Weaning off the Bottle
10 October, 2023

Weaning off the Bottle

Weaning off the Bottle: Although there may be some variations of advice depending upon the expert being consulted, many recommend weaning your baby off the bottle by around 12 months.

Weaning off the Bottle

To avoid confusion, in what follows we’re discussing only removing the bottle, containing formula or other liquid, from your baby’s routine. This does not apply to breastfeeding, where very different considerations apply.

Why remove bottles by 12 months?

Babies by around 12 months should be capable of drinking from a cup either unaided or with a little assistance. As such, this is an important developmental milestone.

There is another reason, relating to the fact that a baby’s teeth are typically in contact with the teat of a bottle for a longer period than they would be if drinking from a cup. Particularly if the bottle contains a sweetened drink, this may cause more harmful acids and sugars to be in contact for longer with their gums and developing teeth. Of course, if the bottle contains expressed breastmilk, this would not apply.

Why is the breast different?

Again, although there may be some differences of opinion, most experts agree that suckling should be allowed to continue past 12 months if mother and baby both seem happy with it.

That’s for two reasons:

  • breastmilk is simply the best thing for a developing baby;
  • There are health benefits for many mothers if they breast-feed.

How to wean a baby off the bottle

Every parent and child will need to find the method that works best for them.

Some children drop the bottle with absolutely no objection whatsoever. Others may become very upset and/or simply start refusing a cup, even if they had previously been using it fine in conjunction with a bottle. If a child was previously used to being bottle fed immediately before going to bed, replacing the bottle with a cup may cause difficulties in getting them to subsequently settle.

For that reason, parents may choose to either stop bottles immediately overnight or adopt a phased reduction over time. Some start with the former but after some traumas, switch to the latter. That’s fine, it’s a question of trying whatever seems best for you based on your knowledge of your baby.

There are a few useful tips that might help:

  • from around 6 months, introduce a cup to your baby. Get an identical one for yourself and drink from it as your baby experiments. Make it fun but avoid trying to go exclusively to a cup if your baby has little or no experience of one previously;
  • when you do start trying to replace a bottle with a cup, try not to choose a time when your baby may be under stress (new care provider, starting a daycare centre, moving home etc.);
  • heap plenty of praise on them each time they use their cup successfully.

It’s also useful if from day 1 you make sure that the bottles are stored out of sight, even if you have adopted a gradual approach. In the vast majority of cases, weaning off the bottle is routine and something that, perhaps after a few glitches, is quickly and easily achieved.

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