When should you wean your baby off the bottle?

Health experts recommend weaning a baby from a bottle and moving towards a sippy cup at around 15 months.

Health experts recommend weaning a baby from a bottle and moving towards a sippy cup at around 15 months.

Bottles are essential for infants, as this is how many are fed. However, there comes a point in every child’s life when the bottle must be abandoned in favor of a cup.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be weaned off the bottle by the age of 15 months. The process should start when they are a year old, and it should be completed by the time they are 15 to 18 months.

There are a few health issues attributed to prolonged bottle use. Children who are hooked on bottles are at higher risk of developing tooth decay, and they are also more likely to consume too many calories throughout the day. Fortunately, making the switch to a cup doesn’t have to be difficult or traumatic.

The longer your child uses the bottle, the more emotionally attached he or she will become to it. Avoid this problem by starting the process early. As your child approaches age 1, start offering drinks in a sippy cup. Encourage use of the sippy cup with the afternoon meals, gradually working your way to the point when all drinks come through the cup instead of the bottle.

Praise your child by talking about how big he or she is getting and how good they are doing with the big kid cup. The goal here is not to criticize the child for still taking a bottle sometimes, but praise should be given whenever the cup is used successfully.

The bedtime bottle is the hardest to surrender for most children. The Mayo Clinic says the habit of bedtime feeding bottles may increase tooth decay. Your child should never be given bottles filled with milk, juice or other delicious drinks when they are in bed.

If sheer exhaustion prompted you to take this desperate measure, then there is hope for breaking the habit. It all hinges on making the bedtime bottle unappealing. Over the course of a few weeks or more, gradually water down the delicious drink in the bottle. Start by mixing in 1 ounce of water, then 1 1/2 ounces, then 2 ounces. Over time, the drink will turn to water, and your child will lose interest.

Bottles are a necessary part of childhood, but they must be left behind at some point. Start making the transition from bottle to cup when your child is 1 year old. As the process moves forward, encourage your child and praise him or her for using a cup. Over time, your child will make this important switch, setting the stage for healthy teeth and a healthy lifestyle.

Your Charlotte pediatrician can provide additional tips on how to wean your baby of the bottle. If you’re looking for a new physician, try Angie’s List. Members have exclusive access to provider ratings and reviews of recent services written by members just like you.

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