Why wean baby off the bottle?
While some moms believe children should wean themselves from bottle-feeding at their own pace, experts disagree. It’s actually very important for your baby to begin the weaning process soon after turning a year old – for the following reasons:
- At the age of 2, your toddler ought to be pretty comfortable drinking from a cup.
- The longer you wait to transition them to sippy cups, the more attached they’ll be to bottles as a source of comfort.
- Bottle-feeding promotes cavities. Formula contains lactose, which is a form of sugar. Prolonged bottle use, especially before bedtime, leads to an accumulation of sugar in their teeth.
- Two-year-olds should already be consuming healthy solid foods. One who’s still dependent on bottled formula or breast milk won’t be getting enough nutrients at mealtime.
When to wean baby off the bottle
Whether your baby is drinking breast milk or formula from a bottle, weaning is a necessity. Some children wean themselves as early as a year old and others might not be anywhere near ready at this point.
Basically, there are two options: going cold turkey at the 1-year-mark, or slowly introducing sippy cups as early as 6 months. Although the first option may seem a bit cruel, it speeds up the process. The latter approach, however, is gentle but effective. No matter what, you’ll have to exercise patience.
One-year-olds no longer need formula and can switch to whole cow’s milk which provides key nutrients, as part of a balanced meal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an 8 to 12-ounce serving contains the recommended allowance of calcium and vitamin D.
Remember never to substitute formula or breast milk with reduced-fat or fat-free milk for children under 2. Fat is essential for proper growth and development of their brain and nervous system. After the age of 2, they can drink 2 percent milk, and after the age of 5, they can drink fat-free milk.
As a parent, you want to make weaning as stress-free as possible. Here are a few ways to ensure a smooth transition from bottle to cup.
- Introduce the sippy cup early. At 6 months, allow your baby to hold and examine the cup, and familiarize themselves with it.
- Between 8 and 10 months, slowly replace their bottles with sippy cups. Monitor your child throughout the day as they learn to use them.
- Slowly decrease the frequency of bottle-feedings and substitute with a sippy cup containing a small amount of milk for the first couple of weeks.
- Stay consistent. As tempting as it is to use a bottle when you’re pressed for time, you’ll only disrupt the weaning process.
- Do not substitute milk with juice or other sugary drinks. Regardless of what they’re drinking from, your growing baby still needs essential nutrients.
- Spend some quality time with your child as they undergo this change. Offer comfort when they’re fussy, and practice patience.
Looking ahead, when you start introducing healthy solid foods, try to make it as enjoyable as possible. Serve them foods in fun and enticing shapes. Note that signs of readiness for solids include better hand-to-mouth coordination, decreased tongue protrusion reflex, sitting up unassisted, and opening their mouth for the spoon. Also, avoid choking hazards such as small fruits, raw vegetables, nuts, candy, gum, and whole grapes.
Weaning your little one is another tough yet exciting milestone in the young life. Remember to remain patient and understanding, and when necessary, consult your pediatrician for further advice on how to wean baby off the bottle.