. Using a hard spout or straw won’t only benefit their teeth, but will also make the transition less confusing. You could also go straight to an open cup, like the Babycup or BabyBjorn Cup.
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Getting your little to let go of the bottle can be difficult, but it’s essential to have them completely weaned by 18 months of age to avoid obesity, iron deficiency, tooth decay, cavities, and other dental problems.
It’s best to introduce a sippy with meals around 6-9 months, and then start replacing regular bottle feedings with sippys around their first birthday.
Help make the transition smoother for your little by timing it right, letting them pick out their cups, diluting milk in the bottle, offering praise and alternative forms of comfort, and keeping bottles out of sight.
When did your baby ditch the bottle? Comment below and tell us what transitioning tips worked for you and how you knew it was time to boot the bottle. Be sure to share this post all your bottle-feeding friends.