Weaning is the process of teaching your child to feed from something else than the bottle. Weaning can be easier said than done. Once you’ve made the decision to wean your baby, consistency is essential and all mothers should be aware that the child is transitioning from the bottle to the cup. Expect weaning to be a long, gradual process.
In general, children can try a cup at 6 months and be weaned off the bottle around 12 to 18 months. It does vary from child to child and it is up to the mother to decide when to encourage the change from bottle to cup. The things to look out for are when the baby can sit up for themselves; obviously drinking from a cup is going to be near impossible when baby is still lying on it’s back. Also, you baby should be taking bottle feeds at regular times. You should also be noticing that your child starts to show a real interest in the food of others.
Why is it important to wean my child off the bottle?
As explained in another article, children being bottle fed are more likely to suffer from tooth decay. So, it is important to not allow your child to carry on bottle feeding longer than is necessary but don’t force the issue – remember, weaning your child of bottle feeding is a gradual process. As your child develops the nutrients it requires change. It will not get these nutrients from bottle feeding alone whereas it will get more than it needs from solids. Finally, children who delay the transition from formula to solids may have difficulty developing appropriate feeding skills.
So, how do I wean my child off the bottle?
- Wean your child during a relatively stress-free time. It is not a good idea to start when a new sibling has just arrived or when the family is moving to a new house
- At age 8 to 10 months, substitute a ‘sippy’ cup for a bottle at one feeding during the day. Choose a feeding when the child usually drinks just a little, rather than a major mealtime. Use this same feeding time to use the cup every day for a week. Remember, routine is key.
- Gradually introduce the cup at another feeding, slowly decreasing the number of bottles the child receives.
- Be patient. Help your child to hold the cup and tip a small amount of liquid into the child’s mouth.
- Some children may need to suck as a way for them to control their behavior. This sets their mood to accomplish certain tasks such as sleeping, concentrating and running. Some children may continue to suck on a pacifier or bottles of plain water for the first few years.
- Consistency is key to successful weaning. Be sure to give the child the cup at the designated feeding time and don’t switch back to the bottle at this feeding.
What can I do to make weaning easier on my baby?
- Offer other comforts such as a soft blanket or stuffed animal or play soothing music.
- Spend extra time cuddling with your child during the weaning process.
- Buy cups with handles, spouted lids or baby cups with straws to make drinking easier.
- Be a positive role model and drink from a cup with your child.
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