Breastfeeding & Bottle Feeding | Weaning | Bottle
Weaning from the Bottle
Age to Wean
Many wean the baby from a bottle by the time the baby is around one year old. I asked my son’s doctor at my son’s one year appointment if I needed to transition from bottle feeding and he said that it is fine to wait until my son didn’t need to drink as much, possibly starting around 15 months. Sears also discuss that “[i]t is not unusual or abnormal for a baby to still want a bottle at two years of age” (215). In addition, Sears in reference to breastfeeding weaning state, "weaning occurs when the sucking need dissipates - sometime between nine months and three and a half years" (195).
The main reason to wean a baby from the bottle earlier than later is as the child approaches the two year mark, it may be harder to wean than when the child is “between twelve and eighteen months” (Sears 215). It is also important to make sure the child does not associate going to sleep with drinking a bottle and instead develops good sleep habits. Please refer to the “Sleep” section for more information.
Another reason to wean from bottle feeding is to avoid tooth decay and an overbite. Tooth decay can develop if the child falls asleep with milk in her mouth or constantly drinks juice out of a bottle (Sears 215 - 216). I never gave my son juice in a bottle. When my son was 20 months he still had a bottle usually three times a day, morning, around nap time, and before bed. He usually drank the bottle and then we read stories so we'd make sure we keep him up for the recommended 20 minutes to try to prevent tooth decay. According to Dr. Greene, before the baby is 18 months it helps to “keep him awake for 20 minutes after his last feeding or to give him a little bit of water right after the feeding. ”
We generally would also brush my son’s teeth after drinking his last bottle of milk before he went to bed or at least give him some water to wash the milk off his teeth. For more information on why we were still giving our son a bottle, please refer to the "My Family" section below.
Transition to Sippy Cup/ Straw Cup
There is not an exact time that is right to transition to a cup or sippy cup and it will depend on the baby. “When babies are able to sit up by themselves without using their hands for support (usually between six and eight months)” they are generally able to start using a sippy cup themselves (Sears 235). My son started drinking out of a sippy cup when he was around six months. By the time he was 20 months he drank out of a regular cup. (We still used sippy cups on outings to avoid spilling the drink but at home he usually drank out of a regular BPA free plastic cup.) Note: My son drank anything but milk out of a sippy cup or regular cup. Please refer below for my family experience.
Many people start giving the baby whole milk (do NOT give whole milk if the baby is less than a year) in a sippy cup rather than a bottle so once the baby transitions to whole milk she no longer drinks from a bottle. Another type of cup is a straw cup. They are similar to sippy cups in that they do not spill and my son did enjoy using a straw cup. I personally found the straw cups tedious to put together even more so than a bottle. One mom I talked to joked how she was happy she no longer had to put together bottles but then laughed and said so now all I do all day is put together straw cups. When my son was two and we finally transitioned completely off of the bottle for milk, he picked out his own cup which was a spill-proof drinking cup and it was very easy to put together basically like a sippy cup. Please refer to the next section on letting your child pick out her special cup to help with weaning off of the bottle.
Have Child Pick Out Special Cup
You may want to take your child to the store with you and ask him to pick out his favorite cup to drink his "milk" (or whatever is his age appropriate drink). As discussed below, I did not transition my son completely off of his bottle until he was two. When my son started drinking water and juice (which I dilute with part water part juice) I only offered that in a sippy cup but he always drank "milk" (breast milk, then formula, then whole milk) from his bottle. When he started approaching the two year mark, I started talking about how soon he will be drinking his milk from a cup. Then when he was 25 months old, I simply switched to a sippy cup and did not give him a bottle at any sittings. Thus, he usually didn't drink any milk. After a few days he would take an ounce or two from the sippy cup but he was not thrilled with the situation. Then about five days into it I told him we were going to the store to buy him a new special cup that he could use to drink his milk.
At the store, I picked a few cups out that were different than any ones he'd ever seen before. At this age my son drank everything (except milk) from an adult cup he didn't use a sippy cup unless we were traveling in the car so I tried to pick non-sippy type cups. Then I explained again that he should pick his special cup to use for his milk since he no longer is going to drink milk out of a bottle. He picked out the Explora Tommee Tippee Truly Spill-Proff Drinking Cup, which was my preference as well. He seemed really excited about the cup and even before we left the store, he started asking for milk. I asked him if he wanted to drink his milk out of his new cup, and he screamed, "Yes!"
Determining whether you are going to transition gradually or all at once is something else to consider. During the infant stage, I generally think a slow transition works best, or at least my baby preferred a slow transition. For example, please refer to the "Formula Transition" article on how to transition different formulas. You could also use this slow transition schedule when you are weaning your baby from breastfeeding to bottle feeding. This schedule may work well when transitioning an infant from bottle to sippy cup as well. Another way to do a gradual transition is to switch out the least favorite feeding to a sippy cup. If your baby drinks her bottle with her meal it may be even easier to simply start giving the milk (breast milk, formula, whole milk depending on age) in a sippy cup rather than the bottle and then gradually transition out all drinks including milk given around nap or bedtime.
For some, it may be necessary to simply one day stop giving your child the bottle. Since I waited until my son turned two to stop giving him a bottle of milk, based on his personality I felt it was best to simply give him his "special cup" of milk during the time he normally would have a bottle. At this age, I knew if I sometime gave him a bottle of milk he would simple wait until that time and would not drink the milk when given in the cup. A few days into the transition, I did allow him to have one bottle although I explained the entire time that it was his last bottle as from now on he was going to drink milk out of his "special cup." After that one lapse he never got a bottle again. As with everything you have to do what works best for your baby. Some babies may do well with a gradual transition and others may do best with an immediate transition.
Some moms are reluctant to wean the baby from breastfeeding. I on the other hand, was reluctant to wean my son from bottle feeding. It was our special time together. Since for many months of my son’s infant life he disliked the bottle feeding process, primarily due to his acid reflux, once he was eating well, I wanted to enjoy the time together. Once my son was over a year, giving him a bottle became one of the most relaxing times of the day for both of us. We would go up to his bedroom, put on soothing music, sit in the glider, and my son would drink his bottle while cuddling with his blanket. Even at 17 months when my son wanted to do EVERYTHING by himself: walk down the stairs without holding my hand, feed himself with a fork and spoon by himself, brush his teeth by himself…he still would let me hold his bottle during this special time together.
In addition, because of my son’s acid reflux, he never seemed to love milk. If he liked to drink milk then it would have been easier to one day just tell him if he wants to drink milk he’ll have to drink it out of a sippy cup and not a bottle. Since he didn’t seem to like milk much, I was happy he would drink it anyway I could get him to drink it and thus, I continued to give it to him in his bottle. Every time I gave him a sippy cup of milk he spit it out or wouldn’t even put the cup to his lips when he saw it had milk in it. I still continued to give him a sippy cup of milk even though he rarely drank it. I also tried to get him to drink milk out of a cup by letting him use a straw. He loves to drink out of a straw. Sometimes that works a little but he still wouldn’t drink very much milk this way.
Since generally it is recommended for him to drink around 18 ounces of milk until he turns two, I continued to let my son drink milk out of a bottle. For awhile, I started to give my son his morning bottle in his highchair and this technique may have helped transition him to drinking milk out of a sippy cup. I was not consistent with giving him a bottle in his highchair and resorted back to our cuddle time together by letting him drink his bottle in his bedroom. I figured he is going to grow up so fast that why not treasure a few more months of spending some extra time with my baby.
I never game my son anything other than milk (breast milk, formula, then whole milk) in a bottle. At six months when he started drinking water and juice (diluted with water) I only gave it in a sippy cup. I also never let him carry around his bottle of milk, he always drank his milk at designated times and after he was finished the bottle was put away. If he did drink a bottle of milk around nap or bedtime which usually was the case, we would then we give him water or brush his teeth. At 20 months my son would occasionally drink milk out of a regular cup (non sippy cup) but usually only a sip or two. I've been able to follow my son's lead as to when he's ready for things and I felt that as he approached two he would be more ready to fully transition from drinking milk from his bottle. As the date approached, I talked more and more about how soon he won't be drinking milk out of his bottle and that he'll be drinking it out of a cup.
When my son turned two, I felt it was time to fully transition from drinking milk from a bottle to a cup. At this age, I knew he was getting enough nutrition from the food he ate, he wasn't required to drink as much milk, and he was easily transitioning to other things such as going to the bathroom on the potty. In addition, we were expecting his baby sister in about five months and I knew if we didn't transition him off of his bottle several months before she was born it was going to be much harder once he saw her drinking from a bottle.
Since I waited until my son turned two to stop giving him a bottle of milk, based on his personality I felt it was best to simply give him his "special cup" of milk during the time he normally would have a bottle. At this age, I knew if I sometime gave him a bottle of milk he would simple wait until that time and would not drink the milk when given in the cup. A few days into the transition, I did allow him to have one bottle although I explained the entire time that it was his last bottle as from now on he was going to drink milk out of his "special cup." The next day we went shopping and I let my son pick out his own "special cup" to use for his milk. Please refer above, for more information as to why this may have helped with my son's transition. For a few days, my son was so excited to drink out of the "special cup" that he seemed to be drinking more milk out of the cup than he was drinking out of a bottle. Then after the novelty of the cup wore off he cut back on the amount of milk he was drinking, maybe only drinking four to eight ounces the entire day. This is what I expected and is part of the reason I waited so long to transition him to a cup.
My son's Daddy loves milk and so as my son continues to see Daddy drink milk at dinner time he may eventually want to drink more milk. Milk is probably the only thing I don't like, and so if he takes after me he may never be a big milk drinker. Overall, I'm very happy with our transition to a cup. I think the key is to wean when ready.
Wean When Ready
As with everything, you have to do what is right for you and your baby. Bottle feeding, like breastfeeding your baby is not just a means of providing your baby with nutrition; it is a special bonding time for both you and your baby. When the time is right for you and your baby to wean from bottle feeding, you may want to substitute the bottle feeding time with additional cuddle time such as reading a story together. You will know what is right for you and your baby. Good luck and remember to enjoy the time together.
Greene, Alan M.D. , and Cheryl Greene. "Nighttime Feedings. " drgreene.com. 7 Dec. 2009.
Sears, William M.D., Martha Sears, R.N., Robert Sears, M.D. and James Sears, M.D. The Baby Book:
Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby - From Birth to Age Two. New York: Little, 2003.
Last Updated: July 2010; February 2010