When are babies ready to wean?
Toddlers can become attached to their bottles because it provides a sense of comfort and security in addition to providing nourishment. However, weaning is an integral part of a baby’s development. Weaning your child from a bottle may be challenging. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests stopping using a bottle before your baby is 18 months old. If not at 18 months, then definitely before the age of 2 years old, but the sooner, the better. The more parents wait to start the transition, the more attached their child may become. At six months, parents can introduce water in a sippy cup in addition to breast milk or formula intake. Children are ready to be weaned when they
- Can sit up by themselves
- Can eat from a spoon
- Show more curiosity about solid foods
- Have a set routine for mealtimes
Why is it important to wean your child off the bottle?
If you thought bottles would not cause any harm to your child, then it’s time to re-think that because long-term bottle use can have negative effects. Some of the reasons to switch to cups are as follows.
- Bottles promote tooth decay. Milk has a type of sugar called lactose. Milk, when sucked from a bottle, especially as the baby sleeps, can accumulate in the oral cavity and cause carries (baby bottle carries).
- Prolonged use of bottles is associated with obesity.
- Constant sucking can misalign the position of the baby’s adult teeth down the line. It can also interfere with the development of the facial muscles and palate.
- Drinking while lying down increases the risk of ear infections. Some milk may gurgle up in the back of the throat and pool near the Eustachian tube. This increases the risk of ear infections.
How do I wean my child off the bottle?
Weaning should be a gradual process. Try weaning the child when they are fully ready. Try these tips for successful weaning.
- Wean your child during a relatively relaxed time. For instance, it is not a good idea to start weaning during the arrival of a new sibling or when the family is moving to a new house.
- Introduce the cup early at six months. Let your child hold and get familiar with the cup without liquid.
- At age eight to 10 months, substitute the bottle for a sippy cup for one feeding during the day. Choose feeding when your child usually drinks just a little rather than a major mealtime. Use this same feeding time to use the cup every day for a week.
- Every week, substitute the bottle with a cup at another feeding, slowly decreasing the number of bottles your child receives.
- Feed very cautiously. Assist your child in holding the cup and tip a small amount of liquid into their mouth.
- Some children may need to suck as a way for them to control their behavior. It sets their mood to accomplish tasks such as sleeping, concentrating and running. Some children may continue to suck on a pacifier or bottles of plain water for the first few years.
- Consistency is the key to successful weaning. Be sure to give your child the cup at the designated feeding time and don't switch back to the bottle at this feeding.
- As you wean your baby from the bottle, try diluting milk in the bottle with water. For the first few days, fill the bottle with half milk and half water. Then slowly add more water until the entire bottle is water. By that time, your child will most likely lose interest and be asking for the yummy milk that comes in a cup!
- Get rid of bottles or put them out of sight.
Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Stopping the Bottle." <https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/Stopping-the-Bottle>.
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals: "FAQ: Baby Bottle Weaning." <https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/education/faq-baby-bottle-weaning>.
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