Babies are ready to start drinking from a free flow cup (beaker) or an open top cup from six months old, some even earlier! By introducing this to them at six months, they have time to get used to their new cup, allowing you to say ‘bye-bye’ to the bottle completely.
Bottles are often needed to support feeding during the first 6-9 months, but sucking also provides comfort for babies, and this is why it can be a lot harder to break the bottle habit when your little one has reached a year old. The earlier you try to wean the bottle away, the easier it will be for you to do so.
Using the bottle for longer than needed can have a bad effect on your child’s teeth, and can also cause problems with their speech development and eating too.
The main concern with giving toddlers anything other than water from a bottle is that it can lead to tooth decay. This happens due to the sugars in fluids (that are even in milk) dripping through the teat and covering your child’s teeth and gums. This can then lead to a build-up of plaque on the teeth and eventually decay. As well as affecting baby teeth, it can also cause issues with their adult teeth in the future too.
Baby teeth are needed for chewing and for speech too. If they are lost due to decay, this will not only cause your child pain and difficulty with eating, but they could struggle to learn to talk too, as chewing is crucial for the development of the face muscles.
Tips for saying ‘bye-bye’ to the bottle
- Introduce a free flow beaker or open top cup at six months of age
- Do this by switching milk to the beaker and stop using the bottle completely. Or you can start by using the cup for water and, when your baby is more confident, swap the bottle with the cup for milk too
- Give lots of praise whenever your child uses the cup. No matter the age, they love praise!
- If your baby usually has a bottle at bedtime, offer a cup of milk with an evening snack instead, then continue with the bedtime routine; remember to always brush their teeth before bed!
- Offer a blanket or soft toy to cuddle for comfort instead of using the bottle
- Now is the time to stop night-time feeding, if you haven’t already. Offer your little one sips of water from their cup if they wake
- If your child is a little older and they are asking for the bottle, keep calm and positive, using distractions such as play, a toy or a story to change the subject
- Keep bottles out of sight (if you throw them away, remember that many can be recycled)
- Once you have decided to stop using bottles, make sure to stick to your decision and to ensure that all of those who care for your child are doing the same
- Healthy Teeth Happy Smiles!: Stopping the bottle
- Institute for Health Visiting: Supporting your child to wean of bottles and dummies