As a parent, we’ve all felt the pressures of helping our little ones reach certain milestones. When it comes to weaning them from the bottle, it’s no different. Those bottles of delicious goodness have been a source of nourishment and comfort for most of their little lives. Weaning them off may feel like you are ripping their hearts from their chests.
But, from dental woes, such as tooth decay, to increased chances of obesity and ear infections, there are a lot of solid reasons to give the bottle a boot. If you choose not to go the cold turkey route, here are some tips to smoothly transition from bottle to cup without too many tears for baby – and you.
1. Start early. Introduce a sippy cup around 6 months old. That’s usually when kids start drinking water. Let them hold and become used to the cup with water and milk at mealtime. Around their first birthday, you can make the switch from breast or formula milks to cow’s milk.
If things are stressful at home, however, Gina Montion, MD, a pediatrician with Banner Health Center Phoenix, says it’s okay to postpone a few months. “Whether your little one is teething or sick, if things are stressful around the house, it’s perfectly fine to postpone weaning until they are better.”
2. Ease them into it. It’s very common for your child to refuse milk in a cup. It’s okay. Every week introduce a cup at another feeding and slowly decrease the number of bottles. Usually the last bottle to stop is the one that provides the most comfort, such as the nighttime bottle. However, if your child is still refusing, Dr. Montion says they can still get their calcium from other dairy sources, such as cheese and yogurt or plant-based alternatives.
3. Supplement with vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency in children can have adverse effects on children, such a rickets, a condition of softening of the bones. If your child isn’t consuming enough milk daily (16-24 ounces daily), they’ll likely need to take a vitamin D supplement as well to get the recommended daily 600 IU per day. Vitamin D supplements for kids are easy to find at stores. Or ask your doctor for recommendations.
4. Praise them. When your child uses the cup, celebrate and let them know what a big kid they are for drinking milk out of the cup.
5. Offer other comforts. If your little one is needing extra comfort that used to be given by the bottle, find a soft blanket, stuffed animal or pacifier (binky) and spend extra time cuddling your child.
“They won’t be little forever, so enjoy the extra snuggles with your little one,” Dr. Montion says.
If all else fails, you can decide to go cold turkey, although Dr. Montion says it’s important to know that it could make the weaning tougher, it’ll just depend on your child’s temperament and needs. “Don’t be discouraged if they don’t take to the cup right away. Just keep trying. They won’t be on the bottle forever.”
If you are still struggling, speak with your child’s Banner Health pediatrician or health care provider.