Because most babies see the bottle as a form of comfort, nourishment and security, weaning can be a challenge. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning before 18 months of age. The sippy cup can be introduced early in preparation of weaning from the bottle when your baby turns a year old.
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Introduction of Sippy Cup
The sippy cup should be introduced around 6 months of age. Each baby develops at his own pace, so make sure your baby can sit up on his own and is eating solids before introducing the sippy cup to him. Early introduction gives your baby time to experiment and become comfortable with the sippy cup. You will most likely have a mess during this experiment time, but remember your baby is learning. Start with only water in the cup and then move to formula or breast milk when your baby becomes more comfortable.
Transitioning to the Cup
The longer your 1-year-old is using the bottle, the more attached he will become to it, making it harder to wean. A 12-month-old will be easier to wean from the bottle than an 18-month-old. Start by substituting mealtime bottles with a sippy cup. Then work on substituting the morning time bottle as well. If your 1-year-old starts to complain, offer encouragement by letting him know he is a big boy now and needs to drink from the cup. Next, eliminate any additional bottles offered throughout the day. The nighttime bottle is the hardest to detach from since it provides comfort and is part of the bedtime routine. Instead of including it as part of the bedtime routine, offer a snack with a cup of milk earlier. When bedtime arrives, offer a comforting object such as a stuffed animal or blanket to cuddle instead.
Reasons to Wean
One-year-olds need to wean between 12 to 18 months due to a higher risk of tooth decay with prolonged bottle usage. Tooth decay is a result of too much sugar in contact with your teeth. Formula, milk and juice all contain sugar. When you offer a bottle, especially a nighttime bottle, the sugar from these liquids sit on your baby's teeth all night. Bacteria in the mouth thrives off of sugar and then produces acids that lead to tooth decay. Only offer water if your 1-year-old is thirsty at night. One-year-olds who stay on the bottle also tend to drink more milk than they really need. Children this age should be drinking two servings of dairy per day, or 16 to 24 ounces.
One-year-olds like to make choices for themselves. If your 1-year-old is still putting up a fight about giving up the bottle, offer the bottle with water and put milk or juice in the cup. If he picks the bottle, the water will be safer for his teeth. If he picks the cup, you are one step closer to weaning. You may also try keeping all bottles out of sight. If your 1-year-old ask for the bottle, he may really be looking for comfort, which you can provide with some extra hugs.