Giving up Baby’s Bottle is no easy task for many parents. For children who have been bottle fed, the bottle is often a comfort and something they are really familiar with using, especially when they are sleepy.
In my experience, working with families throughout the UK, trying to get children to give up the bottle can be a real challenge and put a huge amount of strain on a family.
The UK Government recommends that by the time a baby is one, they should have stopped using a bottle for all drinks. This is mainly to allow baby to learn to ‘sip’ from an open cup or beaker, rather than the ‘sucking’ action needed when drinking from the bottle.
Why stop the bottle?
There are other reasons why babies should give up the bottle too. Babies need to effectively develop the muscles in their mouths, in order to learn to speak and develop their speech. Research suggests that prolonged bottle use, as well as prolonged use of dummies, may have detrimental effects on a child’s speech development.
On top of this, drinking from a bottle rather than a cup may encourage dental caries in children, as the natural milk sugars present often linger around the teeth for longer with the use of the bottle.
In the UK over 30% of children have had dental decay by the age of 5. To try and decrease this it’s important to:
- Avoid offering sugary foods and drinks to children under 5
- Encourage supervised tooth brushing twice a day
- Offer all drinks from cups, not bottles after the age of 1
- Offer water only at night times
- Remember that milk and water from a cup are the only tooth friendly drinks
Cups or free flowing beakers are fine to offer your baby or toddlers’ drinks in, but ‘sippy cups’ or ‘non-spill’ cups often encourage babies to still suck, and not sip and so are best avoided.
First steps – introduce a cup!
Getting your baby or toddler to give up the bottle can be a big challenge. The truth is, the longer your baby drinks from the bottle, the more of a habit this may become and the harder it may be to get your little one to drink from a cup or free-flowing beaker. The best advice is therefore to introduce a cup or a free flow beaker nice and early, at around 6 months when you start to introduce solid foods.
You can offer the cup at mealtimes or even during play-time with a little water in the bottom (you don’t need to boil the water first, as long as your baby is 6 months or over). This first introducing stage is all about familiarisation and getting children used to seeing it, playing with it and eventually using it. You may want to demonstrate how to use it at mealtimes, but expect it to end up on the floor for the first few tries.
Gradually over the next months or so offer more of your baby’s feeds from the cup or beaker and less from the bottle. Once your baby gets towards one year it should then be much easier to offer all drinks to baby from the cup or beaker and slowly stop any use of the bottle.
Top tips for Binning the Bottle:
If you are struggling to get your baby to give up the bottle, here are some tips to actively discourage use from one year of age.
- Purchase a new open cup in your toddler’s favourite colour or with a favourite character on and refer to it as their ‘special’ cup
- Familarise your little one with the cup by introducing it initially at playtime
- Make sure you show your baby how to use and hold the cup, especially at feeding times.
- Gradually reduce the use of the bottle. You could do this a feed at a time e.g. start offering the beaker with milk at breakfasts and then move on to lunch and then gradually all drinks from the cup or beaker
- Use rolemodels such as older brothers, sisters or even friends who drink out of a cup or beaker to encourage your little one to do the same
- Try talking to your toddler about being a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ and explaining that bottles are for babies
- Use friends young babies who are still drinking from the bottle to show your toddler that the bottle is for babies
- Use birthdays or Christmas as a special occasion to send the bottle to Father Christmas in exchange for some presents
- Or you could try giving the bottle away as a Christmas present to a family or a younger baby who might need it more
And if you’re still stuck?
For older children who are struggling to let go of the bottle, it may be time to take more extreme action by getting rid of the bottle completely – cold turkey! If you’re doing this, it’s important that you stick to your decision and so make sure the bottle is completely out of the house. This tough love approach is hard for many and may result in your little one being upset for a few days. However, they will soon forget about the bottle and get used to drinking out of a cup and it will be much better for their health in the long run.
During this time you may find that their intake of milk and fluids goes down, however, from 1 year of age children only really need around 300-360mls of milk a day, and less if they are having other sources of dairy such as cheese or yoghurt.
Keep offering water at mealtimes in the new cup or beaker and eventually they will start to take it again.
A few MORE points to consider:
- Whatever you decide and whatever works, it is important to remember that it won’t be easy.
- The earlier on you try, the easier it will be.
- Once you have made an attempt in the right direction, never take a step backward as this can undermine any previous attempts to get your little one to give up the bottle and leave you right back at square one
- Remember to never offer anything other than milk or water in your baby’s bottle
- Avoid night feeds as your little one gets towards one year and encourage baby to sleep throughout the night. If they do wake offer water if thirsty
- Ensure teeth are brushed before bed and AFTER their night-time feed
- Never send babies to bed with the bottle in their mouth or straight after the milk feed
- Do not dream feed (offer milk to babies while they are asleep to try and encourage them to sleep though) as this can be dangerous.
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Good Luck with Giving up your Baby’s Bottle!