When should you stop bottle feeding your baby
How to Transition Your Baby from a Bottle to a Cup
Written by Barbara Brody
Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, or do a combo of the two, at some point you'll wonder: Is it time to move on to a cup?
If you just breastfeed, the easiest switch is to skip bottles entirely and go straight to cups around the 1-year mark, or whenever you decide to stop nursing. If your child happily sucks on bottles, their first birthday might still be a good choice. That's because you're already changing from formula to cow's milk around that time.
Missed that window? Waiting until your baby is a little older? No worries, but don’t wait too long. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests saying bye-bye to the bottle before your baby is 18 months old. "I'd say definitely before age 2, but the sooner the better," says Keith T. Ayoob, EdD. He’s an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y.
As a registered dietitian who works with kids, Ayoob snatches the bottle from kids as old as 5 -- and he says it isn't pretty. "You have to know your child, but in general, the longer you wait the harder it is."
Why the Bottle Needs to Go
A bottle gives food and comfort to many children, so letting your little one use it for as long as they like might seem harmless enough. But there are several reasons why it's smart to switch to cups:
Bottles boost tooth decay. Milk has lactose, a type of sugar. And if you're giving your child juice in a bottle (though you shouldn't), that's even worse. "The acid in juice is a nightmare for teeth," Ayoob says.
Milk should remain an important part of your child's diet, and juice is OK now and then. Sucked from a bottle though, the sugar and acid will stay longer on their teeth, which could lead to cavities. Letting a baby go to sleep with a bottle is especially bad, because your body makes less saliva (which helps to wash away food particles) while you're asleep.
Prolonged use of a bottle is linked to obesity. Research shows that kids who are still using a bottle at age 2 are more likely to be obese by the time they're almost 6. Ayoob says some kids walk around with a bottle in their mouths all the time, even though they’re eating plenty of solid food. This can result in too many calories.
He says that being too attached to the bottle could have the opposite effect, too: With some picky eaters, the bottle becomes the “go-to meal," and a child may not be eating enough of his breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Bottles could mess with her smile. Constant sucking can change the position of her adult teeth down the line. It can affect the development of her facial muscles and palate (roof of her mouth), says Peter Richel, MD. He's the chief of pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. This can easily lead to an overbite that might later need to be corrected with orthodontia such as braces.
Drinking while laying down increases the chance of ear infections. If your little one loves to curl up with a bottle, watch out.
"Some of the milk kind of gurgles up in the back of the throat, and it just sort of sits there while bacteria grows," Ayoob says. "Bacteria can crawl right up the Eustachian tube [in the throat] and into the ear."
Giving the Bottle the Boot
Your child should know how to drink out of a cup before you take away the bottle. Many pediatricians tell parents to introduce sippy cups around 6 to 9 months. That's when kids commonly start drinking water and other liquids besides formula and breast milk.
If, from a young age, you start giving some milk (not just water) in sippy or regular cups, then things will be easier when you're ready to get rid of the bottle for good, Richel says.
Once you decide to ditch bottles, there are two main ways to go about it: Go cold turkey, or slowly wean her off. Whichever way you choose, experts agree that sticking to it is key. "Cold turkey is the quickest but most difficult for parents, because they feel they are being cruel," Richel says.
Just don't expect either way to be easy. Even if you opt to wean slowly, "there will be some pushback," Ayoob says. "If you're trying to do it without any resistance whatsoever, you're in the wrong business. "
Cold turkey: One day, you simply make all the bottles disappear. If your child is old enough to understand, it might help to include them in the process. For example, you can warn them that today is the last day for bottles, and that starting tomorrow, they are going to drink only from "big boy" cups.
Weaning: The idea is to slowly swap out bottles in favor of cups. For example, you might fill in a cup for the bottle at just one feeding a day, then add a second cup the following week.
No matter how slow (or fast) you want to go, Ayoob says you should take away the mid-day bottles first, then the morning one. Get your child used to eating something solid first thing in the morning, he says, before you remove the morning bottle.
Most experts (and parents!) agree that taking away the nighttime bottle is the toughest final step. "Denying your baby a bottle, especially that last one before bed, can be incredibly challenging for moms and dads,” says Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years. “It makes it far more difficult to get babies to sleep, and when babies don’t sleep, neither do their parents."
To make things easier, she says to have a bedtime ritual in place. This keeps you from solely relying on the bottle to ease your child into sleep. "A nice warm bath, rocking while reading a story, and snuggling with a lovey can be great sources of comfort, security, and relaxation before bedtime, even when the bedtime bottle is no longer a part of the routine," she says.
Nervous about stopping the bottle? We asked the experts to offer some extra help and support.
You're thinking: "She hates sippy cups."
The fix: To protect her teeth, try a cup that doesn't have a solid spout. It's too similar to a nipple, says Ayoob, who says a straw is a better choice. But in the end, "the best sippy cup is the one your child will drink from happily and consistently," McAllister says. "Buy a few different types and experiment. When you find one your child likes, buy a few!"
You can also have your child use regular, non-sippy cups. Still, it might take some time for her to learn to use it by herself. Give her something thick -- like vanilla yogurt or some puréed fruit that's been thinned with a little water -- to cut back on spills, Ayoob says.
You're thinking: "She'll drink water or juice from a sippy cup -- just not milk."
The fix: "Some children love the bottle so very much that they will be stubborn to take milk from anything else, but this is a temporary hunger strike!" Richel says.
Not willing to wait it out? Take the nipple off the bottle and offer it with a straw instead. Or start putting water in bottles and milk in cups and give your child a choice. "Tell her, 'Milk comes in a cup now. Water comes in a bottle. Which one do you want?'" Ayoob says. You can also try to make milk in a cup more tempting by flavoring it with puréed strawberries or other fruit. "A strawberry 'milkshake' might tempt her to drink from a cup," McAllister says.
You're thinking: "If she refuses the cup, she won't get enough calcium."
The fix: Don't worry about them not getting enough calcium, even if they refuse milk from a cup for several weeks. Just be sure to feed them other sources, such as cheese and yogurt. Broccoli, soy milk, and calcium-fortified orange juice are good picks, too.
You're thinking: "He's going to throw a tantrum."
The fix: Let them. Throwing a fit is hardly out of character for a toddler, and they'll get over it. "If the parent is willing to put up with a meltdown for a day or two, it will go away," Ayoob says. "Remember, if he can drink from a cup, you're not denying him liquid."
You're thinking: "She'll never fall asleep."
The fix: Many children are used to having a bottle to settle down, but that will change. "Infants and toddlers can learn to self-soothe without the sucking that they have been accustomed to from pacifiers or bottles," Richel says. "It simply takes a bit of time. But it will happen."
How to Stop Bottle Feeding (The When, Why, and How)
So, you’re wondering if it’s time for your baby to stop bottle-feeding. It can be a tough decision to make. Babies not only take nourishment from their bottles, but they also tend to grow very attached to them.
Prolonged bottle-feeding can pose risks and make weaning difficult. But how do you know when your baby is ready to start transitioning from the bottle? And how do you make this process as stress-free as possible?
As moms, we understand that choosing to stop bottle-feeding can be an emotional step, not just for your little one but for you also. In this article, we will discuss the risks associated with prolonged bottle use, when you should start moving on from the bottle, and tips to ease the transition.
Table of Contents
- Reasons to Stop Bottle-Feeding
- When Should Bottle-Feeding Stop?
- How to Stop Bottle-Feeding
- Ditching The Bottle Without Tears
Reasons to Stop Bottle-Feeding
A bottle may seem harmless. It delivers nutrition to your baby, so how bad can it be? But prolonged bottle-feeding may pose health risks for children.
- Increased risk of tooth decay: Nursing on a bottle nipple throughout the day means prolonged contact with milk or juice, which can lead to cavities and tooth decay (1). Giving a bedtime bottle without brushing your baby’s teeth afterward is the biggest culprit for “bottle tooth decay.” The milk pools and will sit and “eat” at the teeth all night.
- Prolonged use linked to obesity: Babies and toddlers tend to drink more milk from a bottle than a sippy cup, and toddlers shouldn’t get more than 16-24 ounces of milk daily. Bottles can also become a comfort measure for both babies and caretakers, as it’s often instinct to offer your baby a bottle when they start crying. But milk has the same calories as food, so this calorie-dense comfort measure can quickly lead to weight gain and even obesity.
- Iron deficiency anemia: Cow’s milk can block the absorption of iron by the body. So if your child is drinking too much milk, as happens with prolonged bottle use, some of the iron they eat isn’t going to be utilized by their body to help them grow and develop (2).
- Could mess with their smile: Recent studies show that bottle-fed babies are twice as likely to have crooked teeth. The way babies suck on bottles can affect the development of their muscles, mouth, and palate, which could affect teeth and jaw alignment.
When Should Bottle-Feeding Stop?
The longer you wait to boot the bottle, the more challenging it will be for your child to let go as they become more independent and stubborn. It will also cause more stress and chaos for you.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies start weaning from the bottle by 12 months of age and for bottles to be completely phased out by 24 months (3). However, the earlier you phase them out, the better.
It’s best to introduce a sippy cup around six to nine months. Start by offering your baby expressed breast milk, formula, or one to two ounces of water in a sippy cup with their meals. It may take them a few weeks to get the hang of the sippy.
When your little one is closer to a year old and has the sippy cup all figured out, start the weaning process by replacing one regular bottle feeding per day with a sippy. One year is a great time to make the switch because you’ll also be starting to switch from formula to milk.
How to Stop Bottle-Feeding
Getting rid of the bottle can be a difficult and stressful time for both you and your baby. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother and more enjoyable for everyone involved.
- Time it right: Make sure there aren’t any stressful events about to take place when starting the transition. Events like a move, the birth of a sibling, or a big family vacation could be too much for your little one. They may start to feel insecure and cling back to familiar objects or routines.
- Let them choose: Make the transition a special occasion of its own, and take your toddler to the store with you so they can pick out their own cups. You can also let them choose which cup they want to use at each feeding.
- Eliminate gradually: Introduce the sippy cup with meals around 6-9 months of age. Once they’ve mastered the sippy cup, start the transition by replacing one regular bottle feeding a day with a cup. Do that for about three days, then add on another feeding with a sippy replacement. Continue this process until all bottle-feedings have been replaced. Babies and toddlers tend to be more clingy in the morning and at bedtime, so it’s best to save those feedings for last.
- Go cold turkey: For some children, the gradual elimination simply won’t work, and you may have to try going cold turkey. All children are different, and you have to figure out what works best for your child.
- Use a sippy cup with a hard spout or straw: Dentists recommend using sippy cups with a hard spout or straw rather than ones that have soft spouts. Using a hard spout or straw won’t only benefit their teeth, but it will also make the transition less confusing. You could also go straight to an open cup like the Babycup or BabyBjorn Cup.
- Have a comfort replacement: If your child’s bottle is a comfort measure for them, try finding a security replacement such as a blanket, doll, or stuffed animal. Talk to them, and try to figure out if they are truly hungry or if something else is wrong. Offer lots of hugs, cuddles, and distractions when they are upset.
- Dilute milk in the bottle: If your little one is having a hard time letting go of the bottle, you could try diluting the milk with half water. Then gradually increase the amount of water in the bottle as the days pass until it’s just water. It’s highly likely your little one will become less interested and will start asking for the sippy cup with the yummy milk in it.
- Offer praise: Give praise and positive reinforcement to your child when they use their cup instead of the bottle. You could even give them stickers to make the sippy cup more enticing.
- Out of sight, out of mind: When you’re weaning, hide all other bottles from sight, so your little will be less apt to ask for one. When they have completely transitioned, you can either keep all the bottles hidden until your next baby is here, or you can throw a little celebration and have your toddler help you get rid of them. Explain that they are a “big kid” now, and they don’t need them anymore.
Ditching The Bottle Without Tears
Getting your little to let go of the bottle can be difficult, but it’s essential to wean them completely by 24 months to avoid obesity, iron deficiency, tooth decay, cavities, and other dental problems.
Introduce a sippy with meals around six to nine months, and start replacing regular bottle feedings with sippy cups around their first birthday.
Help make the transition smoother for your little by timing it right, letting them pick out their cups, diluting milk in the bottle, offering praise and alternative forms of comfort, and keeping bottles out of sight.
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Medically Reviewed by
Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC
Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC is a writer, editor, and board-certified lactation consultant for two busy pediatric practices. She is a former La Leche League Leader, Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, and Certified Infant Massage Instructor.
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Home ›› What to do when your baby refuses a bottle
any problems. If your breastfed baby refuses a bottle, don't worry. This is a common occurrence in many babies who are used to breastfeeding. Obviously, this can create certain difficulties for moms, especially if you need to return to work in the near future.
3 Philips Avent products to help you bottle feed:
So why is your baby refusing to bottle and crying? There are many ways to quickly and easily teach a breastfed baby to a bottle. Here are important tips on what to do when your baby refuses a bottle.
Is the baby refusing the bottle? Take a step back
If your baby cries while bottle feeding, the first thing to do is to start over and rethink your feeding approach and technique. Try the following steps when bottle feeding your baby: 
- Lift and tilt your baby's head forward. Before inserting the pacifier into the baby's mouth, make sure that the baby's head is raised and tilted over his body to avoid choking: so that the baby does not choke and have the opportunity to burp during bottle feeding.
- Insert the pacifier. Bring the pacifier to the baby's lips and gently guide it into the baby's mouth. In no case do not try to press the nipple on the baby's lips and try to push it into his mouth. After touching the pacifier to the baby's lips, wait for the baby to open his mouth and take the pacifier.
- Hold the bottle at an angle. Tilt the bottle at an angle so that the nipple is only half full. So the child can eat at his own pace.
- Let the baby burp during and after feeding. It can be useful for a child to burp not only after feeding, but also approximately in the middle of the process. This will help reduce gas or tummy discomfort that your baby may experience from swallowing too much air.
- Stop in time, do not overfeed the baby. If the baby begins to turn his head away from the bottle or closes his mouth, then he is full and you need to stop feeding.
- Perhaps the flow of milk from the nipple to the baby is weak or, on the contrary, too fast, so he is naughty and refuses the bottle. Try changing the nipple to a nipple with a different flow.
Other tips if your baby refuses the bottle
If you've followed the steps above and your baby still refuses the bottle, don't worry. There are other ways to help bottle feed your baby. Here are some simple tricks you can add to your bottle feeding process. 
1. Remind your child about mom.
Sometimes a child can be fed by someone other than his mother - dad, grandmother or, for example, a nanny. If your baby fusses while bottle feeding, try wrapping the bottle in something that smells like mommy, like a piece of clothing or some fabric. This will make it easier to feed the baby when the mother is not around.
2. Try to maintain skin contact while bottle feeding.
Some babies need contact with their mother, so try bottle feeding while leaning against you. However, some babies are better at bottle feeding when they are in the exact opposite position than when they are breastfed. For example, there is a position with bent legs. Lay the child on your bent knees, facing you, pointing the child's legs towards your stomach. During feeding, the baby will be able to look at you and contact you in this way. If your baby refuses a bottle, experiment to see which works best.
3. Move while feeding.
Sometimes all it takes to get your baby to take the bottle is a little wiggle or walk. The next time your baby starts crying while bottle feeding, try moving around a little rhythmically to calm him down.
4. Try changing the milk temperature.
If the baby still does not want to take the bottle, check if the milk in the bottle is too hot or too cold. Before feeding, put some warm breast milk on the inside of your wrist to check the temperature. Milk should be warm, but if it seemed hot to you, just place the bottle for a short while under a stream of cold water.
Choosing the right bottle for your baby If you plan to combine bottle feeding with breastfeeding, it is advisable to choose bottles with a nipple that will have a wide base as the bottle will grip closer to the breast.Also pay attention to the fact that the nipple is firm and flexible, the child must make an effort to drink from the bottle, as well as from the breast. Give preference to nipples with an anti-colic valve that vents air out of the bottle.
Natural bottle allows you to combine breast and bottle feeding. 83.3% of babies switch from a Natural bottle to breastfeeding and back.*
If you choose a bottle for artificial feeding, traditional bottles are fine, but it is desirable that the nipple is made of a hypoallergenic material, such as silicone, has an anti-colic valve and did not stick together when bottle fed. In case your baby spit up often, then use special bottles with anti-colic and anti-reflux valve, which reduces the risk of spitting up and colic.
Bottle with unique AirFree valve reduces the risk of colic, gas and spitting up. With this bottle, you can feed your baby in an upright or semi-upright position to reduce spitting up. Due to the fact that the nipple is filled with milk and not air during feeding, the baby does not swallow air, which means that feeding will be more comfortable.
Both bottles are indispensable if you want to breastfeed, bottle feed or just bottle feed your baby.
“My baby refuses to breastfeed but bottle feeds – help!”
Sometimes a baby gets used to bottle feeding and refuses to breastfeed. Therefore, it is important to use bottles that are suitable for combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding. If, nevertheless, you are faced with the fact that the child refuses to take the breast, try using silicone nipple covers to make the transition from the bottle to the breast and back more imperceptible.
Remember that if you want to combine breastfeeding and bottle feeding, it is worth waiting at least a month before offering a bottle, so that you are lactating and have time to get used to each other and develop a breastfeeding regimen.
Breastfeed and bottle feed your baby with pleasure
Remember that it takes a while for your baby to get used to bottle feeding. This is completely normal. If you have to go to work, be sure to set aside enough time to bottle train your baby beforehand.
Remember that every child is different, so what works for one may not work for another. With a little time and patience, you will find out what works best for your baby when he refuses a bottle.
You will identify your child's unique needs. However, if your baby still refuses the bottle after all the steps above, check with your pediatrician.
Articles and tips from Philips Avent
*O.L. Lukoyanova, T.E. Borovik, I.A. Belyaeva, G.V. Yatsyk; NTsZD RAMS; 1st Moscow State Medical University THEM. Sechenova, "The use of modern technological methods to maintain successful breastfeeding", RF, 10/02/2012 3 llli.org - The Baby Who Doesn't Nurse
llli.org - Introducing a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby
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When breastfeeding is not possible, or there is not enough breast milk and supplementary feeding is required, the use of infant milk formulas allows you to establish good nutrition for the baby.
The mixtures contain all the necessary nutrients, vitamins and trace elements. As a rule, they are well tolerated and digested, especially if the feeding process is properly established.
If you plan to bottle feed or supplement your baby with formula, our article will help you navigate the basic rules and intricacies of artificial feeding.
How to choose a teat (nozzle) for a bottle
Teats differ in composition (silicone, latex), shape and flow rate. While the shape of the nipple and the material are often chosen according to the preferences and needs of a particular baby, the flow rate is strictly determined by the age category.
Babies are fed from birth using the slowest flow nipple (these are usually labeled from 0 and one drop). Next, the teat flow rate in most bottle manufacturers increases at 3 months, 6 months, 12 months.
In order not to be mistaken, pay attention to the labeling and the age group for which the nipple to the bottle of the selected manufacturer is intended.
Whether such a nipple is right for you, you will also probably be able to understand during feeding.
- The baby should be able to comfortably grasp the nipple and drink formula confidently (without too much effort).
- He should not choke/choke frequently.
- The mixture should flow well. If the mixture does not flow until you shake the bottle, the hole may be clogged with powder.
- If the mixture flows too much, check if the nipple is not torn.
How to treat the bottle
For newborn babies in the first months of life, it is recommended to sterilize the bottles before each feeding. Sterilization is the immersion of all feeding accessories (bottles, nipples, other parts) in boiling water for about 5 minutes to destroy pathogenic microflora.
You can choose any convenient method of sterilization: using a special device (sterilizer), in a microwave oven, dishwasher, ordinary boiling. Read more about how to properly sterilize bottles in our other article.
It is important to ensure that the baby bottle you use is made of safe plastic that can be heated. Some types of plastic release harmful chemicals when heated. As a rule, information about the possibility of sterilization and heating is indicated on the packaging. If there is no such information, it is not worth the risk. Use special baby bottles from well-known manufacturers. For example, a Dino Reno feeding bottle with nipple can be sterilized completely by any of the listed methods.
How to prepare formula and feed your baby
- Wash your hands with soap and water and dry with a dry towel.
- Remove the bottle and nipple from the sterilizer using the special holder (tweezers), assemble the bottle with the nipple, being careful not to touch the part that will go into the baby's mouth with your hands.
- Take boiled or special baby water heated to body temperature, dilute the mixture in the proportion indicated on the package.
- Use a special measuring spoon for cooking (it is in every box with the mixture).
- Dilute the mixture strictly in the proportion indicated by the manufacturer. A thicker or thinner formula can harm your baby and cause stomach problems.
- Shake the bottle thoroughly to mix the contents evenly. Make sure that there are no lumps and clots left in the liquid and on the walls of the bottle.
- Check the temperature of the prepared mixture by dropping a little liquid on your wrist, it should not burn.
- Hold the bottle at the right angle. So that the tip of the nipple is always filled with milk and not with air.
- After feeding, hold the baby upright, let him burp the excess air.
- Feed your baby only fresh formula. According to the recommendations of the European Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) of 2004, the reconstituted dry formula can be stored in a sealed bottle at a cool temperature for no more than 4 hours.
- If the mixture has cooled down, it can be warmed up with a special heater or in a water bath.
- If you are going on a long trip or outing, do not prepare the formula ahead of time. Better just pour the required amount of water into the bottle, and pour the right amount of the mixture into a separate container.