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How to Break the Bottle Habit

By Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

Drinking from a baby bottle is a soothing, familiar activity for your baby. But your child needs to break the bottle habit at some point.

Some kids give up the bottle easily, while others struggle. In the interest of full disclosure, I was not rigid about transitioning any of my three children from the bottle to a sippy cup, yet they were all drinking from a cup by 18 months, which is what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests when weaning from the bottle.

It would be nice if your son or daughter decided one day to stop using the baby bottle. Chances are it will take some nudging from you. Here are some important reasons why it pays to get baby off the bottle by 18 months at the latest.

  • Bottle use can cause tooth decay. The natural sugar in milk, baby formula, and 100% juice bathes teeth, providing mouth bacteria with the perfect environment to damage tooth enamel.
  • Your child may drink too many of his or her calories. It’s easier for a child to drink fluids from a bottle, at least when he’s younger. Fluids replace foods with the vital nutrients your toddler needs to thrive, including protein and iron.

You may think your child is taking supreme comfort in drinking from the bottle, but you never know. Weaning your child may be easier than you think. However, there’s no need to go “cold turkey” with the bottle. Offer the cup more often and drop the bottle feedings that he cares least about, like the morning feeding. Save eliminating the bedtime bottle for last.

You may want your child off the bottle earlier than 18 months. That’s fine, as long as they are ready developmentally to handle a covered sippy cup or a plastic cup (get ready for the mess!). Most babies are ready, and eager, to experiment with drinking from a cup by their first birthdays.

Be aware that young toddlers may become increasingly inflexible as time goes by, and you may find yourself locked in a battle of wills over the baby bottle. No parent wants that, so the sooner you start breaking the bottle habit, the better!

About the Author

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a registered dietitian, a writer, and mother of three. She has worked at the Joslin Diabetes Center and the American Heart Association, and for seven years counseled children and adults about healthy eating and disease prevention at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates in Boston.

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