Parents offering their little one’s infant formula from a bottle will know that feeding baby is a time of the day which often gives them a chance to feel close to their baby. The transition of moving from bottle to cup represents a key stage of your baby’s development. Which, of course brings many emotions to the forefront. As a parent you may feel like you are losing that time to bond. But it’s important to remember that there are many benefits to giving up the bottle. And there are lots of other ways to bond and feel close to your baby.
What do the guidelines tell us when it comes to cups and bottles?
The Department of Health (DOH) recommend that infants should be introduced to drinking from a cup from around 6 months of age. At the same time as the introduction of solid foods. They also recommend that infants should be drinking all their drinks from a cup from the age of 1 year and discourage use of the bottle.
Remember that these are just a guide and not all children will follow the same timeline. Try not to worry too much if your little one isn’t completely in line with this. Many children do still use the bottle beyond the age of 12 months. Below is some research and advice around WHY it’s recommended to gradually reduce bottle use in children. Along with some tips to help any parents who may be struggling to cut down their little one’s bottle use.
Why introduce a cup from 6 months?
- Infants will start to develop the skills needed to drink from a cup
- Practising the sipping technique will help your little one to develop and strengthen the muscle in and around their face. Which is useful for eating and speaking
- Using a cup helps to encourage the development of hand eye co-ordination.
What are the potential risks if my child continues to use the bottle?
Children over the age of one who continue to use the bottle for drinks can unfortunately be more likely to experience a number of issues. Of course, these don’t always occur in all children. It just is a higher risk if little ones continue with prolonged bottle use and if they drink from the bottle regularly.
These risks include:
- Tooth decay: this could lead to: pain and discomfort, difficulties eating and sleeping and food refusal. Also the need for dental treatment and sometimes the removal of teeth. As well as time off nursery or school and lack of confidence in smiling
- Speech delay: extended use of the bottle can lead to speech problems, particularly delayed speech
- Fussy Eating: Bottle use is associated with high liquid intakes. Some children learn that when food is offered they can refuse to eat as the bottle will be a way to fill themselves up. This can worsen fussy eating tendencies. Research shows that children who drink from a bottle will drink more than those drinking from a cup
- Low iron and iron deficiency: high fluid intake could mean children eat fewer iron rich foods
- Weight concerns: There are strong links between long term bottle use and childhood obesity. The bottle is often used as a comfort rather than satisfying hunger. Which can in some cases lead to excessive intakes of milk and/or other sweet drinks. Research suggests that every month of extended bottle use is associated with a 3% increase in the likelihood of being overweight
Whilst this may all sound quite overwhelming, the aim is not to scare any parents whose child may be drinking from the bottle after 12 months. It is important to highlight the importance of encouraging your child to drink from an open top cup from the age of 12 months. But also to remember that these are potential and not guaranteed risks. Below we’ll cover some tips & tricks that can help you with making the transition from bottle to cup with your little one.
Ditching the Bottle
Moving your child on from the bottle to the cup might seem like a challenge, especially if you have tried without success before. It can also be easy to get little ones to drink enough milk using the bottle, but harder to get them to drink enough without it, in some cases. Check out Charlotte’s blog on milk amounts to see how much milk is recommended after 1.
When it comes to ditching the bottle, the key is to be consistent and not give up! Try to ensure the whole family works together as this will make it much easier. That includes parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles and of course your nursery or childminder.
However, there are some nice tips which can make transitioning to the cup much easier for you and your little one.
Our Top Tips:
When considering strategies, choose ones that will work best for you and your family.
For younger toddlers:
- Start introducing a cup nice and early during their weaning journey so they have had plenty of practice using it once they reach 1.
- Gradually reduce the amount of milk offered in the bottle. Instead give a small amount of milk in a cup with meals or snacks
- 3, 2, 1… None! Gradually reduce the number of bottles offered. Some parents find it easier to leave the night time bottle until last
- Night time bottles are the most damaging to teeth. Try giving the evening bottle on your lap, rather than in bed. If at first your child is determined to take the bottle to bed, fill it with plain water. This should slowly be phased out
- In many cases, children like the bottle as it offers comfort and reassurance. Rather than relying on the bottle, try to comfort and sooth your little one by reading them a bed time story or encouraging them to cuddle a teddy or their favourite toy.
For older toddlers:
- Instead of offering the bottle at bedtime, try offering a cup of milk with your child’s evening snack. Then continue with the rest of the night-time routine, such as bath, bedtime story, and teeth brushing
- Try talking to your little one about giving up the bottle. It might help picking a special day or occasion to stop using the bottle, e.g. a birthday or when you’re going away on holiday. The day you decide to stop giving the bottle, you might like to have a small celebration or ceremony where the bottle is thrown away
- Try asking your little one to throw the bottle in a bin, away from the house or at a local park or High Street. That way, they know it’s not in the house. Once the bottle has been thrown away, allow your child to choose a new cup. The novelty of a new cup may excite them and mean they are more willing to accept drinks
- Offer your child a reward for swapping to the cup. For example, some children may give up their bottle for a new toy
- When your little one does use the cup, offer plenty of descriptive praise and positive reinforcement!
- Give your child time to get used to the cup and try not to worry if they don’t drink as much milk. Your child can have other food sources of calcium instead, such as cheese, yogurt and fromage frais. If you have any concerns about your child’s growth, please speak to your GP or Health Visitor for further advice and support.
Be Kind To Yourself
Giving up bottle use can sometimes feel a little challenging. But hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to keep trying. Once you decide on a strategy that you are comfortable to try, it is important to stick to it as much as possible. The longer your little one has a bottle the harder it can be to give it up. So staying consistent where you can will be beneficial for both you and your child in the long run.
A few extra tips:
- Celebrate even the smallest successes! Don’t forget to recognise and praise yourself for the successes you have achieved with your little one. No matter how small; even if it’s your child simply choosing a new cup
- Talk to friends and family- share your progress with friends and family members so they can offer words of encouragement and praise your success
- Reward yourself too– treat yourself to something you enjoy, e.g. a long walk, a bath, reading a book, mindfulness
- Don’t feel guilty– sometimes you may feel like you are not progressing and give in to requests for the bottle. It happens, try to put it behind you and approach the next day positively.
If you work in an early years setting and would like to support children and families with the transition from bottle to cup you might find Early Start Nutrition’s Bin the Bottle sessions helpful. https://www.earlystartgroup.com/courses/bin-the-bottle/
This article was written for SR Nutrition by Early Start Nutrition