Weaning your toddler from a bottle

My son is 18 months and a good eater. Unfortunately, he's still attached to his bottle and has about three bottles a day. The morning bottle seems to be his favorite. Even though I introduced the cup when he was about 13 months, he only ocassionally takes juice or water from a cup. He will not take milk from a cup. I guess I've waited too long to wean him Can you help?

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Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

First of all, let me reassure you that your son's use of a bottle does not in any way reflect any failure on your part when it comes to the care of your son. Nor does it mean you are doomed to a drastically difficult time in weaning him from the bottle.

Often, the older toddler who only occasionally bottle feeds doesn't necessarily need any pressure to give up the bottle.

On the other hand, many older toddlers, once attached to the bottle, are reluctant to give it up, and this reluctance tends to increase with age.

Stretegies to employ to completely wean from the bottle:

  • Offer milk in a cup before every bottle feeding. I realize he may flat out refuse it, but persistance often pays off.
  • Wean gradually. I suggest that you eliminate one bottle -feeding every five to seven days, depending on your child's reaction. Replace each bottle-feeding with a cup feeding and extra holding.
  • Leave the morning bottle for last.Leave his favorite bottle (the morning one for your son) as the last one eliminated. When it is time to eliminate that feeding, do it slowly by decreasing the amount in that particular bottle over a week.
  • Cuddle and explain. After weaning is completed, respond to your son's requests for a bottle with extra holding and explanations of how bottles are for babies.

Do not panic. Your son will eventually wean from the bottle although there may be rough spots along the way. Once you begin the process of weaning, try to resist the urge to backtrack on the progress you have made at that point. However, remember to implement this at a time when you anticipate the least amount of change in his life (i.e. not when he is ill or your family is on vacation, etc.). This will optimize your chances of success.

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