By the time you baby begins to walk, he has been using a bottle for months and has become attached to it for nourishment and comfort. The time to stop giving your baby a bottle should follow a period of weaning during which the child has had regular opportunities to use a cup. Even after this weaning period, taking a child’s bottle is seldom an easy task. Child health and development professionals agree that by the time a child is 1 year old, he should not be drinking from a bottle.
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Stopping the Bottle
Children should stop using the bottle by the time they are 1 year old, but should absolutely be off the bottle by 18 months of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Moving from the bottle to a cup is a rite of passage for children and a sign that your child is becoming more self-sufficient. In addition to breaking the child’s attachment to the bottle, there are health considerations to stopping the bottle. Tooth decay can develop if your child sleeps with a bottle that contains milk or a sweet drink.
Introducing the Cup
Introduce the cup to your child when she is about 6 months old. She will not be able to master using the cup at this age, but over the next six months she will develop the coordination and motor skills needed to drink from the cup. Replace one of your child’s bottle feedings with a cup, preferably the midday bottle. Offer your child a cup of milk while she sits in her high chair, or encourage her to drink from a cup like an older sibling or like mommy. Over time, replace the morning bottle with a cup. Eliminate the bedtime bottle last by replacing it with a snack or cup of milk before bedtime preparation.
Once your child begins to use the cup, start giving him water only when he drinks from a bottle. Dilute the milk in the bottle with increasing amounts of water over time if your child will not take the water. Provide undiluted milk only in the cup. Once your child is using a cup at every feeding, put the bottles away out of sight. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends refusing to give the bottle after your child is in bed and helping your child to go to sleep on his own. Provide a blanket or stuffed animal for comfort. If you do provide a bottle, it should contain water only.
The Right Cup
The proper training cup helps your child learn to drink from a cup. You might have provided your child with a sippy cup to help her learn to use the cup. Sippy cups have no-spill valves that require sucking, such as with a bottle, to get liquid from the cup. Replace the sippy cup with a training cup that does not have no-spill valves. The training cup should have a weighted bottom and a lid that snaps or screws on securely.