How to Wean From the Bottle With Your Toddler

By Yvonne Chan

March 6, 2020

There are a few good reasons for weaning your toddler (18 months to 2.5 years old) from the bottle. Prolonged use of the bottles can increase the risk of tooth decay as well as poor dental and feeding skills development. Additionally, the recommended amount of milk intake for babies 9 months and older is a maximum of 500 mL (2 cups) per day. Milk can interfere with iron absorption if they drink more than 750mL (~3 cups) per day. There is a higher tendency for older babies who continue using the bottle to drink more than this recommended daily amount. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies wean off the bottle at 12 months, and no later than 18 months. Learning how to use a cup can begin as early as 4-6 months with the introduction of solid foods to your baby. Between 4-6 months of age, babies have the motor skills to sit up and can start to learn how to eat solid foods and drink from a sippy cup, a straw cup, or an open mouth cup. Between the age of 8-9 months, babies have the motor coordination to bring food, utensils, and cups to their mouths. 

Here are a few tips in making the weaning process easier on your baby.

  • Positive Role Modeling: Toddlers love to imitate adults. Drink from cups at the table during mealtimes
  • Offer cups with easy to hold handles, spouted lids, or toddler cups with straw
  • Offer comforting distractions such as stuffy, a lovie, or singing a song and cuddles when the toddler asks for the bottle

The key to weaning a toddler from a habit such as a bottle is consistency, consistency, consistency. Before you begin the weaning process write out a 1-week weaning plan and review it with your toddler’s caregivers. Have everyone on board with the plan and on the same page. 

Here is an example of a weaning plan:

Day 1 & 2: 

  • Bottle with milk in AM
  • Milk in Cup with a morning snack
  • Bottle with milk after nap
  • Bottle at the beginning of bedtime routine
  • Water in cup throughout the day

Day 3 & 4: 

  • Milk in a cup with breakfast
  • Milk in Cup with a morning snack 
  • Bottle with milk after nap 
  • Bottle at the beginning of bedtime routine
  • Water in cup throughout the day

Day 5 & 6: 

  • Milk in a cup with breakfast
  • Milk in a cup with lunch 
  • Milk in a cup with an afternoon snack 
  • Bottle at the beginning of bedtime routine
  • Water in cup throughout the day

Days 7 and onward:

  • Milk in a cup with meals or snacks and water in cup throughout the day

If your baby is requiring the bottle for naps or sleep, replace that bottle feed with a new habit or a new activity, like reading a book or singing a song to his favorite stuffy. If your toddler is in the habit of going to bed or going down a nap with a bottle, that will be the last one to wean. However, start moving that bottle feed to the beginning of the nap time and bedtime routine on Day 1. Do not put your toddler to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice, or other product that contains sugar. Sugar and acids in these liquids can cause tooth decay.

On day 7 remove and pack away all bottles and bottle parts. Put the kids cups and other cups in the cupboard where the bottles are usually stored. If the toddler asks for the bottle, show them the bottles are all gone. You can pump up their confidence and give them lots of positive reinforcements by telling them how proud you are that they can drink from a cup like the big kids. 

We at The Mama Coach understand that there are a lot of factors that affect feeding your child! For additional information and an individualized plan for helping your toddler continue to feed and eat well as they grow, book a feeding consultation plan with a Mama Coach. The Lactation and Feeding Support Plan includes 1 in-home visit and 1 week of unlimited email support. We will do a complete assessment and see the full picture to build you a customized feeding plan with appropriate recommendations on what will work for your baby. 

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