Bye-Bye “Baba”

Time the Transition
Introduce a sippy cup at 6 months. There will be a lot of spillage at first, but in a few months your baby will get the hang of it and you can begin to replace babas with cups. “Start the weaning process at 9 months and by 15 months or so, your baby will be bottle weaned,” says Roy. Infancy is the easiest time to make the transition, say experts. “Don’t wait till 18 months to start,” adds Roy. “A toddler sees the bottle as a ‘lovey’ and weaning will be a lot more difficult.”

In Maguire’s Pediatrics study, 86 percent of parents whose toddlers were still on the bottle after age 2 said it was because the child preferred the bottle. Don’t fall into that trap. “The older the child, the more difficult it is to modify his or her behavior,” warns Maguire.

Don’t go cold turkey
The sippy cup or even a regular cup with a small amount of liquid should be introduced starting once per day. “Lunchtime is a good time to start,” says Donna A. Dowling, PhD, RN, associate professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “Infants love to do what others do, and at mealtime they’ll see mom drinking from a cup.” As you eliminate the lunchtime bottle, keep offering the late afternoon and evening bottles for about a week. This way, when your child asks for his baba, you can assure him that one is coming later. The following week, replace another bottle-feeding with a sippy cup of milk. “As you gradually increase the number of times you give the cup instead of a bottle, always tell your baby what a good job he’s doing,” adds Dowling. “Praise will help children transition more quickly.”

Dilute if necessary
There will be days when your little one will ask for the bottle and other days when she doesn’t. Offer a sippy cup first. If that doesn’t work, try the dilution method. Fill the bottle with 7 ounces milk and 1 ounce water for the first week. The next week, use 6 ounces milk and 2 ounces water; the week after that, 5 ounces and 3 ounces, etc. “Most kids will lose interest when the milk is too watered down,” says Roy. “Especially when they’re getting delicious undiluted milk in their sippy cup.”

As you progress, remember there will be setbacks. “Regression is normal when your child is sick or there’s a family disruption, such as a new baby,” says Dowling. “Be flexible and continue weaning when [things are back to normal].”