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Does the thought of bottle weaning your toddler make you want to crawl under the kitchen table and cry? If not, you’re doing well, and if so, you’re not alone.
Bottle weaning is particularly hard when your child is comforted by the bottle (especially at bed time). And it’s hard on mamas!
Bottle Weaning is a major step in the transition from babyhood to toddlerdom, and we know from experience how difficult it can be both physically and emotionally.
So what’s a tired mama to do? Let the kid go to bed with that precious bottle or fight it out? The good news is that with a few tips, you can be free of the fight over that damn bottle! We’re saying there won’t be a tear or two, but it can be much easier than you imagine.
Here’s what we’ve learned and want you to know about successfully bottle weaning your precious little one (who turns into a monster when you try to take their bottle away).
We’ve got everything you need to know, including:
- Why bottle is weaning an issue
- When you should bottle wean
- Tips to make bottle weaning easier for everyone
- Bottle substitutions to placate your child
Why Is Bottle Weaning an Issue?
If you’ve struggled with bottle weaning, you probably KNOW that it can be a huge issue for you and your child (and anyone else living in your household). But why?
Well, many children become attached to the comfort of the bottle. You likely held baby and sang or cooed at them while they drank, and they have positive feelings attached to it. Fret not, mama. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! In fact, you’ve likely done something right if your baby is attached to their bottle.
But there comes a time (more on this next) when baby needs to be weaned from this attachment.
Pediatric experts note that there are several negative health issues that can spring from baby being bottle fed for too long, including:
- Tooth decay
- Improper dental development
- Delayed appropriate feeding skills
- Not consuming enough solids to meet nutrient requirements
When is the “Right” Time to Bottle Wean?
Obviously, each child is different, and what works for one baby might not work for another. But many pediatricians recommend trying a sippy cup around 6 months of age and weaning your child off the bottle around 12-18 months. (But to be honest, my son Jack was definitely 2 before we put ourselves through the sippy cup transition.)
Doctors also recommend switching from formula to cow’s milk around 12 months of age. For many families, it can be a natural transition to switch formula in a bottle to cow’s milk in a sippy cup.
If this sounds early to you, you can also go by milestones. For instance, your child is likely ready to be weaned when:
- When they have the developmental skills to hold a sippy cup (usually around one year of age)
- They can fully sit up by themselves
- They show interest in solid foods
- Have an established routine for mealtimes
When Is a Child “Too Old” for a Bottle?
Look, if you’re googling “when is a child too old for a bottle,” you’re either a judgemental family member, you have a judgmental family member, or you’re a mama who has a more than sneaking suspicion that it’s time for your kid to give it up.
We are ABSOLUTELY not here to judge you if your two-year-old is still clinging to the bottle. Mine was too! But if I could go back in time, I’d do it differently. Live and learn.
We’re simply here to provide the best information for you to make an informed decision about your child’s bottle weaning.
That said, as we mentioned earlier, there are some very real implications, including tooth decay, that can happen when your child is on the bottle too long. And experts say that the longer you wait to wean, the more attached your child will be (and the harder it will be to wean them). True story. Trust me.
So the main takeaway here is that, in an ideal world, you should start trying to wean around one year of age to help it go as smoothly as possible.
Tips to Make Bottle Weaning Easier for Everyone
Now that we’ve established when to bottle wean and its importance in terms of baby’s oral development, it’s time to try this out! Ready? Deep breaths. You’ve got this!
1. Make sure there are no extra stressors when you decide to wean
Here’s the deal: you don’t want to try to take away your 14-month-old’s bottle during a stressful time, like starting daycare or moving into a new home. Make sure that things are as peaceful as possible when you decide to try bottle weaning.
2. Don’t drop the bottle completely at first
You know how quitting anything cold turkey as an adult sucks?
Well, it’s the same for your child! Try dropping a bottle during the middle of the day when your child can have baby food or some solids instead. Likely, they won’t even think about the missing bottle.
Over time, you can continue to decrease the number of bottles your child receives. The evening bottle will be the hardest to drop, so save that one for last.
3. Start early and proceed gradually
Introduce the cup early.
We’re talking 3-6 months. Why? Well, your child won’t be drinking from it this early, but seeing the object and getting used to it is a good thing! You can let them play with it and hold it. (Didn’t do this and your baby is older? No worries. Just start now.)
Around age 8-10 months, doctors recommend substituting one bottle with a sippy cup per day. Again, this shouldn’t be a major meal time. Use the same cup at the same meal time every day.
Go week by week. After being consistent with the sippy cup substitution for one meal in the first week, try substituting the bottle a second time. Continue gradually and with care! You want to make sure that you are helping your little one sip from their new cup and that they get the hang of it. This will eliminate frustration for both of you!
4. Have empathy and offer comfort
We know how frustrating it is to want to go to bed yourself when your one-year-old is throwing a holy hell fit over a bottle. Your first instinct is to probably hand them the bottle and close their nursery door, and we don’t blame you.
But try to think about it from your little person’s perspective: you’ve taken away something that brings them comfort and joy, and that, well, sucks for them.
Try offering objects to replace the bottle, such as a lovey, extra cuddles at nighttime, or an extra song or two as they fall asleep.
Reminding your baby that you are there for them despite the lack of the bottle is helpful for you both as you navigate this transition. And please do keep in mind that you’re BOTH transitioning here. It’s okay to feel like this is hard on baby AND yourself.
5. Offer praise and new cups!
So, empathy is great, but so is praise.
Your toddler is very receptive to your tone of voice, so make sure you let them know that you are proud of them when they take a sippy cup instead of a bottle.
Involve them in shopping for the new cup (or unwrapping it if you ordered it from Amazon). Get them excited about the new cup and show them how you drink from one.
For instance, grab both your coffee cup in the morning and their sippy cup. Make a big deal about both baby and mama drinking out of cups together. This will be a good bonding activity for you both and will give you a chance to praise your child for drinking out of their cup.
The Best Sippy Cup for Weaning from Bottle
When it comes to choosing the best sippy cup to help wean your baby, there are a TON of options out there. And honestly, your child will probably have a preference. So where should you start?
We asked our community of moms to give us their favorite sippy cups for bottle weaning, and they definitely delivered! In what follows, you’ll find our favorite mama-tested and baby-approved sippy cups for weaning from the bottle.
The Munchkin gentle trainer cup has rave reviews both from our community and on Amazon! The soft, flexible spout is super gentle on teething gums, and the handles on the side are easy for baby’s hands to grip.
We also love the fact that you can buy two of these at a time–one for home and one for daycare or grandma’s house. Plus, it’s BPA-free and safe for the top rack of the dishwasher.
Thinkbaby Stainless Steel Thinkster Bottle is a lot like the stainless steel bottles us parents are obsessed with–it’s virtually indestructible!
Made from medical grade stainless steel (BPA and phalate free!), this bottle has a silicone straw that provides an easy transition from strawless sippy cups.
If your child isn’t quite ready to transition to a sippy cup with a straw, consider the ThinkBaby Conversion Kit! You can use it with the 9 oz stainless steel bottle before baby is ready for a straw.
The conversion kit comes with two sippy spouts and one set of handles to help baby grip the bottle more easily.
Looking for something a little more advanced that won’t spill when your toddler prances around your house with it? The Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup has a 360 drinking edge that miraculously DOESN’T SPILL!
The cup automatically seals when baby stops drinking, and the best part is that it’s dentist recommended!
This cup has a weighted straw, which means baby can hold the cup at any angle and drink from it no matter which way they turn their little head.
The flip-top lid covers the straw, too, which means that it’s great for travel and won’t spill in your diaper bag. Amazing.
Ready to let your little one drink out of their own cup? These stainless steel cups are a great addition to your toddler’s drinkware repertoire!
The good news is that you can actually buy sippy tops for when you don’t have your toddler locked down in their high chair.
This vacuum-insulated bottle is a great option for when your child is fully weaned. It has a hygienic straw that you can cover with the touch of a button (you don’t have to push the straw down with your hand!).
This bottle comes in a ton of different colors and characters like Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty.
Which sippy cups have you found for successful bottle weaning? Tell us all about them in the comments!
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.