Whether you bottle feed, breastfeed, or do a combination of the two, you’ll eventually start to wonder: When is my child too old for a bottle?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends phasing out bottles between 12 and 24 months of age1. There are many ways to simplify the bottle-to-cup transition for your little one. Starting at 6 months of age, you can introduce a sippy bottle with handles that uses a spout in place of a nipple. This can teach baby self-feeding skills with a bottle that they are already familiar with.
By 12 months of age, most babies have the coordination skills needed to hold a cup and drink from it2. Sippy cups are a great transition tool between bottles and open cups and can help minimize spills in the process. Sippy cups can be used for all liquids, including milk, and once your child can manage it on their own, they can switch to an open cup, usually before 24 months of age.
You can also help transition baby to a big kid cup with a spoutless transition cup that is shaped like a real cup and allows baby to drink from any edge. This can encourage independent sipping skills before they are ready for the real thing. Regardless of the method, bottles should be completely phased out by 24 months of age.
Why to Transition from Bottle to Cup
Bottles can bring comfort to many children, but there are several factors that make the switch to cups so important.
- Baby is ready!
- Babies are developmentally ready to sip from a cup, held by another person, at around 6 months of age. By 12 months, most children can start to use objects like a cup correctly, and may be able to hold an open cup and take sips on their own. This is an exciting – albeit messy – milestone! Baby is ready to become a pro at self-feeding and give the bottle the boot.
- Bottles could mess with their pearly whites
- The constant act of sucking on a bottle could shift the position of baby’s adult teeth later in life, which could lead to an overbite that might later need to be corrected with braces.
- Cups encourage independent sipping skills
- Your baby needs to develop oral motor control to learn how to seal their lips on the side of an open cup, take in water, keep that seal while swallowing and move the cup away from their mouth3. Practice is key! It may be messy at first, but as baby’s coordination develops, they will eventually be able to hold a cup with minimal spillage. You’ll be saying “cheers” with your cups before you know it!
Saying Goodbye to Baby’s Bottle
There are two approaches parents can take when ditching the bottle for good; a gradual wean or quitting cold turkey. Some babies adapt more easily with a slow-and-easy approach. If this is your speed, try replacing one regular bottle feeding with a sippy cup. Gradually start to offer the sippy cup more and the bottle less. Do this every few days until you’re completely bottle free.
The cold turkey approach may create some initial stress but typically makes the transition go quicker. Sucking can be a form of comfort for babies, so it’s helpful to offer a substitute (a Lovey or Teether, for example) while they switch to cups.
The most important thing to remember when weaning your baby off their bottle is patience! Babies will rarely hand over their bottle without some resistance and may reject your best efforts no matter how sensitively you approach the transition. Once you decide to wean off the bottle, it is important to stand your ground. It will be easier to deal with a few tears now instead of massive orthodontic bills in the future. You’ve got this!