Babies grow up fast. One day, they can’t even hold their head up, and the next, they’re running away after making a mess. If you’ve been using bottles to feed your little one, you’ve probably realized that it may be time to start transitioning from a bottle to a cup, whether sippy or otherwise.
Whether your baby is ready to move on from their bottle or you're just curious about how to transition from bottles, we have some information for you. At Mommy Care Kit, we understand that there are many things parents need to learn about and do to care for their babies.
There are many reasons parents may be bottle feeding, whether you’re using formula, supplementing, or pumping breast milk for your little one to drink from a bottle. However, at some point, your little one needs to move on from a bottle to a cup.
Here are some of the best methods:
When Should I Start Weaning?
Before we wean our babies off their bottles, we need to figure out when to do it. After all, breast milk or formula is an essential part of a baby's diet in their first year of life, and we don’t want to deprive them of something they need.
Experts generally recommend that parents wean their babies off their bottles between the ages of one and two (or 12 to 24 months). They should be using regular cups once they’re two, but they can start using them earlier than that.
If you start later, it can be much more difficult to help your baby transition between a bottle and a cup. Some parents may even find it beneficial to introduce their babies to sippy cups by the time they’re six months old without trying to use them to replace a bottle. That way, they’re used to the idea of using a sippy cup, but they still get all the breast milk or formula they need.
When your little one is six months old, they may not have the coordination level to use a regular cup or sippy cup. However, once they reach 12 months, they will be much more coordinated and able to hold a cup and drink out of it.
Most babies make the transition from formula to cow’s milk (or a lactose-free alternative) around the time they turn one, but you may want to consult your baby’s pediatrician first.
Why Is It Important To Wean My Baby Off a Bottle?
You may wonder why your baby needs to switch from a bottle to a regular cup. You know it needs to happen sometime, but why, and why so soon?
One of the reasons to start early is to help your little one transition more easily. The older your baby gets, the more likely they are to cling to the bottle.
During the first part of a baby’s life, the act of sucking helps soothe your baby, which is why pacifiers come in handy. Not only do bottles fulfill this function, but they also offer food, and a baby with a full belly is a happy baby.
Most babies who haven’t been weaned will want to drink their bottles throughout the day, which means they won’t want to eat solid foods since they’re full. They’ll end up drinking more breast milk or formula than they need, which can lead to issues as they grow.
Using a bottle for too long can also lead to cavities and bottle tooth decay, as the sugar from milk or juice may sit on their teeth for too long. Of course, good dental hygiene starting from an early age, like cleaning your newborn’s tongue, can help prevent issues with tooth decay, but bottle feeding may affect how effective it is.
When Should You Call the Doctor?
The weaning process does take time, and most babies aren’t going to make the switch in a day. That said, if you're struggling to wean your baby off the bottle after a few days or need some advice, your pediatrician can help you make the transition.
How Can I Wean My Baby Off Their Bottle?
All babies are different. Some babies may respond to one method better than another. Their response may depend on their age and how attached they are to the bottle.
One of the methods that you can use to wean your baby off the bottle is to simply stop giving your baby bottles. You’ll want to let them know they’re ready to try something new since they’re getting older. If you choose this method, you should keep an eye on your baby to ensure they can still get the fluids they need.
Although cold turkey may work for some parents, it’s not always the best solution. Some babies need time to get used to the new object they are using and may be unable to pick it up immediately. You may also risk having a very grumpy baby for the first few days.
2. Mealtime and Bedtime Bottle
Instead of quitting cold turkey, limiting when your baby can drink from their bottle might be more beneficial. Instead of allowing your baby to drink from a bottle throughout the day, you can tell them that they’re only allowed to have bottles at mealtimes and before then.
In between those times, you can offer a sippy cup or regular cup to your baby that they can drink from. Once they get used to drinking from a cup, you can drop one bottle weekly.
3. Dropping One Bottle-Feeding at a Time
This method is one of the easiest to use. Let’s say that your baby eats three bottles a day. Instead of getting rid of all of them at once, you can do it over a period of a few weeks. Usually, it’s best to start with the morning bottle and offer your baby some milk or water in a cup along with breakfast.
You'll be able to tell your little one they can have a bottle later, which allows them to look forward to it and learn a new skill. After a week, you can drop the afternoon bottle, and after another week, the bedtime bottle. It’s best to do that one last since it can help soothe your baby and is an integral part of their bedtime routine.
Once the bedtime bottle is eliminated, you should continue with other aspects of the routine, like brushing teeth, baths, and bedtime stories, to signal to your baby that it’s still time for bed and time to wind down.
4. Water Replacement
One way that you can try to curb your baby’s desire for a bottle is to slowly replace the milk in it with water. It’s best to start with a mixture of equal parts water and milk. After a few days, you can increase the amount of water and continue to do so until your little one isn’t as interested in the bottle.
If you offer a cup of milk while doing this, your little one will probably be more interested in that than the bottle containing milky water. However, this should be offered only after you’ve transitioned from formula to cow's milk.
What Are Some Helpful Tips To Encourage Your Little One?
Your little one may have concerns about changing from a bottle to a cup, so it’s important to encourage them while they’re trying new things.
1. Celebrate Your Baby’s Accomplishments
Whenever your baby drinks out of a cup, you should praise them. It might seem like a small detail, but for your baby, it’s monumental. If you say things like, “Good job! You’re drinking out of a big kid cup like Mommy/Daddy,” this can encourage your baby to continue drinking out of a cup.
2. Find the Root of a Complaint
Sometimes, your little one may be upset and ask for a bottle. When they do, you’ll want to try to find the reason why they are upset. If they’re hungry or thirsty, you’ll be able to give them food or water with their cup.
Alternatively, your baby may just want the comfort of holding a bottle to self-soothe. If that’s the case, you can cuddle with them, give them hugs, and do other comforting activities. The bottle was a comfort item for them, but they don’t need it anymore because you’re there for them.
Another reason that babies may want their bottles back is that they are bored. If this is the case, they’ll need you to sit down and play with them for a little bit.
3. Hide the Bottles
One way to keep your little one from asking for bottles a lot is to hide them. “Out of sight, out of mind,” as people say. Hiding your child’s bottle may help them let it go more easily — or even forget about it altogether.
4. Offer Sippy Cups
Sippy cups can be a great stepping stone from a bottle to a regular cup. Using a sippy cup with a straw or hard spout is usually recommended rather than a soft spout. You’ll want to try to use it for all the liquids you give your baby, which is usually just milk or water unless they are old enough for juice.
Your baby doesn’t need to have their sippy cup all day, so you should only give it to them if they are thirsty or at mealtimes. Letting your baby sleep with it at night is also not a good idea — this may lead them to overdrink and can also lead to tooth decay.
Watching Your Baby Grow Into a Toddler
Weaning your baby off a bottle is a bittersweet moment. Their days of adorable helplessness are over, and the toddler years are beginning, which is also adorable for different reasons. It may be a long process. Most babies won’t make the switch in a day, but with a little patience and encouragement, your little one will be drinking out of a cup in no time.
If you’re looking for more resources on your baby’s growth and developmental milestones, you can check out our archive of pregnancy resources or products for moms, like the TENS Unit.
Discontinuing The Bottle | HealthyChildren.org
How to Wean Your Baby Off Bottles | Cleveland Clinic