When it’s time for your baby to give up her bottle, many moms confirm it can feel like a battle. After all, what toddler wants to give up her milk and source of comfort?
"My daughter is 24 months and refuses to leave the bottle," shares Circle of Moms member Kim D. "We tried a sipper cup, but she throws a tantrum."
Carrie L.'s 25-month-old son also throws a fit at the mention of pitching his bottle of milk. "He drinks water from a cup or sippy cup, but wants his milk in a bottle (his drink of choice). Should I go cold turkey and toss them (and deal with his wrath) or wait for him to be ready?" she asks other moms.
If you, too, are wondering what to do when your child won't give up her bottle, Circle of Moms members offer the following six tips.
1. Wean Off the Bottle Gradually
The best way to break your baby’s bottle habit is to wean her off the bottle without her even realizing it, moms say. For example, Lola S. gradually reduced the number of times her daughter could drink from the bottle to once per day, and then eventually was able to take it away altogether.
Keri R., too, recommends gradually transitioning your child to a sippy cup: "Once children begin teething you should get rid of the bottle because it can disrupt the way their mouth and teeth grow. [Parents can] lessen the shock by making the transition over a couple weeks, though."
As you wean your child off the bottle and ramp up the use of a cup, your child will gradually get used to it, Stacy C. says. "She should respond really well if you praise her every time she does anything with the sippy cup. Just staying really positive about this will help her so much. She [will] want to do it more to keep getting the positive attention."
To speed the transition along, Jamie P. and Leisl F. both suggest offering your child’s favorite drink (i.e., milk or juice) in a cup instead of a bottle. "If you only allow them to drink water in the bottle, then they usually get bored with just water [and] give up the bottle all together," says Jamie, and Liesl points out that kids eventually lose interest in the bottle and give in because they want their milk.
2. Explain That "Big Kids" Use Cups
When subtle weaning isn’t working, several Circle of Moms members suggest explaining that big kids use cups and that bottles are for babies.
When Alicia T. was having trouble detaching her daughter from her bottle, she finally got down and talked to her at her level. "[I] said, 'You’re a big girl now and we’re going to put your bottles in a bag and give them to the little babies that need them.'"
To Alicia’s surprise, her daughter helped gather all the bottles in a bag to give to the babies, and that was the last she saw of them. "She was fine within a week and we've never looked back. The key is to get your lil’ one involved in being a big kid and stick with it," she adds.
This tactic also worked for Hollie S. When her daughter was about one, Hollie told her that another baby really needed a bottle and let her help pack up her own. Neither mother nor child said anything about the bottles again.
For toddlers who need a little more encouragement, several moms suggests tapping a child's imagination to strengthen their resolve to be a big kid about bottles. If it's almost Christmastime, Rebecca C. advises, explain that Santa is taking the bottles to give to baby reindeer so that they will be "big and strong and ready in time for Christmas to bring all the Christmas presents." At other times of year, Nicola C. suggests explaining that a fairy is taking the bottles to another baby.
3. Give the Bottles a Send-Off
Sometimes, bidding an actual goodbye to their bottles helps give toddlers a sense of closure, says Monica M. She got her son’s bottles out and told him, in an excited voice, "Let’s say goodbye to the bottles! Yeah … bye bottles." Celeste used this technique with her son as well and reports that after he said his goodbyes he never asked for his bottles again.
4. Let Your Child Choose a 'Big Kid Cup'
To help your child feel like a big kid who doesn’t need a bottle, Melissa S. and Amanda S. both suggest letting her trade in her bottles for big kid or "cool" cups. "Go out and buy the best one you can find with Disney characters on it," explains Amanda. "When the 'trade' is made, then thank her for being such a big girl and letting the baby have her bottles."
5. Quit Cold Turkey
Of course, moms can always opt to make their children quit the bottle cold turkey.
Jessica S. has a strict rule that once you turn one, the bottle goes away. "We just completely took them away and gave [my daughter] a sippy cup," she says. "She threw tantrums, and of course would refuse to drink out of them, but eventually she got to the point where she really wanted her milk (and realized the milk was in the cup), and would just start drinking from it."
Lorna H. and Terrie R. chucked all the bottles into the trash bin around that same time and gave their children no forewarnings. Lorna reports that her now 18-month-old son took only three days to get used to the change. "The ruthless approach worked for me," she says.
Terrie’s 10-month-old daughter’s protests lasted a little longer — about a week, but not only did she quickly adjust to the sippy cup, she moved on to a regular cup within three months. "It was worth getting rid of the bottles!" Terrie declares.
If you do the tough love thing, then don’t give into your child’s protests, Doreen M. cautions. "Giving into her tantrums is more harmful than just taking the bottle," she says. "Once she calms down and gets hungry/thirsty, she will sooner or later pick it up. One day of tough love will be worth it in the long-run."
6. Don’t Sweat It
If you are having problems breaking your child’s bottle habit, then some moms say to give yourself and your child a break.
"If you force this, your daughter will probably simply replace it with another habit — thumb sucking, perhaps, if she has not yet outgrown this genuine, emotional need," explains Tine B. "My suggestion to reduce her need for comfort sucking at the bottle would be to increase the amount of other types of comfort she gets — lots of hugs, snuggles and play with you and other people to whom she is attached. Suddenly removing [the bottle] can create a whole lot of distress and anguish that isn't necessary, in the same way as sudden weaning from the breast can."
Andy M., who says she struggled with trying to take her son’s bottle away gradually and with all sorts of tricks, eventually came to the realization that she needed to relax. "Let’s face it, they all stop using the bottle eventually. You never see a kid at school with one, right?" she says. "Just like diaper training, it happens at different times for everyone." Until her son does decide to surrender his security bottle, Andy says she’s not going to sweat the small stuff and will just enjoy her toddler. "It’ll happen when it happens," she concludes.
Image Source: UhDuh via Flickr/Creative Commons
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