‘I knew I’m supposed to start weaning my son from the bottle now that he’s a year old, but he doesn’t seem ready to cooperate.’
Timing may not be everything but when it comes to weaning, it’s a great deal. And weaning your toddler now would be excellent timing, several reasons: Dwindling flexibility: though he’s certainly not the putty in your hands he was six or seven months ago your toddler’s still a whole lot less set in his ways now than he will be in the months to come. Once negativity and rebelliousness start kicking in, and every issue becomes a battle of wills, enlisting his cooperation in the weaning process will be more difficult. Waning appetites. Bottle drinkers tend to consume unnecessarily large quantities of juice. At a time when toddler starts eating less, drinking more can sabotage appetites and contribute eating problems. Excessive fluid (3 or 4 quarts a day) can also cause medical problems.
Of course, convincing your toddler to give up the bottle will take more than scientific evidence, professional pronouncements, or simple logic. As a first step, provide your child with a substitute container or his beverages: a cup. By thus age, many children are already proficient at drinking from a cup. If yours is, that part of your job will be relatively easy.
Once your toddler can drink several milliliters/ounces of fluid from the cup at a sitting, you can being saying ‘bye-bye bottle’. Choose one of the following approaches to weaning, keeping in mind how your child handles changes – and how hooked he is on bottle.
If your toddler is easygoing, doesn’t panic in the face of change, makes transitions smoothly, isn’t particularly dependent on the bottle, and is proficient with a cup, a cold-turkey approach may work. Pick a time when you anticipate no other major changes in your toddler’ life – and when you will have plenty of time to devote to him Select a day that begins well (If either of you wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, put the project off). Start the day with the announcement, proclaimed with great fanfare, that he’s a big boy now and like all big boys he can drink all his milk and juice from a cup (cheers and applause). Take him to the shop and let him help you select several few cups in the style he likes best, with fun design and bright colours. At home have him help you throw his bottles and teats into the recycling bin. (Save one or two bottles to be used for play – as bath tub toys or when ‘feeding’ baby dolls or stuffed animals.) During weaning, your toddler may be a little cranky and sensitive than usual, and thumb-sucking may increase (or begin). Give him plenty of extra time and attention, and lots of hugs to make up for the comfort he’s no longer getting from the bottle. If your toddler remains unfazed at losing his bottle and makes no serious requests for it over the next few days, you can consider yourself lucky and the process complete.
If, however, he starts to have second thoughts and begins begging for a bottle (he might do so at bedtime, or at whatever time of the day taking a bottle has meant a lot of him), borrow back the bottle you’ve saved for play, wash it, fill it with water, and offer it to him. Tell him that he can have a bottle of water whenever he wants (water won’t damage his teeth). Stand firm, though. If he ask for his accustomed milk or juice served up in the bottle, say firmly that those beverages will only be available in a cup form now on.
For most children this multistep approach works best. (Do be sure to involve the toddler’s baby-sitter in the wearing process as well.)
- Once your toddler is comfortable drinking from a cup, offer him beverages (milk, juice, or water) in a cup and solid foods at meal and snack time before he starts asking for his bottle, not when he’s already whining for it. Sometimes a full tummy and a quenched thirst may satisfy him enough and he won’t press for the bottle.
- Make drinking from the bottle less appealing. Insist that your toddler take his bottle while sitting on your lap or in a particular chair instead of allowing him to drink it from it as he plays or explores. When he wants to get up, tell him thats the end of the bottle session. Do not allow him to wander off with a bottle in hand.
- Over the span of a couple of weeks, cut down on the number of bottles given. Drop the one your child shows the least interest in first, and the most beloved bottle last.
- Gradually work down to one bottle a day. The most treasured bottle of the day should be the last to go. If your toddler is like most children, this will be the one he enjoys before going to sleep at night.
Before eliminating this last bottle, be sure you have a comforting bedtime routine in place. Include in this a cup of milk and a nonsugary snack (before bushing the teeth), a bath and a few quiet stories. Don’t offer the automatically. If your toddler asks for it, distract him with an offer of water in a cup. (‘You can’t have milk now because we’ve brushed your teeth’) Take a firm stand on the no-milk-in-a-bottle issue. If your toddler pleads for a bottle, give him one filled only with water. There are two benefits to this measure. One, you eliminate the risk of tooth decay because he won’t be falling asleep with milk pooled in his mouth. And two, you increase the chances that he will abandon the bottle on his own – most children eventually do when the bottle is no longer filled with milk or juice. If your child is an exception and he seems to like his bottle of water, allow him to continue with it at few weeks. Then change the nipple to one with very tiny holes, so that sucking on it for water will hardly he worth the effort. That should get him to voluntarily abandon the bottle.