Sooner or later, your baby will have to stop feeding off a bottle. When this time comes, however, you might find it a bit of a challenge to get your baby to use a sippy cup or anything else to drink his milk or water. This is something that every parent and child has to go through no matter how difficult it may be. In some cases, though, babies simply take to the sippy cup without any issues at all.
Before you even think about steps that will lead you to your goal of weaning your baby off the bottle, you have to determine when you should start. There are no clear cut rules for this, but in general, parents can try weaning their baby off the bottle when they are around 6 months of age. Other parents try as soon as their baby can sit up. Once you are ready to give it a shot, here are some tried and tested tips that can make the process smoother for you and your baby.
1. Set the stage.
Even before you think your baby is ready to use a sippy cup, give him one to play with already. This will make the object familiar to him and will hopefully make the transition easier later on.
2. Do not attempt to start the process if you and/or the baby is going through a busy time.
While some babies easily adapt to change, they generally have a tough time doing so. Taking the feeding bottle away and replacing it with a sippy cup is definitely a big change, so do not initiate this if you are dealing with something else. If your baby does not take to the sippy cup immediately, you will both be under some degree of stress in the next few months, so it is best to lessen the factors that can make your lives even more stressful.
3. Don’t force it.
If, after you initially give your baby a sippy cup instead of a bottle, and he refuses to drink out of the latter, do not get frustrated and force the issue. Remember that even though you may have set the stage by giving your baby a cup to play with prior to your attempt, it is still a big change for him. Forcing the issue might just make him associate the sippy cup with negative feelings. Instead, give it up and then try again a few days later.
4. Stop allowing your baby to walk around or play while holding his bottle.
This will make it clear to your baby that the bottle is not a plaything or a security blanket. He will learn to understand feeding times and schedules. Just make sure that you enforce this rule consistently, even if he throws a temper tantrum. Otherwise, you will just be making things even more confusing for your baby.
5. Find an alternative ‘pacifier.’
Some babies form an attachment to their feeding bottle, making it some sort of pacifier. If this is the case with your baby, you will definitely have a more difficult time weaning him off it. What you can do to make the transition easier is to find replacements. More attention from you and the rest of the family will definitely help. Educational toys, books, and other similar items will also be beneficial at this point.
6. Involve your baby in the decision.
Of course, your baby cannot make ‘real’ decisions at this point, but if he is already capable of expressing his preferences, you should take advantage of it. How can you do this? When choosing the sippy cup to use in lieu of the feeding bottle, perhaps you can offer choices to your baby. If he chooses one that appeals to him for one reason or another, it could make the transition easier for him.
7. Take it slow.
If your baby is really having a hard time letting go of the feeding bottle, you can take on a slower approach. Don’t wean him cold turkey. Instead, skip the bottle every several days. Also, decrease the amount of milk that you put in the bottle each time, while you increase the amount of milk that you put in the cup.
8. Be patient.
Just because you are ready to wean your baby off the bottle does not mean that it will happen overnight. Again, there are no set periods as to when the process will be completed, but it could take you months. So, there is no need to lose your cool about it. Instead, go over these tips again and try them out, varying your approach every now and then.
Remember that billions of other babies have been weaned off the bottle – including yourself – so it is not an impossible feat. It simply is part of the whole parenting thing!