Article exerpts adapted from:
Kidshealth.org; Marrisa Hearsh M.D.
Parents.com; Deborah J. Waldman
Art Nowark, M.D., Professor of Pediatric Denistry
Any parent who has witnessed the love affair between baby and bottle knows “security” is a bottle's main appeal. However, leading pediatricians recommend that parents should start weaning their child off the bottle at around 12 months and be completely bottle free from 18 months for a variety of reasons, the two most important being:
1. Tooth Erosion: Prolonged bottle drinking can damage baby teeth.
Because formula constantly washing over the teeth begins to produce “milk rot”, especially if the child is falling asleep with a bottle. Milk rot happens when an acidic solution ( in this case, formula) is washing over the teeth repeatedly. The acid decalcifies the teeth making them more sensitive to pain and cavities.
2. Loss of Appetite.
Toddlers who are able to eat reasonable portions of solid food need only need two to three servings of dairy a day, equivalent to 16 to 24 ounces of milk. While milk is a healthy food, children who drink too much are often not hungry enough for solid food, missing out on important nutrients like iron, vitamin C and Vitamin B.
So How Do I Wean My Child Off Their Bottle?
The earlier you start weaning your child off the bottle, the easier it will be to help them make the switch. The best time is typically around 12 months as children have the motoric skills to sit up, hold and drink from a cup. The longer you wait, the more attached your child will become to the bottle, making separation all the more difficult.
Phase It Out:
Don’t cut out the bottle all at once—children need time to adjust to changes, particularly with routines they have grown attached to. Start with one bottle at a time and work up from there as your child becomes ready.
For example, if your child is used to drinking 3 bottles a day, start by cutting out the morning bottle first. Replace bottle with a cup and use positive reinforcement. You may have to spend a little time coaxing them in the beginning and leading by example such as “See, you can use a big-girl cup, just like mommy is using!”
Stick to the new bottle routine for at least a week before cutting out another bottle. The last bottle to be illuminated should be the night time bottle, as this is typically the bottle children take most comfort in.
Praise, Praise, Praise!
Give your child lots of encouragement as they begin to wean from the bottle. Remember, a bottle is your child’s ‘security code’ and they may feel very reluctant to give it up in the beginning. Help your child make the switch by showing them how much more fun “big boy/girl” cups can be. Get others at home involved too. (ex. “Look Grandma, see how Jane is drinking milk out of a big girl cup now!) The more positive reinforcement your child has, the better.
Going "Cold Turkey"For a child who is strongly attached to his/her bottle as a comfort object, a gradual approach may be too difficult for them. A sudden withdrawal can be painful for everyone, but it often turns out to be the most effective method. Here are some ideas to ease the process:
- Get your child used to the idea of no bottles before you actually phase them out. About a week before the big day, tell him that now that he's such a big boy, it's time for him to give up his bottle. Remind him every day that soon he's not going to have bottles anymore. Then physically remove the bottles from the house and let him see that they're not around.
- Let your child participate in the process. Explain that you understand how hard this change might be for him. The fact that you can talk about what's happening and why is one of the advantages of weaning an older child.
- Offer him a reward, such as a snack that he loves, for making it through a day or night without his bottle.
- Have a cup of water or juice ready for the time of day when she seems to demand the bottle most.
- Talk with your child about replacing the bottle with a soothing object. For instance, suggest that she hug the teddy bear whenever she misses the bottle.