Top Tips for Weaning Off Bottles and Dummies
I thought I’d write share some top tips for weaning off bottle and dummies. This can sometimes feel daunting but read on to make it as easy as possible.
They can offer so much comfort to them and while it’s true that all babies love to have something in their mouths; be it a dummy, a nipple, a teat; once they reach a year old, it is highly recommended that dummies are no longer given and that all fluids are given from a free-flowing cup. Sounds simple and straightforward? Well, yes, it can be. However, when it’s not, I want to offer ways to help support your child when making that transition.
I really get that you want an easy life. The bottle or dummy keeps your little one happy and contented so why would you take it away and cause them distress? Well, firstly, the longer they have them, the more attached they become, making it harder to remove the older they get. This is especially true when they are old enough to understand and can express verbally when they want their dummy or a bottle.
There are some children that just naturally grow out of both and are happy to drink from a cup. Perhaps they have a favourite soft toy or suck their thumb. In my opinion, this is fine and much better than the dummy or bottle option.
Keeping their milk or diluted fruit juice in a bottle can encourage tooth decay and giving them at a nap or bedtime as opposed to a meal time can be more harmful as there is less saliva that protects the teeth from acid. Baby teeth are essential for them to be able to smile, eat and talk. If tooth decay is left untreated, it can lead to problems such as speech problems, poor eating habits, crooked teeth and damaged adult teeth.
It is really important by the way, that you start to brush your babies teeth from their first tooth arrives and make a visit to the local dentist too! This is usually around six months but could be earlier. If you inquire at your local children’s centre, they may have an infant oral hygienist pop in now and again who explains the importance of good oral care for your child.
Here are my top tips for weaning them off their bottle
If they are refusing a little or no milk from anywhere other than the bottle, I would ensure to top up their diet with some cubes of cheese and full-fat plain yoghurt, for example, as they can get the nutrients they need from these too. Don’t give up on offering milk from a cup though and try not to get disheartened. The recommended amount for a one-year-old is 350-500ml per day but this can be reduced if they are eating other dairy products in the day. Remember, sometimes it can help encourage them to drink from a cup similar to yours – we all know little ones love to mimic and copy!
If you’ve been giving formula and want to move onto cows milk – which is also what is recommended from 12 months – it can be a drastic change in the taste of the milk. So it’s gentler to wean them onto full-fat cows milk (I’d always give organic where possible) by adding 1oz at each feed until it was 100% cows milk. I know lots of families who insist on giving formula right through toddlerhood and I really think this is expensive and unnecessary!
If you’re breastfeeding then it’s fine to continue, just offer water from a cup too.
Start giving a cup from about six months old. Then by the time they turn one, it will feel less of a change.
A free-flowing cup helps them learn how to drink and sip rather than suck which isn’t great for their teeth. I tend to find that I use a free-flowing cup if we’re at home or somewhere it’s easy to clean up a spill. However, if we’re on the move – on a bus for example, then I’ll offer a drink in a miracle cup for convenience.
By 12 months, most children have the ability and coordination to hold a cup and drink from it then encourage them to drink with a cup without a lid when you feel they are ready.
Give them lots of praise when they do use a cup. It can be a slow process and especially hard with the bedtime bottle as it’s usually the one that offers the most comfort. Try to maintain a gentle nighttime routine of bath and stories, teeth brushing and ensuring they have a cuddly toy for comfort. Offer them their milk before bathtime and away from the bedroom to help break any comfort association. Try not to go back to bottles – it can be tough but it will come to pass!
And for dummies
A dummy shouldn’t be introduced until a month old if you choose to give one. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding because they can get confused with the nipple when they are learning to suckle. If they do take a dummy, I’d recommend keeping it with them until they are at least 6 months old. This is known to help reduce SIDS risk too.
It can be harder to differentiate between a nutritional need in your baby or a suckling need so be careful to not offer a dummy when they may be hungry.
Long-term use of a dummy can cause speech delays.
When weaning them off a dummy, I would reduce it to essential nap and bedtime only first.
Using a reward chart with stickers can be helpful if your child is older.
Encourage lots of praise and positive attention when they are without their dummy. Have fun and play to help distract them. It will be hard, but being consistent is eventually better as hopefully within a few days, they will have adjusted well with your support. Dummy…what dummy?!
Don’t forget to check our other posts. You might like healthy ways to cook for your baby and toddler as well as top tips for weaning your baby.