Enjoying motherhood in the full swing will come to an end when your little one grabs his first bottle. Exclusive breast feeding is recommended till the baby is six month old. However, this may be practical only for a few mothers. Mothers producing less milk and working mothers tend to move to bottle feeding sooner than stay at home moms who have sufficient milk. If you fall in the second category, you might be interested to know that many mothers move directly from breast milk to a sipper or cup once the baby is 1-1.5 years, without ever giving their kids the bottle.
In any case, a majority of the moms at some point or the other introduce bottle feeding to their kids. And just as you and your baby become comfortable with the bottle-routine, it will become time to wean him off it and introduce sippy cups and glasses. This might be quite a task!
Why Is It Difficult To Wean Your Baby Off The Bottle?
Although it might take a bit of a time in the initial days, your baby will get used to the bottle feeding eventually. In time, the bottle will give him the same comfort and security he experienced while having your milk. He will start developing a bond with it as the bottle’s nipple gives a similar feel as his mother’s nipple. And more importantly, your baby can suck in milk much faster from a bottle than from your breasts – so don’t be surprised if you meet with resistance when you try to wean him off it.
When Should You Wean The Baby Off The Bottle?
The recent studies show that 9 months is the optimal age to wean babies from the bottle. Many pediatricians suggest that when a baby becomes capable of sitting up alone, holding his head up, and opening his mouth for a spoon, he is ready to add a cup to his mealtime. Infact, doctors suggest that by the time your baby is 18 months, he should have been weaned from the bottle. Some may say 2 years is the maximum age, but most pediatricians agree that the sooner you wean your baby from the bottle, the better.
Why Is It Important To Wean Your Baby Off The Bottle?
It is important to stop your child feeding from the bottle at the right time. This is because of the following reasons:
- Bottle feeding develops tooth decay: Babies have a tendency to suck the bottle very slowly enjoying the taste of the drink. This will result in the sugar and acid to stay longer in contact with the teeth (which will start sprouting from 4 to 7 months), resulting in tooth decay. This is why it is said that bottle feeding should be stopped by 9 months before all the teeth starts to sprout out. Letting him sleep with a bottle is a bigger problem, because production of saliva is less while he is asleep (saliva helps to wash away food particles which retained in the mouth)
- Bottle feeding develops ear infection: A child who is used to take a bottle of milk during bedtime is more likely to get an ear infection than others. This is because the germs from the child’s mouth along with the drink could be flown into the Eustachian tubes at the back of his throat, which leads to middle ear causing ear infection
- Bottle feeding discourages child to have normal food: Babies who are used to bottle foods (whether it is juice, milk or any other fluid food) are less likely to have real food. This will deprive them of balanced diet causing deficiency of vitamins, minerals and iron
- Bottle feeding increases obesity risks: Formula milk is tastier and richer in nutrients. But having it multiple times a day raises the risk of obesity in later life
Now that we all agree that prolonged bottle feeding puts your baby at a disadvantage, let us look at:
How To Wean The Baby Off The Bottle?
Helping the baby get over the bottle in the right time with the right tactic is important. It is imperative that you start to break the habit sooner because as the child grows up, you may not be able to apply the same simple tactics that would work when he was 12 months. Here are eight simple tips to wean your baby of the bottle.
Top 8 Tips To Help You Ditch The Bottle
- Replace liquid food with solid food: Start making them eat more solid food. At first they may refuse to eat. Even if he takes only a single bite, encourage him. Remember, patience is an important factor. Intake quantity will increase day by day. Try different types and combinations of food. You can also use bright colored plates with interesting pictures to get him interested. Gradually they will lose interest in bottle feeding as their hunger is satisfied with solid food
- Choose the correct cup: You need to decide what you want to replace the bottle with – a sipper or a normal cup? We prefer the latter because sooner he learns to drink from a glass like adults the better. Different types of cups are available in the market. Your child may prefer a particular color and/or feel. If possible, take him with you when you go for purchasing the cup. Select at least 2 cups with different color and prints of cartoon characters, flowers and animals which your child like most
- Cheer him while using the cup: You can use some interesting tactics while introducing the cup to your child. For example, take another cup and show him how you are drinking from it and ask him to mimic you (with an empty cup). Now fill his cup with water (during the first few tries, give him little water because most of it will likely end up on to the floor!) and ask him to sip. Cheer him up when he takes more and more water into his mouth. If he gets bored after some time don’t compel him. Try it again after some time (again, remember patience is the key!)
- Choose the right time: Choosing the right time for practicing is important. Ideally, you should select a time when your baby is in a playful mood. Avoid the time when he is sleepy, tired or hungry. Remember, his good mood and willingness count
- Reduce bottle feeding step by step: When your child is able to drink from a cup properly, reduce the bottle feeding in a ‘step by step’ manner. For instance, if he is used to having a bottle feed 3 times a day, start by eliminating the midday feeding. Replace this feed with a solid food feed and give him some water to drink in a cup. If he insists on having milk, give it in a cup. Once this routine kicks off, then eliminate the morning bottle-feeding in the same manner. The evening/night feeding is the most difficult to break and should be dealt with only in the end
- Dilute the contents in the bottle and make the cup contents tastier: If all the above tips do not work we can try this not-so-conventional and slightly sadistic method. Add more water to the milk, juice or whatever drink is been served in the bottle. This will reduce its taste. At the same time, give him his favorite delicious drink in the cup. Gradually he will get an idea that the drink is given in the cup is tastier than the bottle. The hope is he will soon start preferring the cup over the bottle
- Make him say “bye bye” to his bottles: If he is more than 18 months old, talk to him. Tell him that now he is a big boy and should have milk from a cup like mom and dad. Bottle food is only for small babies and that he is growing up fast now. Ask him to throw the bottles away himself and encourage and reward him for that. After that, do not keep any bottle in his vicinity. He might ask for them for few days but you should remind him that he threw it away and you can’t take it back because it is gone
- Spend more quality time: Night time feeding is comparatively most difficult to give up. They will refuse to sleep and try to pull all the tantrums (again your patience count here). Now try some bed time stories and lullaby to make him calm. Spend quality time, but never fall for his tantrums (you fall once, he will know you will fall again). Slowly he will learn to sleep without the bottle in his mouth
We always want our child to be happy. But all the things that make them happy may not be good for them. Even if they throw a fit for their needs initially, we should be consistent in our stand. That way we make their health and future bright.
Read about weaning the baby from the breast here.