Is your baby ready to be weaned from a bottle?
Do you find yourself wondering more and more every day if it’s time to start weaning your bottle-fed baby?
Are you worried about the best way to wean baby from bottle feeding, or have you heard horror stories that put you off from wanting to begin?
If any of these are true of you, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, you’ll learn how to start weaning baby from bottle feeding as well as how to tell if it’s time to begin. You’ll find tons of information to help answer some of your questions about the weaning process, no matter where you might be on the path to a fully weaned baby.
Whether you’re just researching how to wean your baby off the bottle so you’ll be prepared when the time comes or you’re looking for information to help right away, we’ve got plenty of tips listed below to help you get started. We’ve also organized our tips into a few different sections, so you should have no trouble figuring out which ones are right for you and your little one.
The weaning process can be challenging, but we’re here to help!
When is it Time to Wean?
“When should I wean my baby off the bottle?”
This question is one of the biggest ones that parents of infants ask themselves. It can feel like you might never be able to figure out the right time to start the weaning process, and it may seem like all the information you look up tells you something different. You’re probably also hearing a lot of well-meaning advice from your family members, friends, and even strangers who think they’re doing some good!
When it comes down to it, figuring out when to wean a baby from a bottle comes down to one thing: all babies will be weaned eventually. While this might not help you pinpoint a specific age, it’s always very important to keep this in mind. Some parents worry that their children are never going to be weaned, especially if they’re late bloomers, but that’s okay! Children will be weaned eventually and sometimes, it’s best to wait for your baby to be ready.
But otherwise, when should baby wean from bottle feeding? There are a few ways to know it might be time to get started:
- Babies are usually ready to begin the weaning process somewhere between 6 and 9 months of age. That might sound like a pretty specific time frame to parents who haven’t raised children before, but if you’ve got an infant in your life, you probably realize that three months can make a huge difference in his or her timeline! Narrowing down what age to wean baby from bottle feeding is where the hard part comes in.
- It’s becoming more and more widely recommended to simply begin this process at 9 months of age, regardless. Any younger than this, and you run the risk of your baby not being ready yet. Any older, and your baby may have a harder time giving up something he or she has grown accustomed to.
- If your baby is still not weaned at one year of age and you’re wondering when to start weaning baby off bottle feeding, the answer is right away! As your baby gets older, if he or she is allowed to continue drinking often from a bottle, this can lead to tooth damage.
- If your baby is able to open his or her mouth for a spoonful of food and can sit up and hold his or her head up with no assistance, it’s probably time to start weaning.
- If your baby feels confident enough to not need your assistance holding or drinking from a bottle, this is also a good sign it may be time to get started weaning.
So, does this help you feel a little better about learning when to wean a baby from a bottle? Now that you’ve got a better idea of whether or not your baby is ready to begin, check out our list of tips below, divided into a few different sections to help give you all the information you need when you need it most.
How to Start Weaning
Beginning the weaning process can be one of the most trying experiences for babies as well as for parents and caregivers. Everyone is bound to be in a sour mood, and your baby isn’t going to understand what’s going on right away. It can feel like a huge hurdle you don’t want to have to deal with when the time to wean rolls around, but it’s something every baby has to go through sooner or later. In this section, you’ll learn about five tips on weaning your baby from the very beginning, and hopefully, these will take some of the guesswork out of the process.
1. Remember that your baby still needs milk, especially up until 12 months of age.
Weaning your baby from a bottle doesn’t mean weaning him or her from milk altogether.
- Although you should have already started offering water to your baby in a bottle, this is a good time to think about offering a little more water throughout the day, especially if your baby seems interested in having more to drink.
- Your baby should have plenty of milk available even after being completely transitioned to a sippy cup, but the amount of milk you should provide every day depends on your specific baby.
- It’s always a good idea to talk to your pediatrician or family doctor about how much you should be giving your baby throughout every step of the way.
2. Make sure to have lots of fun and bright cups on hand.
This is one of those tips for weaning baby from bottle feeding that some parents may overlook or not think about right away, but it can make a pretty big difference to your little one.
- Always choose sippy cups that can be easily put in the dishwasher, because frequent cleaning will be necessary.
- Keep enough sippy cups on hand to be sure you can provide your child with plenty of options as well as plenty of opportunities to practice drinking from a cup.
- The more colorful and friendly your sippy cups look, the more likely your baby is to want to hold and use them. They will look inviting to your child, and the bright colors will be comforting and soothing.
3. Start letting your baby hold and even try drinking from a sippy cup early, around six months of age.
There are a lot of different ways to wean baby from bottle feeding, but most methods recommend introducing the idea of the sippy cup before you introduce what it’s used for precisely.
- It’s a good idea to let your baby get used to holding a sippy cup, even if that means giving him or her an empty one to play with for a few times before you move on.
- The next step in this process is to show your baby what the sippy cup can be used for. Put some water in it and demonstrate how you drink out of it. You might also want to dribble a little bit of water out of the cup and onto your baby’s mouth so he or she can see through experience what it does.
- If your baby doesn’t seem to understand at first, don’t lose heart! Keep trying and you’ll see results soon.
4. Make sure you put milk in the sippy cup as well as in the bottle while you’re getting your baby used to this new concept.
It’s important that you offer milk through both types of drinking vessels, especially during the early stages of the weaning process.
- You don’t want your baby to begin associating the bottle with milk only and the sippy cup with juice only. This may lead your baby to want a bottle when he or she wants milk and not realizing that the sippy cup can also be used to hold milk.
- You also shouldn’t start putting juice or anything other than milk or water in your baby’s bottle. You want to create as big of a divide between your baby and the bottle as possible, which means limiting what that bottle can be used for.
- Never let your baby walk around while holding his or her bottle. The bottle should only be used for supervised feedings, while the sippy cup can (eventually) be used more freely. This will also help to create a mental divide between the two for your little one.
5. Try showing your baby a sippy cup in the tub for the first few times.
You might feel as though this is a little counterproductive, especially since you’re trying to teach your little one to drink out of a cup, but this can actually be a huge help when it comes to your baby’s understanding of what the cup is used for.
- Allow your baby to fill up the cup and pour it out as much as he or she wants to. Be sure your baby plays with the cup with the lid on and off to help facilitate more understanding of the overall concept.
- Let your baby have fun with this! It’s okay to be a little messy in the tub, and your baby will appreciate the chance to have a fun experience with the sippy cup instead of looking at it as an unwelcome change.
- You might want to use a different color sippy cup for bath play than the ones you’ll be using for drinking. This can help your baby differentiate between the cup it’s okay to pour out and the ones that should be used for drinking instead.
Now that the first step toward the weaning process has been complete, it’s time to move on. Once your baby has become fully comfortable in the presence of a sippy cup, he or she can start thinking more about drinking out of one. This is a time when it’s very important for you as a parent or caregiver to stay positive and always behave as though the sippy cup is a good thing, and not something to be feared or dreaded. Your behavior will greatly influence the way your child feels about this big step in his or her life.
How to Move to a Cup
So, the weaning process has begun, but do you think your baby is really ready to make the final move from bottle to cup? This is arguably the most critical point of the process, and it may take a little while for your baby to be completely comfortable using a cup and staying away from his or her bottle. However, with a little effort from both sides of the struggle, this doesn’t have to be such a difficult and trying time. In this section, we’ll give you a few tips for weaning baby once you reach the point of introducing cups more and more.
1. Allow your child to choose the cup he or she wants to use every day.
This may seem like a small thing to you, but to your little one, it can feel like a big responsibility that he or she will look forward to every day.
- Letting your child have some say in which cup he or she gets to use on a given day can also provide a feeling of being in control of a situation that he or she otherwise doesn’t have a lot of control over. Your baby may feel like things are changing too quickly, so being able to make a small decision in the process can create a sense of calm.
- This can also become a fun game for your child! It can be exciting to get to pick a favorite color, and you may even notice some of your baby’s personality coming to the surface as you continue this practice. You might want to surprise your baby with some new colors of sippy cups throughout the weaning process, as well, to keep things entertaining.
- Don’t give your child a full selection of several colors to pick from each day. Choose two every day and let your baby pick the one he or she wants. Younger infants and even toddlers can have a hard time choosing between several options instead of just two.
2. Phase out bottles one at a time, starting with those offered during the middle of the day.
Weaning your baby off the bottle can take a little while when you do it this way, but this is a very successful and tried-and-true method that works for almost every little one at some point.
- Your baby probably wakes up looking forward to a bottle and may even associate a nighttime bottle with sleeping securely. Because of these reasons, it’s a good idea to save morning and nighttime bottles as the last ones to go.
- Some parents continue giving their babies nighttime bottles for a while after the weaning process has begun. This can be good for some children who need the bottle for security, but it can also be detrimental if you keep it up for too long. Try to find the right balance that works for your baby.
- If your baby is having trouble adjusting or seems nervous when the sippy cup shows up instead of a bottle, try alternating some of your midday bottles with snacks as well as with milk in a cup. This way, your baby will notice that he or she is getting more interesting things than simply a bottle, and may feel less apprehensive of the cup.
3. Try watering down the milk in bottles while leaving the milk in sippy cups as-is.
Doing this can help your child associate milk that tastes good with the sippy cup while associating milk that tastes a little less good with the bottle.
- There’s no harm in giving your child watered down milk. The only difference between it and regular milk is that it won’t have as strong of a taste, so it may be less appealing to your little one.
- If you do start watering down the milk in your baby’s bottle, make sure he or she is still getting enough milk and nutrients through other meals and drinks throughout the day. You will need to compensate for the smaller quantity of milk being given in bottles.
- While this technique can prove helpful, try not to take it too far by offering flavored or sweetened milk in the sippy cup to entice your child to drink it. This can cause more trouble down the line and may lead your child to want only sweet milk instead of a more nutritious alternative.
4. Talk to your child every step of the way and let him or her know why this is an important change.
Just because your child is young doesn’t mean he or she can’t understand what’s going on. Babies and toddlers are always learning and understanding new things about their surroundings, and your tone of voice alone can make a big difference in your child’s experience with weaning.
- Be sure to explain that your baby is a big girl or boy now and no longer needs the bottle. You might even practice by having your baby “throw away” a bottle that’s no longer necessary.
- Tell your baby that it’s time to say bye-bye to the bottle. Wave bye-bye and make a big deal out of parting ways with it. Conversely, practice saying hi and waving to the sippy cup, and be sure to stay positive about its “arrival.”
5. Remember that cold turkey only works for a few babies—but it can work for some.
This is usually not the best way to wean baby off bottle feeding, but sometimes infants feel so secure with their bottles that they’ll be stressed and unwilling any time the sippy cup shows up.
- If you find that your baby continually is unwilling to try drinking from a sippy cup or becomes very distressed any time you try, you might want to go the cold turkey route.
- Pay attention to be sure your baby is still getting enough nutrients if you go cold turkey, especially if there’s a period during which your child isn’t drinking any milk throughout the day.
- Most babies will eventually come around to this method, but it may take a few tries to get it right. If you plan to try this, speak to your pediatrician first to be sure it’s advisable.
By this stage, you and your baby both should be feeling quite a lot better about the whole weaning process. Your baby should be much more comfortable being around his or her sippy cup, and you may notice that he or she gravitates more toward it than to the bottle by this point. This means that the weaning process is almost complete, and you should soon be able to move away from the bottle altogether.
How to Stay Away from Bottles For Good
Finally, your baby has gotten used to drinking out of a cup and is getting more and more skilled with this new technique. That’s wonderful! But you may notice that your child is still interested in using a bottle as well, or still seems a little hesitant about transitioning completely to the use of a cup. If you’re looking for some suggestions about weaning bottle fed baby for good, check out our list below. We’re sure to have at least a few tips that can help you figure out how to manage this final and crucial step of the weaning process in a way that will be as stress-free as possible for you and your baby.
1. Don’t let your baby see his or her bottles anymore after a while.
Even if you keep them around just in case, put them away so your baby won’t be able to get a glimpse of them.
- Seeing the bottle he or she used to be so attached to may cause a little bit of a backslide in terms of how well your baby is doing with weaning.
- After a while, your baby won’t need to rely on the use of a bottle anymore, and it may be a good idea to throw out the old bottles you aren’t using. Of course, if you plan to have another baby in the future, you might want to keep them, but if they’re very worn out it may be best to toss them.
- Keeping bottles out of sight can help establish to your child that there’s no longer an option besides the sippy cup.
2. Try a straw if your baby is having trouble with a sippy cup spout.
Most of the time, babies are willing and able to drink out of the spout of a sippy cup. However, every now and then, little ones find it difficult to get the hang of a spout, or they may simply be very opposed to the idea of using one.
- While babies will be unable to use a standard straw at a very early age, they can learn to use baby-safe straws fairly easily. Choose a baby straw that’s safe for use with a sippy cup and is large enough that it can’t be swallowed.
- Always supervise your baby when he or she is using a straw.
- Choose fun straws in bright colors and silly shapes to encourage your baby to use them more freely.
3. Reward your child with a favorite food when he or she goes a whole day without using a bottle.
Make sure your child is aware of why he or she is getting treated like this, and take care not to overdo it by providing too much of a treat. You want your baby to associate a day without using a bottle with a small favorite snack before bedtime instead of with something large that he or she will come to expect every day sooner or later.
4. Suggest that your child plays with a favorite toy when he or she misses using a bottle.
A bottle can mean security to many children, but it shouldn’t become the only coping mechanism a child has when he or she needs some extra security. A blanket or a favorite stuffed toy can offer the same feeling and be a much easier habit to break in the long run.
5. When your child is established using a sippy cup happily, don’t bring up the bottle anymore.
After a while, there will be no need to mention the bottle any longer, and this will mean your child is completely weaned. When you reach this point, you may feel a little sad knowing that such a big change has taken place for your little one, but don’t worry! This is a happy moment and it should be celebrated.
Congratulations! When you’ve gotten through this stage of the process, your baby has been completely weaned from bottle feeding. This is a big and exciting moment in the life of your child, and whether this is your first baby or you’ve been through this process before, you’ll probably want to take some time to celebrate for yourself and for your baby, too. It can feel like a big change when your child first starts to drink from a cup instead of from a bottle, but it’s an exciting one that means your little one is starting to get bigger.
Now that you’ve read through this article, you should be a little more aware of how and when to wean baby from bottle feeding. This isn’t always a fun time for your baby and can be challenging for you as well, but it nevertheless represents an important milestone in the life of your child. Even though it represents one of the bigger difficulties faced by parents of younger babies, it also means that your little one is taking an important step toward growing up well.
If you’re still asking “how do I wean my baby off the bottle and make it last?”
you should consider positively reinforcing weaning milestones. There are a lot of ways you can do this, from small reinforcements to big ones. Whichever option you choose, your baby is sure to appreciate this, and the weaning process is likely to go much more smoothly. Here are just a few positive reinforcement suggestions to help you get started:
Being Positive Pays Off
- Each time your baby uses his or her cup, be sure to provide lots of verbal praise, hugs, and kisses. This way, your child will associate this with something good as well as something that makes you happy.
- When your child reaches new milestones, such as using the cup for the first time, celebrate by letting him or her have a little bit of a favorite food. This doesn’t have to be an unhealthy treat, but it can be a little extra of a food that makes your baby especially happy.
- When your baby is completely weaned on to the cup and no longer needs a bottle, it’s time to really throw a party! Have a little celebration at home and make sure your baby understands that he or she is doing something good by using a cup.
“How to wean my baby off the bottle” is a common question that many parents and caregivers wonder about, even if it’s a little early to start thinking about this process just yet. We hope that the information in this article can help you feel a little more confident about starting this process with your child and that it’s answered some questions and provided some tips and hints to help make things go even more smoothly than you could’ve imagined.