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Stopping the Bottle

Stopping the bottle with your toddler can be difficult. Boys Town Pediatrics offers tips on making the transition easier for you and your child.

Transitioning Tips and Benefits

  • The longer parents wait to start the transition, the more attached your child may become. At 6 months of age, parents can start introducing water in a sippy cup to complement breast milk or formula intake. Using a sippy cup to start will help your child adjust to the change and help improve with hand-to-mouth coordination. Find one that has a soft and pliable spout similar to a nipple's texture and begin having your baby test the sippy cup between feedings.
  • Start gradually with once a day and by the time your child is 12 months of age, transition from the bottle to the cup at all meal times, or at least the majority of the time. During the transition, your child may spill quite a few times while adjusting to the cup. Practice makes perfect!
  • Stopping the bottle is important for hygiene as well. The sugars from milk can cause cavities and tooth decay on growing teeth. For this reason, stopping the nighttime bottle first can help with risk of cavities. If your toddler is still drinking from the bottle or nursing when teeth are growing in, remember to brush his teeth.

The process of stopping the bottle can be different for every family, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning completely by 15 months. Prolonged botte-feeding has been associated with excessive milk intake and iron deficiency due to displacement of iron-containing food choices. If you have any questions or concerns on how to help your baby transition, consult your pediatrician.

  • Stopping the Bottle

    Part of preparing to stop the bottle is introducing a cup ahead of time to get them used to drinking out of a cup.  So for my patients what I recommend is starting at six months old, which is when we want to start introducing some water to complement breast milk or formula intake, the water is always in a cup, never in a bottle.  We also suggest that that is the age that they start solid foods and I recommend having a cup of water every time you are doing solid foods.  So initially it is just once a day they are getting a little practice but then by the time they are getting closer to twelve months old they are probably having three opportunities a day with the water cup where they are sitting and kind of getting some prodding from a parent, sort of reaching over and reminding them take a drink and handing them the cup.  So lots of practice ahead of time, then I recommend cold turkey, bottles are done at twelve months old. 

    This is an important task to take on because in terms of dental health we don't want them drinking a bottle anymore.  It's a major cavity risk to be sucking on a bottle nipple.  It is just pushing milk sugars down against the back of the teeth.  It's a personal preference how you get rid of them.  I think cold turkey works the best for all behavioral things with toddlers because they just need to learn this is how it's going to be now.  If you'd prefer to do kind of the well let's keep that morning bottle or let's keep that bedtime bottle, it is kind of confusing for them because then they may choose to hold out and not bother drinking out of the cup during the day because they know they are going to get their bottle at night.

    That nighttime bottle is actually the one I want to get rid of first because of that cavity risk right before they go to sleep.  If they do still take a bottle and they have teeth, you need to brush their teeth afterwards as soon as we have teeth in there, bedtime routine needs to include brushing teeth after that bottle or after nursing and then that is when we don't want them doing any overnight feeding anymore because of that cavity risk as well.

Nutrition Pediatrics