Many toddlers become attached to their bottles. Besides providing nourishment, bottles also mean comfort and security.

It's important for parents to start weaning babies from bottles around the end of the first year and start getting them comfortable drinking from cups. The longer parents wait to start the transition, the more attached kids become to their bottles and the harder it can be to break the bottle habit. Longer bottle use may lead to cavities or cause your child to drink more milk than he or she needs.

Switching from bottle to cup can be challenging, but these tips can make the change easier for parents and kids.

How Should I Start the Switch?

Most doctors recommend introducing a cup around the time a baby is 6 months old. In the beginning, much of what you serve in a cup will end up on the floor or on your baby. But by 12 months of age, most babies have the coordination and hand skills needed to hold a cup and drink from it.

Age 1 is also when doctors recommend switching from formula to cow's milk. It can be a natural transition to offer milk in a cup rather than a bottle.

If you're still breastfeeding, you can continue feeding your baby breast milk, but you may want to do so by offering it in a cup.

Tips to Try

Instead of cutting out bottles all at once, try dropping them from the feeding schedule over time.

For example, if your baby usually drinks three bottles each day, start by eliminating the morning bottle. Instead of giving a bottle right away, bring your baby to the table and after the feeding has started, offer milk from a cup. You might encourage your baby by saying something like "you're a big boy now and can use a cup like mommy."

As you try to stop the morning bottle, keep offering the afternoon and evening bottles for about a week. That way, if your child asks for the bottle you can say that one is coming later.

The next week, stop another bottle feeding and provide milk in a cup instead. Try to do this when your baby is sitting at the table in a high chair.

Generally, the last bottle to stop should be the nighttime bottle. That bottle tends to be a part of the bedtime routine and is the one that most provides comfort to babies. Instead of the bottle, try offering a cup of milk with your child's dinner and continue with the rest of your nighttime tasks, like a bath, bedtime story, or teeth brushing.

Other tips to keep in mind:

  • Spill-proof cups that have spouts designed just for babies ("sippy cups") can help ease the move from the bottle. Dentists recommend sippy cups with a hard spout or a straw, rather than ones with soft spouts.
  • When your child does use the cup, offer plenty of praise. If grandma is around, for example, you might say, "See, Emma is such a big girl she drinks milk in a cup!"
  • If you keep getting asked for a bottle, find out what your child really needs or wants and offer that instead. If your baby is thirsty or hungry, provide nourishment in a cup or on a plate. If it's comfort, offer hugs, and if your little one is bored, sit down and play!
  • As you wean your baby from the bottle, try diluting the milk in the bottle with water. For the first few days, fill half of it with water and half of it with milk. Then slowly add more water until the entire bottle is water. By that time, it's likely that your child will lose interest and be asking for the yummy milk that comes in a cup!
  • Get rid of the bottles or put them out of sight.

If you have problems or concerns about stopping the bottle, talk with your child's doctor.

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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