Every child is different, so it might be hard to know when the right time is to begin weaning your baby from their beloved bottle. For many children and parents, it can be a daunting prospect. However, you can look for these signs and use this timeline to help your child with the transition from bottle to cup.
When Should Babies Stop Using Bottles?
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital recommends that babies begin weaning between 12 to 18 months of age. Generally, you can begin to introduce a cup as early as 6 months of age, but there are certain signs that can help you know when to make the move from bottle to big-kid cup:
- Your child is able to sit up on their own.
- Your child follows a set process and time for meals rather than around-the-clock feeding. A mealtime routine can facilitate consistency when you do begin the weaning process.
- If your child has begun eating solid foods and can eat from a spoon, it might be nearly time to say goodbye to the bottle.
Bottle Use and Oral Health
Beyond asking when should babies stop using bottles, you should also understand why it's so important for them to transition to a cup.
Continued bottle use can introduce risks to your child's oral health, including baby bottle tooth decay. Per the American Dental Association (ADA), prolonged exposure to sugary drinks, such as giving juice in a bottle overnight, can increase the likelihood of tooth decay in young children. It can be a tough challenge for many parents to wean their child from a bottle, particularly if they use it to sleep. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises that if you put your child to sleep with a bottle, only do so with water.
What's more, the transition from bottle to cup may affect their speech development. Remember, a sippy cup is only meant to be a temporary transition item as you move toward an open cup. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the act of sucking on a sippy cup is similar to a bottle, making it potentially harder for your child to develop certain swallow and speech patterns. Ideally, your child will begin to be able to use a straw and an open cup with your assistance.
Tips for Successful Bottle Weaning
Of course, the age-old question in curbing any habit is whether to go cold turkey or let go gradually. UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital recommends a moderate approach:
- Pick a time that's relatively stress-free, which doesn't include an upcoming move or family illness, for instance.
- Get your child familiar with holding a cup. Begin introducing it gradually, over a period of months, within your baby's first year.
- Start by substituting the bottle for a cup at one meal. Pour a small amount and help your child learn how to tip it. Then, slowly work up to replacing it at every meal. Eliminate the bedtime bottle last, which can be hardest to give up, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The key to an easy transition is consistency. Once you've switched the bottle for the cup, don't go back. You know your child's temperament best, and patience is key. Throughout the weaning process, stay cool, calm, collected and firm — and remember: You're ultimately making this change for your child's long-term oral health.