It's every mom's question at some point: How do I wean my baby from his bottle, and when do I start trying?
Among Circle of Moms members who've posted recently on this topic, the average age for beginning to transition a toddler off the bottle is around 12 months — and some expert resources, including WebMD, say this is a good target age. But many toddler make the switch before or after this benchmark. What's really OK?
First, it's important to understand why we have to get our kids off the bottle at some point. The biggest reason, according to Penelope Leach, author of numerous books on child care, is that if kids get addicted to the bottle, they might drink so much milk that they aren't hungry for other important nutrition from food. Too much bottle-feeding can also cause cavities. This is especially common among babies who take their bottles into the crib, as the milk sugars settle in their mouths.
Everyone seems to agree that weaning is important; the question is when?
Circle of Moms member Kyja W. asked her son to go cold turkey at 11 months. She threw out all the bottles in the house, and offered a sippy cup in their stead. It was a miserable day of crying, but one day was all it took. Rhonda W. waited until her daughter was two, and she involved her toddler in the process. Together they had a little "throwing-away-the-bottle party." To Rhonda's pleasant surprise, her daughter never asked for a bottle again.
My story is similar to Rhonda's. My son was down to only a bottle at night before bed at 18 months, but when we took a two-week trip to Italy, he backslid. Perhaps because he never got fully on the right time zone, and because the weather was much warmer than he was used to at home, he wasn't terribly interested in food. (And that is highly unusual!) In Italy he became attached to his friend, the bottle, and we had to buy milk every day in some new foreign town, or order it from room service if stores were closed. His poop got very pale for a few days, but it really did sustain him, both nutritionally and emotionally. The emotional connection proved to be the sticking point when we got home.
As Leach points out, babies suck for comfort as well as for nutrition (bottle and breast), and "you don't have to wean your baby very early in order to avoid long-continued dependence on a bottle." I have long trusted Leach's advice, and that made me feel better about waiting until my son was nearly two to fully break him of the habit. But my partner and I still couldn't figure out how the heck we were going to do it.
One popular method is to replace the milk with water, which some parents, like Circle of Moms member Vanessa M., feel will be unappealing enough to break the addiction. I tried this with my son, and it made him as mad as if I had withdrawn the bottle altogether. He knew he'd been tricked.
Eventually though, my son led the way. We realized that his fussiness at night was being caused by the bottle, which had become a distraction to sleep, and we needed to help him let it go — literally. We always talk to him and explain what we think a good plan is — and one good reason to wait until toddlers are older is that they actually understand what you're saying to them, more or less — and he characteristically nods in agreement. But he has a short memory when it comes to giving up something he desires, or thinks he desires. We held firm and told him he could have only the sippy cup, and we offered other replacements such as extra toys in the bathtub and new books. Still, he was quite unhappy about the whole thing.
Then, a lucky break came in odd wrapping: he got sick. With a high fever, he didn't want milk, so we were able to abandon the bottle for two days. Once he felt better, we knew we had to keep the ball rolling, so we maintained our stance, even explaining to him that not having the bottle at night would help him go "night-night," something he loves, but struggles to do. He trusted us reluctantly, fussing less each night. By the fourth night, miraculously, he didn't mention it at all.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.