Are you wondering if it’s time for your baby to stop using a bottle to feed?
For many infants, the bottle isn’t just a source of nutrition, but also provides them with comfort and security.
As a result, stopping bottle use is not always an easy process, but it’s important for your baby to transition as recommended since there are some risk factors associated with prolonged bottle use.
What age to stop bottle feeding?
Why Should You Stop Bottle Feeding?
The American Society of Paediatrics recommends weaning your baby from the bottle before 18 months of age. The reason for this is that prolonged bottle feeding has been associated with a wide range of problems including health and developmental issues.
Prolonged Bottle Feeding and Tooth Decay
Natural and artificial sugars found in many baby milk formulas are able to stick to the teeth and gums. Certain bacteria love these sugars and produce acids that can result in cavities and infections.
Prolonged bottle feeding is associated with a higher risk of tooth decay in babies, with parents who forget to brush their infant’s teeth before bedtime being one of the primary causes.
Bottles Can Impact Dental Development
Prolonged bottle feeding and its impact on dental development have been well documented in many studies. One study showed that infants who bottle fed over a prolonged period of time had a tendency to develop an open bite. (1)
Increased Risk of Iron Deficiency Anaemia
Prolonged use of bottle feeding, specifically with cow’s milk can put infants at risk of developing iron deficiency anemia. This can result from the intake of excessive amounts of milk, which can hinder the absorption of iron in the gut. (2)
Increased Risk of Obesity
Bottle feeding cow’s milk or breast milk is associated with an increased risk of excess weight gain and poor self-regulation. (3)
Breastfeeding involves suckling, in which case it is the baby who determines how much milk to drink, while bottle feeding is typically terminated by the parent who decides when the baby has had enough. This may be one of the main reasons for excess calorie intake seen in bottle feeding.
Increased Risk of Ear Infections
Milk contains lots of valuable nutrients including proteins, fats, and sugars. Unfortunately, these nutrients are also very appealing to many types of bacteria.
That is why babies that drink milk from a bottle lying down are at an increased risk of ear infections. This milk is able to make its way into the ears, specifically into the Eustachian tubes where it can pool and become a breeding ground for bacteria and result in an ear infection. (4)
When Should You Stop Bottle Feeding?
As with most things, there are no exact times as all infants develop at slightly different rates. With that said it’s important to ensure you aren’t allowing your child to prolong their bottle feeding stage longer than necessary.
As the American Society of Paediatrics recommends, complete weaning from the bottle should be achieved before infants reach 18 months of age. This is advised so that infants are not at risk of any of the effects of prolonged bottle feeding.
It is also recommended that the process of weaning begins when infants reach the age of one, at which time you can begin substituting bottle feeding with a cup. It is best to substitute a bottle during the day rather than the feed just before bedtime as this risks disturbing sleep.
How to Help Your Infant Transition from Bottle to Cup
The process of transition is definitely not always easy, so here are some of the best techniques to help you through the process.
Introduce the Cup
Before beginning the journey of transition, it’s a good idea to get your little one used to the idea. At first, give them an empty cup and let them practice holding it independently, then when you think they are ready to let them drink from it. Small volumes of liquid are a great first step and will limit the mess should they spill any or drop it on the floor.
If they are struggling, don’t give up, perseverance is the key and over time they will master the art of drinking with a cup. You can even use a sippy cup or cup with a spout to make it a little easier.
Take it Slow
Don’t expect your toddler to take the transition in their stride as they are likely to miss the comfort and familiarity of their bottle. Instead, begin the process by replacing one feed with the cup and build up gradually until they get used it.
Dilute the Milk
The taste and consistency of the milk is one thing you can control easily and by doing so you can easily make their sippy cup milk taste better. Simply dilute their bottle milk using water and they will soon learn that their cup is more rewarding.
Introduce Sippy Cups
Sippy cups can make the transition process so much easier. These are cups with easy to grip handles, spouts and other design features that help to limit the mess of spillages and make it easy for toddlers to grip and hold.
Reduce Feeding Times
One of the major reasons many kids have problems transiting from bottle to cup is because it’s more than a source of nutrition, it’s also a source of comfort and attachment. For this reason, many children reach for their bottle out of habit, so begin to introduce solid foods. Baby foods and other solids will help them keep full for longer and help you reduce their bottle feeding times.
Make the Bottle Enticing
Kids love vibrant colors and attractive characters so take advantage of that by choosing a more fanciful sippy cup. By using a cup they love they are more likely to want to use it and therefore get used to the cup drinking process.
Give Them Lots of Praise
Don’t forget to praise your child whenever they are showing progress in their transition. Positive reinforcement is a fundamental part of the process that all young kids respond well to.
The process of stopping bottle feeding isn’t always an easy one, but it is important to ensure they avoid risk factors associated with prolonged bottle feeding. This includes issues such as tooth decay, ear infections, obesity, and dental issues.
Remember that the AAP recommends infants should be completely bottle free from the age of 18 months. But you can easily begin the weaning process way before that period by introducing sippy cups and solids in the form of baby foods.
Don’t forget that praising your child can go a long way and that tricks such as diluting their bottle milk are a great trick to encourage them to choose their cup instead.
What bottle transition tricks worked for you and your baby? Let us know in the comments below.