A Resource for Nannies and Families

Breaking The Bottle Habit

How often do you encounter young ones walking around with a bottle way beyond the age you consider appropriate? I see it often. My experience is that parents and caregivers allow this habit for their own convenience, avoiding the challenge that The Bottle represents. I want to share with you what I’ve learned to make this problem so much easier to resolve.

As parents or caregivers we see our munchkins so attached to that bottle that none of us can imagine life without it. But if we set reasonable goals and plan a bit, we can prevent a problem in a way that leaves Baby unconcerned and unaffected. At the same time we will feel good about ourselves for having passed yet another milestone on the road to mutual independence.

So let’s approach this in little steps.

Step One:
Determine to break the bottle habit by age one.
“Oh,” you say, “they’re just babies then!” But the age works for you because the earlier you start, the easier it is. In fact, the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. Pediatricians agree on this and support this timing. Babies need to give up this attachment now for their own good. The second half of the first year is the right time to shift the emphasis from liquids to solids and the skills children need to feed themselves. From birth to one, milk contributes to strong bones and teeth. Too much milk thereafter cuts appetite for vital new foods and interferes with developing interest in fruits and veggies.

Step Two:
The Schedule We start by introducing formula in a cup very early on – actually as soon as Baby can sit up, around six months. These days the cup is not recommended before four months, and many put it off for as long as they can. You will know, though, that Baby is ready for solids when the bottle alone no longer satisfies. Developing teeth need the new kind of exercise that solids provide. Timing differs for each baby, but once it starts, three-meals-a-day is not far away.

Week #1: When your baby is 10 months old, set up three 8-ounce bottles each morning for the day. At breakfast pour out as much milk as he’ll take in his cup and/or cereal. Leave no more than 7 ounces in the bottle.
Do the same for subsequent feedings at noon and evening, and he’ll be getting the same amount but not in the bottle. He won’t even notice.

Week #2: Make it 6 ounces of formula in the bottle and 2 for the meal.

Week #3: 5 ounces in the bottle and 3 for the meal.
You see the pattern, but he’s being weaned so gradually and easily that he neither notices the change nor misses the bottle. Since he’s never going to drink a full bottle at the meal, his natural appetite is dictating things. Meanwhile, he is starting on table food and thoroughly enjoying the experience of learning to feed himself. During the day you can offer him sips of milk from the cup to keep the adjustment balanced. Don’t worry, he won’t drink too much or too little. His normal appetite will have him eating a hearty meal as he should and drinking less each day and being quite content.

Now for the tips that make this procedure go smoothly.
Stop warming the bottle early on (by 6-7 months)! Serve it at room temp, and within a few weeks even refrigerator temp is fine.
Never, never, never – did I say never? – prop the bottle or put Baby to bed with it! Supplementary reasons for this are

1. he learns to need it as a pacifier to fall asleep, so you set yourself up for problems later,
2. falling asleep with milk on the teeth is what causes tooth decay in babies,
3. milk entering the throat from this prone (flat) position is a common cause of ear infections (Baby and Child Care, Benjamin Spock, MD, page 178).

The final reason deserves special emphasis: If you establish a habit of holding Baby in your arms for his special feedings, you have opportunities throughout the day to get off your feet and spend some quiet time in a warm, cuddly moment, together and uninterrupted. There aren’t words for what this time will come to mean to both you and Baby, because Baby is not the only one for whom fond memories of holding and feeding are important. Now, however, the attachment will be not to the bottle but to that special time of closeness between you and him. As that time shrinks each week, you will replace it slowly by enjoying other things together: picture books, rocking, talking, singing, and all the unique things you can do together several times a day while holding him on your lap. With that kind of relationship built solidly and regularly throughout the first year, who needs a bottle?

In addition you are putting Baby to bed without any aids and allowing him to learn to fall asleep naturally and by himself. In other words, you are setting him on a lifetime course of good sleeping habits.

So now you can celebrate Baby’s first birthday without that bottle, enjoying fun time together with cuddling and books. You feel confident in your ability to meet challenges and are proud of your acquired skills as well as Baby’s march toward independence. You know you have your pediatrician’s approval, your baby’s diet is age-appropriate, and he’s starting year #2 on the right track.

Switching to Cow’s Milk
Not before 1 year, but so easy at that point: vitamin D enriched, whole milk, and right in the cup, straight from the fridge.

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