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 drink out of a bottle?”

Do you think your child might be too old to be still drinking from a bottle, but are having a difficult time getting them 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 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.

Table of Contents

    Why Boot The Bottle?

    A bottle may seem harmless (I mean it delivers nutrition to your baby, so how bad can it be?), but prolonged bottle feeding poses some health risks for children.

    • 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 (1). Giving a bedtime bottle without brushing your baby’s teeth afterward is the biggest culprit for “bottle tooth decay.” 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 from a bottle than a sippy cup, and toddlers shouldn’t get more than 16-24oz. of milk daily. Bottles can also become 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, so this calorie-dense comfort measure can quickly lead to weight gain and 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, as 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 (2).
    • Could mess with their smile: Recent studies show 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 (3).
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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 become more independent and stubborn. It will also cause more stress and chaos for you.

    Take Note

    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 (4). However, the earlier they are phased out, the better.

    It’s best to introduce a sippy cup around six to nine months. Start by offering your baby expressed breast milk, formula, or one to two oz. 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. One 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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    Transitioning Tips

    Booting the bottle can be a difficult and stressful time for both you and your baby. Here are some tips to 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 those with 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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    Ditching The Bottle Without Tears

    Getting your little to let go of the bottle can be difficult, but it’s essential to wean them off completely by 18 months to avoid obesity, iron deficiency, tooth decay, cavities, and other dental problems.

    Introduce a sippy with meals around six to nine months, and 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.

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    6 Reader Comments

    1. Tara Couturier

      Hi there. How do you replace nighttime bottles? My toddler is 16 months and wakes about 2-3 times when she wets her diapers during the night. And at the times when I change her she asks for a baba (her bottle). What do you recommend we do for that transition? Nighttime is the only time she still uses a bottle instead of the sippy cup. Thanks for any advice.

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hi Tara,

        Nighttime bottles can be really hard — on babies and parents — because they’re often linked to comfort for the child. However, your baby is already 16 months old, so it’s time to put your foot down. We’d recommend using another comforting tool, maybe a stuffed toy or favorite blanket? Giving in now would only set you back and bottles really should be phased out by the 18th month. We’re cheering you on and we believe you can help your kiddo through this hurdle.

    2. Molly

      My little one is 22 months old and still wakes in the middle of the night for a baba (her bottle). We stopped using bottles completely last Friday but she is screaming in middle of the night. Any suggestions?

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hi Molly, so sorry to hear your little one is struggling with stopping the bottle. Did you go “cold turkey”? It may be best to slowly ease her out of it and into using a sippy cup instead. She may also benefit from an alternative comfort item. Ultimately, at some point, she does have to get off the bottle, so you haven’t made a bad decision. Keep soothing her and hopefully, she’ll get through this rough patch. We’re rooting for you.

    3. Amelia

      Hi, my son is 14 months old and we have just completed weaning him from the bottle. We did it gradually, so that by the end he just had one bottle in the morning and one bottle at night after which we brushed his teeth. I did not feel completely convinced that it was necessary to wean him from the morning and night bottles since he was not getting too much milk total in the day and was having his teeth brushed after the last one, so the potential problems associated with tooth decay and obesity did not seem relevant for him. But we did it anyway given the AAP guidance. Now He is upset in the morning when he sees we have brought a sippy cup instead of a bottle, but gets over it quickly. At night, he often refuses to sit quietly and snuggle and read books while having his bottle like he used to, instead wriggles out of our arms and wants to continue playing. Something all of the articles on this topic seem to fail to address is the difficulty of the transition emotionally for the parents. Those morning and night bottles were the only times he was willing to sit quietly and snuggle like that and I am really missing the physical intimacy and worried that that phase of our relationship is over for good. What makes it worse is my doubt that it was even necessary to take away the night time and morning bottles for the reasons I said.

      • Team Mom Loves Best

        Hi Amelia, thanks so much for eloquently articulating your situation. We imagine that this is difficult for you, as it is for other parents. We also commend you for following the AAP’s guidelines. Even with regular brushing, bottles can cause babies’ milk teeth to become misshapen in time, so you made the right choice for your baby. As for cuddling and intimacy, as you mentioned, this is a transition. Eventually, you will form new routines and find new ways to re-establish intimacy. You’re doing so well and we’re sure you’ll be just fine in time. Well done, and thanks for reading 🙂

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