How Old is Too Old for the Bottle?

biberon latte da neonato

Experienced parents will tell you that parenting experts, doctors, conventional wisdom and real life all offer different opinions and different advice on everything related to children and childcare. One renowned expert will tell you to have babies off the bottle by a year. Others see no problem with a bottle up until the child is ready to give it up on her own, much like nursing. Still others pick a middle ground. Most parents, on the other hand, simply try to decide if they are going to pick a battle with the bottle.

Bottle Babies

The conventional wisdom and that of many sage experts is to have your little one off the bottle by one year of age. Granted, many babies are still nursing at one year of age, and for those on the bottle, the milk and sucking is just as soothing and relaxing as those breastfeeding. Just as you wean a baby off the breast when she is ready, you remove a bottle from your little one’s life gradually.

Most babies can loose the bottle during most of the day easily enough – it’s the nighttime bottles that seem to linger. Some babies treat bottles only a source of nutrition. Others become attached to the bottle as a comfort item. These bottle babies know that a yummy treat in a soothing, familiar container is not something to give up without a fight. Some babies give up bottles by a year or fifteen months willingly. But bottle babies, especially mill hounds, are much more reluctant to do so.

The Official Timing

An interesting experiment for parents concerned about their toddler and a bottle is to ask experts and other parents the reasoning behind a particular timeline. If your doctor is adamant about giving up the bottle by a year, ask her why. The reasons for removing the bottle are varied, but most boil down to two things – bottles will harm her teeth and her mouth, and bottles will only become more of a habit.

Years ago, bottles were replaced with cups. Now they are replaced with spill proof sippy cups – complete with spouts, much like a bottle. These cups, as parents know, are just as addictive if not more so than the bottle itself. So, if a bottle is harmful to a child’s mouth, sucking on a sippy cup can’t be much better in the scheme of things. The habit of a bottle can be compared to the habit of a sippy cup, after all.

So it’s hard for most parents to tell when a good time is to take away the bottle. For the most part, the decision to give up the bottle is one to make gradually. Avoid deadlines as they will bring unnecessary stress. Instead, look for opportunities to phase out the bottle or replace it with a cup – sippy or otherwise.

The Phase-Out

The first step to getting rid of bottles is to give your child another option. Most parents feel that a sippy cup is a good alternative, especially the spill-proof kind. You can introduce the cup as early as four months of age, and make it a frequent presence throughout the day so that your little one has time to practice and is familiar with it. Serve all kinds of drinks in a cup, including milk and breastmilk so that your child doesn’t associate milk only with a bottle.

As your child starts to condense the amount of milk she drinks during the day and eats more food, you can offer her a cup at every meal and snack time to quench her thirst instead of a bottle. If she is able to get enough milk or juice from her cup, she might not be as interested in the bottle, especially if she’s on the go.

As she shows less interest in a particular bottle feeding, give it up. For example, don’t offer her a bottle at lunch if she’s only sipping as much from the bottle as the cup. Stick with the cup. Phase out all bottle feedings during the day first. The bottles at night will be the hardest to give up as they are comfort and soothing as much as food.

Feed your child often during the day so that she doesn’t go to bed hungry. Offer her milk in her favorite kind of cup at night while doing everything else the same. She might simply substitute the cup for the bottle during your soothing routine. If this is the case, stick with the cup all night long and put the bottle away for good.

Some babies, however, refuse to make a switch and can not be soothed without the familiar comfort of the bottle. If this is the case with your child, you might need to change the evening routine to avoid using the bottle in its normal role. Offer her a glass of milk while reading stories or watching a soothing video. Make sure her little tummy is full before bedtime, brush her teeth and then start the bedtime routine. As she’s already had plenty of milk, offer her only water in her bottle. This allows her to use it for comfort during the night, but not as a source of nutrition.

The Final Bottle

The bedtime bottle is easily the longest to stick around. Some toddlers hang onto a bedtime bottle until close to their second birthday or even beyond. There is a line, however, between what is easy and what is best. Giving in to your toddler’s demands for a bottle at bedtime isn’t a big deal if it’s a single bottle, she’s using a cup throughout the day and eats plenty at meal-times. It does become a problem if she insists on a bottle for all drinks and prefers a bottle to meals, even as an older toddler.

The single bottle at bedtime is a staple in many household and eventually fades away as your child matures. Just like pacifier battles, once your child is old enough to understand rather than just react, you can find other solutions to the bottle problem such as trading it for a special treat or a fun new cup. You can also take it away without worrying too much about sleepless nights if you’re able to be consistent and suffer her wrath.

Finally, many parents have simply allowed their child to give up the bottle on their own. When they realize that bottles are for babies or they decide they’d rather have a cup with superheroes rather than a bottle with butterflies, they make the switch on their own. Until it’s time for your child to give up the bottle, remember to put only milk or water in it, and to never let a baby fall asleep with a bottle – it really will ruin their teeth.

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