Updated: Nov 27, 2020
When to do it, how to do it, why do I have to do it? it can all be so confusing.
Weaning bottles can be commenced from 12 months of age when your child can nutritionally meet their needs through food (yep! no toddler formulas required, I will have more on this to come)
Unlike breastfeeding which is recommended to continue for 2 years and beyond, bottle feeding is recommended until 12 months of age and then weaning the bottle should begin. This is for a number of documented health reasons related to prolonged bottle use (extending beyond 12 months), including higher chance of tooth decay, ear infections and links to increased risk for overweight and obesity. It may also lead to poor nutrition such as low iron.
Weaning bottles can be challenging, and like breastfeeding, babies use bottles for comfort, as well as nutrition. Bottle feeding not only meets your child’s nutritional needs, it also meets their social, cognitive and emotional needs as well. So, bottle weaning is something that i encourage be done gradually (in most cases) and as respectfully as possible, making sure your child is aware of what is being asked of them. The more communication you can have with your child around weaning bottles the better. You can try preparing your toddler by telling them what’s about to happen, so that they know that bottle feeding will stop soon. It also helps to accept and acknowledge any feelings that your child may have when weaning is commenced remembering that this is a big change for them. It is also a big change for parents who use bottle feeding time as a time to bond and connect with their child. This can be an emotive time for all.
Weaning bottles may take a few months, the best strategy i find is tackle one bottle at a time.
1. Start with any overnight feeds
Nutritionally your toddler does not need overnight bottles. But, overnight feeds can be hard to drop, as they may have been used as a way of getting your toddler to fall back to sleep.
It is still normal for toddlers to wake overnight, so be prepared to utilize other settling techniques e.g. patting, rocking.
2. Tackle the day time bottles one at a time, choose the least favourite bottle to wean first. It may help to offer water in a cup in place of this bottle. Try connecting with your child in other special ways during this time, you could give lots of hugs and kisses and read books instead. Wait a few days or longer until your child is settled into the new routine before weaning the next bottle.
3. Bottle feeds before bedtimes can be hard to drop, as they become part of the bedtime routine and may have been a way of getting your toddler to sleep . Begin by introducing a new bedtime routine in which you are not feeding to sleep (for example, offer the bottle feed initially in another room and well away from bed time), and give as much time, love and comfort as you can to help them at bed time instead. Once a new bed time routine is established it is generally easier to drop the bottle.
4. In place of bottles offer water instead, preferably in open cup so they are learning a new skill.
1-3 year old's typically require 1000 ml of free fluid/day, the majority of this should be water.
5. If you would still like your child to drink milk this can be given from an open cup. Just remember to limit any cow’s milk to a maximum of 500 ml/day as more than this has been shown to interfere with appetite and iron absorption.
Other strategies for weaning bottles are sometimes used e.g. half milk/half water etc until all the bottle is water. This is not a process I generally recommend, although it may be helpful for some families who are really having a hard time weaning bottles for different reasons.
If you like help with your child's nutrition book now via the website.
For more information on toddler drinks check out my free guide (COMING SOON)