It is common for toddlers to become attached to their bottles because they spend so much time using them. In addition to providing food, bottles can provide a sense of security or comfort for a child, making it more difficult when it comes time to take these bottles away. So when is the right time to wean your child? Studies indicate that families should not wait too long to take this important step, as it can increase the difficulty of these efforts. It is also important to know the tricks for the transition from bottle to cup.

When Should a Baby Stop Using a Bottle?

Research from The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that babies should no longer be using a bottle around a year in age and absolutely no later than 18 months. According to a recent study which examined the habits of 6750 children born in 2001 through the Early Childbirth Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort showed that around 22 percent of children would still regularly use a bottle around 24 months. The study also revealed that around a forth of these bottle users were obese at age five and a half. When comparing these study groups, only 16 percent of children that stopped using a bottle before age 2 were obese when they reached five and a half.

If your baby was born prematurely or has a health consideration like failure to thrive or digestive distress you will need to talk with your doctor about the appropriate age to start removing a bottle.

Problems with Prolonged Bottle Feeding

1. Weight Gain

Researchers have found that extended bottle use, defined as regularly drinking from a bottle beyond the age of 12-14 months, adds additional calories to their diet which will increase the risk of weight gain. Children can start eating solid foods around 4-6 months and by a year old they will usually eat mostly solid food, supplementing their diet with 10-16 ounces of whole milk or breast milk each day.

2. Bottle Attachment and Difficulty in Sleeping Alone

Giving a child a bottle before bed is common and may seem harmless, but it can limit your child’s ability to learn to fall asleep on their own. The longer you offer the bedtime bottle the more likely it is that they will become attached to it and rely on this for sleep.

3. Tooth Decay

When your child’s teeth start to grow in milk before bed could contribute to tooth decay. Sleeping babies can have milk pool in their mouths which can cause the sugar in the milk to damage the teeth.

How to Transition from Bottle to Cup

After knowing when should a baby stop using a bottle, the next is to know how to help them get over bottle using. 

1. Get the Timing of Transition Right

Doctors typically recommend that parents start to introduce their child to a cup around 6 months of age. At first most of the liquid given to your baby in a cup will be spilled but by 12 months most babies will have the manual dexterity and coordination to manage drinking from a cup on their own. One year of age is also the ideal age to switch from formula to regular milk, so this is an ideal time to make the transition to drinking from a cup as well. If you are breastfeeding you may feed your child breast milk in a cup as well.

2. Introduce the Cup in a Fun Way

Show your baby how a sippy cup works and encourage them to mimic your behavior. You can start by filling the cup with some water and cheer as they make more progress getting the liquid into their mouths. As they start growing proficient in using the cup, start giving them milk as a reward.

3. Try Different Cups

There are a variety of sippy cups that you can purchase. Your child may prefer the look and feel of one cup over another. You may also find sippy cups with characters or designs on them that can be appealing for your child. Try out a few to find a cup that your child likes best.

4. Dilute Milk in the Bottle

Over time start adding more and more water to the milk in your child’s bottle while simultaneously adding more milk to the servings they receive in a cup. You can also simply decrease the amount of liquid you put into the bottle at all while increasing the servings in the cup. This will cause your child to become dissatisfied with their bottle and find the cup more rewarding.

5. Reduce Bottle Feeding Gradually

Each week start by removing one feeding with a bottle and replace it with a feeding with a cup. Start by eliminating midday feedings, then morning feedings and finally feedings at night. By the end of this process you should only offer water in the bottle and milk in a cup.

6. Throw Bottles Away

When you are trying to wean your child, keep all bottles out of view and only take them out when they are needed. If your child requests a bottle only offer food or a cup. This can cause your child to become upset at first, but if you give in it will only prolong the process of transitioning away from the bottle, which will ultimately make weaning harder for both of you.

7. More Tips

  • Be patient. As you transition from breastfeeding your milk will dry up, but this can take 2-4 weeks before the production stops fully. Try to be patient during this time.
  • Eat solid foods. If your baby is resistant to weaning, try to teach them to eat solid foods before you continue with these efforts. Some children will naturally start to lose interest in breast or bottle feeding as they become more used to eating solids.
  • Abandon certain nighttime habits. You can help avoid your child depending on their bottle if you do not let them go to bed, crawl or walk around with their bottle. Nighttime feedings can be the most difficult to give up, so try to replace these with other habits such as reading a story before bed.
  • Find out what he really needs. If your child is constantly asking you for a bottle, find out what your child needs and offer that as a replacement. If your child is hungry, offer a snack and offer a different drink in a cup if they are thirsty. If your child needs comfort, hold them. You may also need to play with them if they are simply bored.

Watch a video for more on how to transition from bottle to cup :