The 7-Step Program for How to Wean Baby From Bottle at Bedtime
Have you started the weaning process and realized that there’s one bottle your baby is just not willing to give up?
Or are you getting ready to begin weaning and concerned about this common problem area?
Have you had children before who have struggled with nighttime bottle weaning?
If any of these are true of you, don’t worry! We’re here to help.
Weaning baby off bedtime bottle feeding can be challenging for even the most experienced of parents. Some little ones get so used to having a bottle that they feel like they can’t go to sleep without it. No matter how much you try, you may feel as though your child is never going to give up that last bottle of the day.
But it’s okay! Your baby will eventually be weaned perfectly, and this article is here to teach you how to make that process go even more smoothly than you could have imagined.
Every child has difficulty with this part of the weaning process, although some are less inclined to give up their night bottle than others. Although weaning is different for everyone, you can expect to have at least some pushback from your baby at this point in the process.
When it comes to night weaning formula fed baby and babies who have been on breastmilk in a bottle have the same struggles. The tips in this article should work well for your child, regardless of what type of milk or formula he or she has been drinking.
Now, if you’re looking for lots of help for weaning your baby at bedtime, read on! We’ve got you covered.
The Nighttime Bottle Problem
A lot of parents wonder how to wean baby from bottle at bedtime, but you may not have ever stopped to think about why this is such a difficult challenge for your baby. It’s hard to try to think of weaning from the baby’s point of view, after all! Weaning can be complicated for parents and everyone in the household when the baby is fussy because he or she isn’t getting to drink from a bottle. But when you better understand what makes your baby cling so much to a nighttime bottle, you’ll be one step closer to learning how to wean baby from night feeding altogether.
In this section, we’ll outline a few pointers about what makes your baby feel so attached to his or her nighttime bottle. Read through these tips and you’re sure to develop a better understanding of what your baby is going through as you work through the weaning process together
- Bottles quickly become a source of comfort to infants and toddlers. As soon as your little one gets used to having a bottle at night, he or she is going to come to expect it. The bottle means it’s time to get comfortable and go to sleep, and your baby, although unable to consciously realize the connection, associates getting a nighttime bottle with a restful night. Weaning baby from bottle at bedtime requires setting up a good, solid, healthy replacement as your child learns to self-soothe before sleep.
- At this age, any small change is seen as a threat to the baby’s safety and security. Once again, this may not be a conscious thought for your baby, but changing part of the nighttime standard in the household is going to upset your infant. This is one of the many reasons why it’s good to practice weaning baby off milk at night instead of forcing your baby to quit milk “cold turkey.”
- Ritual is just as important as the bottle itself. Your baby probably isn’t longing for the bottle at bedtime so much as he or she just wants things to go back to normal. When you establish a new ritual and routine before it’s time to go to sleep, you can create a new sense of safety and security—but we’ll have more info on that later!
7 Steps for Successful Nighttime Weaning
Learning how to wean baby from bottle at night means taking some time to understand the most successful steps in this process. Remember that the weaning process is different for every child and for every parent or caregiver involved, too, but that there are still some standards that hold true across the board. Keep the following tips in mind and be sure you pay close attention to the signs your baby is giving you. The better you can understand your baby’s communication with you, the easier it will be to figure out what to do and what not to do during the weaning process.
1. Be sure it’s time to start weaning.
Although you have probably confirmed this before you started wondering how to wean baby off night feeding, it’s still a good idea to be sure your baby is really prepared for weaning before you start taking bottles away at bedtime. If your child isn’t comfortable with weaning at all, then getting rid of the most important bottle of the day isn’t going to go over very well!
- Although every baby is different, you should not start the weaning process for most infants until they have reached six months of age. In some rare instances, your baby may be ready for weaning before this point, but it’s best to speak with your pediatrician if you’re wondering whether or not your child can start weaning sooner.
- If your baby cannot sit up without assistance or hold up his or her head alone, then it is too early to begin weaning. If your baby hasn’t started showing interest in what adults and older children are eating, it may also be too early. Some believe that your baby should start cutting teeth before the weaning process begins, but this isn’t always necessary.
2. Decrease daytime bottles first.
Weaning is called weaning for a reason, after all! You’re not going to stop giving your baby breastmilk or formula in a bottle immediately one day, and you shouldn’t start with the nighttime bottle either. This is the most comforting bottle to your baby, and he or she is probably already quite attached to it. Work on getting over the hurdle of daytime bottles first.
- One of the most effective and commonly used methods of weaning is to remove all but the first bottle of the morning and the last bottle at night and replace those with milk in cups. However, until your baby is used to drinking out of a cup, it may be beneficial to be prepared with bottles just to ensure he or she is getting enough nutrition.
- Take away the first bottle of the morning before you take away the nighttime bottle. Give your baby time to adjust to this change before you head to the final stage of weaning.
3. Be sure your baby is full at bedtime.
One of the most commonly overlooked reasons why babies are against bedtime bottle weaning is simply because they’re still hungry! It’s always a good idea to speak to your pediatrician about what to offer your child to eat throughout the day, especially while he or she is weaning from bottle feeding. Be sure your baby is getting enough nutrients throughout the day so that you don’t have to battle against hunger pains at bedtime.
- Many parents and caregivers offer babies a small snack between dinner and bedtime to ensure that their tummies are nice and full before it’s time to go to sleep. This can be a great way to combat the nighttime bottle weaning blues.
- If you want to give your baby a snack between dinner and bedtime, be sure it’s something healthy and filling. Don’t give your baby something that’s sweet or junk food, because it simply won’t do the trick as well and your baby may wake up during the night crying for food more frequently. Try giving your little one some veggies, fruit or a little bit of toast for best results.
There are a lot of different sippy cups out there, and some babies are much happier with certain versions than others. However, for the most part, weaning with a soft-spout sippy cup goes pretty well. These spouts feel like the nipple of a bottle in your baby’s mouth, and the familiar texture is sure to help your little one transition much more smoothly to drinking out of this “big kid” cup.
- Some babies, however, simply don’t like the soft spouts of a sippy cup or have difficulty using them despite their similarities to bottle nipples. If this is the case with your child, don’t be afraid to give a hard spout cup a try.
- In some instances, babies aren’t interested in using sippy cups at all. Although it may be a little messier for you in the beginning, if you’re having trouble getting your baby interested in sippy cups, offer a regular plastic drinking cup instead. It may take your child a few tries to get it right, but every now and then, babies are more interested in learning to use a “grown-up” cup and skipping the sippy cup stage altogether.
5. Decrease the amount of milk given in a nighttime bottle.
If your baby feels like he or she must have a bottle at bedtime, start cutting back on how much milk you offer. This may help your child break the habit without even realizing it, and pretty soon, the bottle will become simply another comfort item. There are a couple of different ways you can go about cutting back on milk levels at night, but either way you choose, be sure to supplement your baby’s diet with milk in a cup throughout the day to make up for the difference.
- For many babies, you can simply cut back the milk you put in the bottle by a half-ounce per day until it is empty. This tends to work in most situations, but every now and then, babies may realize that they aren’t getting the same amount of milk, and this may make them even fussier at bedtime.
- If your baby can tell that the milk level is different or if there is some other reason the first method doesn’t work for you, try thinning out the milk you offer with water. This will not only make it taste differently—which can help break the habit too—but it will also help your baby be able to reduce nighttime milk intake more easily.
6. Bring in a replacement comfort item for your nighttime ritual.
When it comes down to it, your baby is clinging to the bottle because it is comforting. If you can offer something that your child sees as even better and even more comforting, then it should be fairly easy to take the bottle away. Depending on your baby, this new item may be one of many different things.
- Stuffed animals and dolls are popular choices for replacement comfort items. Choose soft toys that have a soothing texture that your baby can cling to and pet when he or she needs to feel safe and secure before it’s time to fall asleep. Be sure to remove them from your child’s sleeping area as necessary, however, for safety purposes.
- Some children do well with baby blankets at this stage. Blankets, however, may also need to be “weaned” from later on in childhood, and they may be harder for your little one to let go of than a stuffed animal or doll will be. If you choose to use a baby blanket, be prepared for possible issues later on, depending on how your child develops.
- Try not to rely on pacifiers to help with bottle weaning if possible.
7. Make a solid bedtime plan and stick to it.
The best way to keep up with your baby’s successful weaning is to be sure you’re following the plan perfectly yourself. You need to feel confident so that your baby will, too.
- Nighttime plans differ for everyone, and it may take a little practice for you to figure out what’s right for you and your baby. For example, if your baby likes to be sung to sleep but you don’t always have time for this at night, you can record yourself singing and play the tape for your baby as part of your nightly routine.
- Remember to offer lots of hugs, support, and affection during this time. This is a stressful experience for your baby, so be as loving as possible!
5 Benefits of Nighttime Bottle Weaning
Now that you know more about how to wean baby off bottle at night, it’s time to learn a little bit more about why this is important. Although the importance of this process won’t be apparent to your baby, understanding more about it yourself can make a big difference in how you approach the situation. Sometimes, it may feel so overwhelming and difficult to wean your baby that you’ll feel like you can just let the nighttime bottle go—but then a few extra weeks turns into months, and your baby may soon by a preschooler who still hasn’t given up the nighttime bottle!
In this section, we’ll give you some compelling reasons to work toward weaning as soon as possible, while keeping your baby’s pace in mind.
1. Tooth decay.
You’ve probably heard this reason cited before, and it’s true—the longer a baby uses a bottle, the more likely it is that he or she will have bad teeth or suffer from tooth decay. It’s important to take your child to a pediatric dentist and keep up with brushing his or her teeth as soon as that very first tooth comes in. Even if you do this, however, remember that tooth decay is a very real concern for babies who stay on nighttime bottles too long.
2. Sleeping through the night.
Eventually, you want your child to be able to sleep through the night without waking up crying for a bottle. Eliminating the bedtime bottle is the first step toward getting your little one to this point. When your baby can sleep through the night, he or she will be much more well-rested, and so will you! This is as good for everyone in the household as it is for the baby, but it can never happen until that bedtime bottle is eliminated from the schedule.
3. Learning to self-soothe.
Even if you’re a very hands-on parent or caregiver, eventually your child is going to have to learn how to self-soothe in some way. This can be a difficult skill to learn, but when your baby isn’t offered a bottle at bedtime, he or she will have to learn to fall asleep with a different comfort item instead. This can be a great way for your child to start learning how to take care of his or her own emotional needs—at least on a small scale. When your baby wakes up in the night looking for a bottle, if he or she can self-soothe, you’ll notice your little one falling back asleep fairly easily.
4. Successful weaning all the way.
The weaning process won’t be truly complete until your baby is off the bottle at nighttime too. You want your child to grow up successfully and reach these milestones effectively, and so remember that it’s important to completely accomplish this difficult one, too. Your baby will eventually need to be completely on solid foods, and that includes a bedtime snack! It’s okay if your child takes a little time to reach this final step, but always keep that goal in mind.
5. Peer pressure.
Last but not least, if you leave your child drinking from a bottle at bedtime for too long, you run the risk of letting peer pressure finish the job for you. Unfortunately, it can be a lot more unpleasant for your preschooler to experience peer pressure and maybe even bullying about still using a bottle at bedtime than it would be for your baby to be weaned successfully. Although you may feel like it’s unkind to take away a comfort bottle from your child at a young age, remember that your baby isn’t going to hold it against you! And remember that peer pressure as your child ages can be a very real concern.
By now, you should be much more familiar with the weaning process and you should feel better about starting it with your little one if you haven’t already, too. Although weaning may seem like a big hurdle to overcome—for you and your baby both—it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming obstacle. Just remember to stay calm and keep the final goal in mind. Your baby will feel more confident when you are, too!
Weaning baby off bottle at night is usually the most challenging part of the whole endeavor, but even so, when you have the right information to back you up, you should be ready for just about any issue that might arise during the process. Keep the steps listed above in mind, and don’t worry if your baby seems to be hung up on part of them. Eventually, your child will adapt to being weaned from a bottle completely, and you and your baby both will be happy and feel successful.
Weaning baby from bottle at night has been an area of concern for parents for a long time, and if your baby is struggling a lot with this step, don’t worry. You’re definitely not alone! However, if you feel as though you’ve tried everything and your baby is still having a tough time, you can always speak to your pediatrician about it. Remember, too, to try to work at your baby’s pace and not force him or her into being uncomfortable too much.
In no time, your baby will be weaned and happily eating finger foods!