How to wean your toddler from a bottle to sippy cup

Child drinking from a bottle

You’ve seen that look in your child’s eye, the look of delight when you give them their bottle, so how on earth do you go about switching to a sippy cup?

Children can be given breastmilk, formula or cool boiled water in a sippy cup from the age of 6 months, though most babies transition from the bottle to the sippy cup between 9 months and a year. Before 18 months is recommended by most paediatricians and speech therapists.

The longer a child has been regularly fed from the bottle, the stronger the emotional bond with the bottle – it really becomes an object that they associate with security and comfort, not simply a drinking container. Always keep this in mind when weaning, and go gently.

Here are some other tips to consider:

1. Don’t switch from the bottle to the sippy cup, and formula/breastmilk to cows milk all at once

When you first introduce the sippy cup, it’s important that the drink inside is a familiar one that the child has enjoyed previously in bottle form.

2. Make sure the timing is right

If you’ve got a big family change planned, such as moving house, welcoming the birth of a new sibling or even a holiday, postpone the bottle to sippy cup transition until after the event has occurred. This also applies if you or the child are sick, or if there’s illness in the family, which means your routine changes. If the event is a planned one and you want to wean them beforehand, do it at least 30 days in advance.

3. Choose between cold turkey and gradual approaches

Either store or throw out all the bottles, and transition to a sippy cup in one day, or slowly wean the child over a period of days, by replacing a bottle feed with a sippy cup feed every day or so until all the feeds are had out of a sippy cup. This gradual approach works for most babies. The last bottle dropped should be the night time bottle, as by then your baby will be used to the new sippy cup and it will be easier to transition from the sippy cup into the bedtime routine.

4. Encourage them when they try the sippy cup

Drinking from a cup is a sign that your baby is becoming a ‘big kid’. Even though it may break your heart to watch them grow up so fast, make sure you encourage them. “Great job, Lila, drinking from your cup like a big girl!”

5. Be patient and consider your child’s unique needs

Every child is wonderfully different. They may find security in a familiar object, as well as hugs from their mum and dad, and grandparents. Maybe your baby will transition from the bottle to the cup easily because he has a stuffed animal or blankie that he cuddles at night. Perhaps the bottle is your child’s version of a ‘goodnight blankie’.

Given the well-documented negative effect of extended bottle-feeding on dental health, muscular growth and speech development, perhaps you can find another toy or blankie for your child to provide that security. Introduce it to them, and let the child bond with this object first, before removing the bottle.

What have you tried when weaning your baby from the bottle to the cup? What worked and what didn’t? Let us know in the Facebook comments.

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