Whether filled with breastmilk or formula, your child’s devoted attachment to his beloved ba-ba can make you dread the process of weaning. But there are some good reasons why, at a certain age, you should start weaning your baby off of her bottle.
Why weaning your baby is important
“When toddlers use bottles for something other than feeding—like chewing or gnawing—it could change the shape of the mouth, the palate, and the teeth,” says Robert Ruderman, M.D., a pediatrician at Highland Park Pediatrics in Illinois.
That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics says you should wean your baby off the bottle before 18 months. Here’s how to wean your baby—and make the process as painless as possible for your tot and you.
How to Wean a Baby
Introduce cups early
The sooner you start weaning your baby, the easier it’ll be. Which is good news, considering cup feeding can begin as early as 6 months (provided your baby can sit up and has good head and gag control). Start by giving your baby a cup (sippy or regular cups both work) during mealtime and cutting back on bottles at bedtime—that way, he’ll stop needing it to fall asleep. And of course, use lots of encouragement!
Distinguish hunger from something else
Remember, Bottles are for feeding—not for meeting your baby’s emotional needs. “It’s common for parents to respond to crying by giving their baby a bottle without trying to solve the actual cause for crying,” Ruderman says. But doing so not only gives your child calories he probably doesn’t need—it also prolongs the weaning process. If your gets fussy outside of mealtime, change his diaper, sing a song, or cuddle instead.
Dolls and toys are a fun, lighthearted way to give you baby examples of model behavior that can encourage weaning. For instance, show him how the mommy doll wants the baby doll to start drinking out of a cup instead of a bottle.
Reading a book about giving up the bottle helps your child see an abstract concept like weaning in a concrete, easy to understand format. We love No More Bottle for Bunny! by Bernette Ford ($12, amazon.com).
If your baby’s more than six months old, it’s time to start backing away from the bottle. Here’s how to do it—painlessly.