My son, like me when I was little, is what my mom would refer to as a “Bottle Junkie”. He loves that thing, you can see his whole body relax when he has his bottle. I knew (well I assumed) at his one-year appointment that his doctor would recommend pulling the plug on the bottle and I was dreading that conversation. You see, I’d been trying for a few months to get him off the bottle, with small bouts of success, but was in no way close to completely ditching the habit (though I would have loved to long ago, if I never wash another bottle in my life I will be over the moon). I was pleasantly surprised when his doctor took a very casual attitude about the whole thing. I explained what I had tried and that we weren’t making a lot of progress, and she responded, “He’s still only one…I wouldn’t worry too much about taking something from him that is bringing him comfort. Try again in a few months, maybe he’ll be ready then”. And that was it. No horror stories about how he would wind up permanently altering his teeth or would be taking a bottle with him to kindergarten. The whole thing instantly went from stressful to no big deal.
I still wanted to continue to chip away at the bottle habit slowly, and I found it very helpful to ask others with slightly older toddlers for advice. A lot of my parenting choices I’ve elected to figure out on my own, but this was something I knew nothing about.
For instance – I tried every sippy cup in the store. Bought every brand, every style. Most leaked. And all of them he simply chewed on. Then a few mom friends told of how their child had really taken to drinking from a straw and never really liked sippy cups. Presto. After showing my son how a straw worked by using it to drip some water into his mouth, he seemed to grab onto the idea rather quickly and soon was able to drink from his own tiny straw. I didn’t even know straw-sippy cups existed. Small, flexible rubber straws built into a sippy cup (and so far none have leaked!), genius!
Once we had something he could drink out of besides a bottle, I set about giving it to him as much as possible. During mealtimes, when he was playing, always made sure to have it on hand. Not only did this get him used to it, but it kept him hydrated and from asking for a bottle for most of the day.
Over time we were able to cut the bottle out during the day, but he still wanted one during nap and bedtime. As his pediatrician noted, it’s comforting to him and calms him down (he also asks for one if he is hurt or upset). The first step was not letting the bottle put him to sleep (yes, I had gotten into the habit of giving him a bottle in his crib, which he would drink and then go to sleep, bad mommy). We started giving him the bottle before sleep time, as much as he wanted to drink, but not letting him take it into his crib. Sometimes we lie on the ground and look at a book, other times he wanders around with it, but it never goes into the bed with him. I thought for sure that he would be in hysterics over this new routine, but surprisingly he seemed not to care too much. The bottle calmed him, his belly was full, and he was still able to go right to sleep. Our next step here, which I have not yet implemented, will be a straw-cup before bed instead of a bottle, starting with naps and moving to bedtime.
Another recommendation from others, that did not personally work for my family, was going cold turkey. That’s it, no more bottles, we are done here, the theory being that children will not starve themselves, if they are thirsty enough they will drink out of something besides a bottle. I tried one morning and my son went on a strike and refused to drink anything for several hours, beyond an amount of time I was comfortable with so I didn’t follow through with that idea. But hey, maybe it’ll work for you!
Finally, I have never been a big fan of juice for him due to the sugar amount (even pure organic juices, check out the sugar level, yikes!). Anyway – mixing just a tablespoon of juice in with water makes for quite a sweet taste. So this juice concoction went into the straw-cups, along with all of his milk. Bottles now only carry water. He is just starting to actively choose cups over bottles, especially when they have something exciting to drink.
We did have one big set-back when his molars came in (and he got roseola at the same time). He was so uncomfortable and in so much pain that all he wanted was his bottle, which I didn’t deny him due to how miserable he was. That week pretty much set us back to square one. I would advise, if your child is sick or teething, probably not the best time to push the cups.
So in conclusion, what I’ve learned along the way:
• Try a variety of sippy cups, straw cups or even regular cups (I have a few friends whose child skipped the “training cups” and was drinking straight out of a little plastic cup before the turned a year)
• Ask around before buying! Not all brands are created equal, if there is one that perpetually leaks or has a spout that a toddler can easily bite through, save yourself the $5 by finding out ahead of time and avoiding it.
• Make those training cups as attractive as possible! If your child is old enough, let them pick one out at the store, put a drink in there that they don’t normally get, anything to make it more enticing.
• Don’t force it. Some kids never take to bottles, they just don’t like them. Others cling to them for dear life. If yours isn’t ready, let it go and try again in a few months.
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