4 Signs It’s Time to Ditch the Bottle

Image adapted via Flickr/ nerissa's ring

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies give up the bottle entirely by about age 1, and if not, no later than 18 months. Well, my 18-month-old LOVES her bottle. And I mean, she LOOOOOVES it. More than she loves me–more than just about anything else. In fact, when I drop her off at the child watch when I go to work out, the first thing the care providers ask is if I have a bottle for her. Even they know that if all else fails, she'll be happy if she has a bottle.

If she falls and bumps her head, she will come to me for comfort, but it's not long before she's crying for her “ba-ba.” If she's getting sleepy, and we're out, that cry turns into a whine: “Baaaaa-Baaaaaaah!” But, with her at 18 months, I realized I am pushing the boundaries for acceptable bottle use. And as you can probably tell, I might be a little a lot attached to the bottle myself.

Here are 4 signs I've recognized that help me to know it's time to ditch the bottle.

{ MORE: Bye, Bye Bottles }

1. It's really more for me than it is for her.

You could probably tell by the scenarios I shared that the bottle is really for me. I know this–it's just hard to admit. Sometimes I try to get that grocery trip in before nap time, and I know I can push the time boundaries a bit if she has a bottle. I may or may not have seen her nod off in the shopping cart, begin to drop her bottle, and snap awake just to get that bottle back in her mouth. I may have even laughed a bit at it, but I realize that in this case, she isn't using the bottle for nourishment–she's replacing the comfort of her mommy's arms or her crib with a bottle.

{ MORE: Bye-Bye Bottle, Binky, Blanket… }

When I look at it that way, it makes me feel sad that I am so busy that I haven't taken the time to give her what she really needs. Not all the time, but often, that bottle is my way of giving her the comfort that I'm too busy to give. I need to re-prioritize and schedule my day better for her. Of course, there will be times when life just happens, and it will take some doing to teach her strategies to cope when she's tired, and we've just got to get something done. But more than likely, it will be harder on me than it will be on her.

2. She's using it to comfort herself instead of learning other coping skills.


In the case of the child watch, she's using the bottle to deal with being away from mommy. Again, she's not hungry (we eat breakfast right before we go to the gym); she just would rather have her bottle as her companion than try to deal with playing and being on her own. Her bottle is just her friend that comes along for the ride. It sits by her while she plays with blocks; it takes rides with her down the slide; it has become her playmate the same way a child with a “blankie” would take it along a “playmate.” The only difference is that the bottle goes in and out of her mouth, coating her teeth with milk, as she drinks it. This can lead to what dentists have very aptly named “baby bottle tooth decay.” Bottles are not meant to be “nursed along,” as doing so can lead to cavities and damage to the teeth.

{ MORE: Does Bottle-feeding Cause Cavities? }

3. She doesn't need the extra calories.

An analysis of data on 6,750 children born in 2001, who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, found that 22% of babies were still using bottles regularly at 24 months. Nearly a quarter of those children, the study found, were obese by age 5. Sixteen percent of children who had stopped using bottles by age 2 were obese by age 3.

{ MORE: Formula Feeding: How Much and How Often? }

The researchers suggested that prolonged bottle use contributed to the weight gain because the caloric intake of the bottles, in addition to eating solid foods, added up to more than the daily recommendation.

While I haven't noticed this in my daughter, what I have noticed is that she would rather drink her bottle than eat her food. Whether we sit down to a dinner she doesn't love, or whether it's a meal she's thrilled about, if there's a bottle on her tray, she will choose it over her food–to the point that if we want her to eat, we remove the bottle from sight.

4. She does perfectly fine with a cup if she wants to.

When her brother and sister are having a drink, she wants to have a drink from a cup, too. And she does pretty well with it. If there are sippy cups from other little people around, she beelines for them. It's just that she doesn't want one over a bottle. Given the choice, she'd choose the bottle any day of the week.

In fact, a sweet, sweet lady at my church saw that she still loves her bottle and at Christmastime gifted her a soft-topped sippy cup. She'll use it every now and then, but it was a very kind nudge to momma in the right direction!

I am resolving now to get her off of the bottle by the time she's 19 months old. I'm planning to use some of the ideas and tips I found here, and I will let you know how it goes.


Thanks for the no-judgement zone! We all would be perfect parents in hindsight!

{ MORE: Parenting Mistakes and How We Grow From Them }

Give me some tips! What has worked for you? What was the best sippy cup for your bottle lover? Tell me in the comments!

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What do you think?

4 Signs It’s Time to Ditch the Bottle

Jeanna Strassburg is a wife, and mother of three, who enjoys kitchen dance parties and summer time! Jeanna received her bachelor’s degree in Education from Brigham Young University-Idaho in April of 2007. She enjoys spending her time cooking, cleaning and tending to the proper duties of a stay at home mother… NOPE! Truthfully, she enjoys eating the food, but not making it or cleaning up after it. She likes to have a clean home, but loathes laundry and dishes. Loves her children, but coul ... More

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  1. Jenny says:

    First off let me start by saying THANK YOU. There is far too much parent shaming going on and you tactfully avoided shaming anyone and still tackled a very big sore spot with a lot of parents these days. This bottle business is not easy. My daughter is 18 months and we use the Nuk Soft Spout (a fancy way of saying silicone sippy cup nipple) and we have found that the transition was seamless, but we have used Nuk products for her since she was born. Now I am trying to figure out how to get her to use a harder sippy cup, a 360 cup, or a cup with a straw. She can and will use all of the items I mentioned, but not with milk. I am stuck at this point because I am not ready to stop giving her milk, but I do not think that the soft spouts are great to use for much longer. Good luck with your littles and I am going to scour the comments now to see if I can get some good ideas! Thanks again for this article!

  2. babyt3112 says:

    im preggy with my second child and my first one is 2yrs old yet all of a sudden he is back on the bottle more than ever and suddenly wants a dummy. is this due to me being preggy????? and will it end?

    • Megan Klay says:

      He might sense your pregnancy and be regressing – I’m convinced babies are that smart – but many kiddos regress with different things for various reasons. Just be patient and work with him to let it go gently, without forcing it. Good luck!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    These little ones are very smart and will convince you to give in; but they will do anything you train them to do. My little guy is 10 months old and he refused to use the sippy cup so what I did was I looked for the training cups which the best ones are the soft rubbery ones that resemble the texture of the nipple on the bottle, that way they know to suck on it. He would not even try to drink if they spout was hard. So I found the playtex trining cups for 4 month olds and although he was 9 months, I started him off with those. He would still refuse to drink out of the cup because I would still give him the bottle before bed so I just went cold turkey and took the bottle away completely. If he wanted milk it would have to be from the sippy cup and in about 3 days, he completely forgot about the bottle!! Now it has been 3 weeks and he is all sippy cup and he has moved up to the 9m+ stage of sippy cups!

  4. Kristin says:

    When my son was 10 months I started giving him the soft tipped sippy cup and he would take it just fine and took the bottle away at one. He was used to the sippy and we never had a problem now he is 18 months and using a regular sippy cup and cups with straws. I think what helped him was that I tried to avoid attachment to his bottle by not giving it a name such as baba or even calling it a bottle. We would always say ” do you want some milk, juice, etc.” and say that no matter what we gave it to him in. So he never got attached to the bottle itself. but of course every child is different.

  5. Tasha says:

    Oh, and Tasha is my daughter who is having the baby, and I have no idea why my iPhone has tab her as having written this. LOL I think that she would be appalled to find out that she’s having her first grandchild.

  6. Tasha says:

    Our oldest is a US Marine, our youngest is 15, and we have two in between. We’re expecting our first grandvaby between Thanks Giving and Christmas too. When I was making the changeover with our oldest, it didn’t come without guilt. I started giving him juice only in the sippy, shortly after he turned a year old, but not the milk. He was 18 months old when I started slowly replacing his milk in his bottles with water. By the time it was 4 ounces of water and four ounces of milk, he was happier to take the undiluted milk that I put in his sippy. I was also guilty of putting him to bed with a bottle, but by the time it was all water, he stopped asking for or drinking the bedtime bottles. It was subtle enough that he felt that he was making the choice, which also eleviated my guilt at actually having taken his beloved bottle away from him.

  7. ovation says:

    I started giving both my boys a sippy cup at 7 mths to explore and play with. Once they got the hang of the sippy cup I took away the bottle during the day. So they got one in the morning and one at night. Once they switched to milk my oldest didn’t want the bottle anymore so we just did away with them. My youngest held onto the night bottle a little longer but eventually before his 1st bday he was totally switched to sippy cups. Exposing them to it before cutting the bottle seems to work for me.

  8. Tja says:

    My daughter turns 1 on oct 21. She has been using sippy cups since she was 6 months. I never put her to bed with a bottle. Bout 10 months old i started goving her 1 bottle a day and that was right before bed. Then i just took the bottle away. If she doesnt need it then she doesnt get it. Its as simple as that out of sight out of mind. Just take it away and never give it back…

  9. Marie says:

    My daughter never took a bottle, shes been on a sippy cup since 2 months. Some kids love em’ some hate em’. I never judge a parent for their childs comfort item.

    I got enough judgy looks giving my baby a tippy cup and not a bottle.

  10. Jami says:

    I worry about some judgment as well. My child just turned 2 recently and she graduated to a sippy cup quite some time ago, however, with one exception. She absolutely would not drink milk out of a sippy cup until more recently. She won’t drink water out of a sippy cup either, but that goes for a bottle also. I have to give her water from an actual bottled water, which she does pretty well with, but still has a tendency to spill all over the place sometimes. At least it is just water though. But, she still needs some milk in her diet, so I had to keep giving it to her in a bottle to make sure she would drink it. I felt a bit embarrassed when others were around and see me giving her a bottle and had to explain. They seemed to understand though. I am just glad she is now drinking it out of a sippy cup sometimes.

    As for the sippy cups that worked better, the soft tip ones are the best to start off with. more like the feel of a bottle nipple and easier to suck on and learn to use. Still need to be careful though, especially with cheaper brands. Some of them don’t work well and make it hard to suck the liquid from the cup making the child frustrated because they have a hard time getting anything out. So, might try a new one out if trying a new brand and see how easy it is for you before getting too many of them for your child to use.

  11. Leah says:

    My son, who is now 13, had a bottle until he was two, but is super skinny. My daughter is 18 months and only gets a bottle at nap and bedtime. It help her calm down (warm milk, right?). I think you need to look at what your own child needs. Not what people recommend. If it IS more for you than for your baby, then maybe it’s time to change it. But every kiddo is different! Don’t feel bad. We’re all doing the best we can!

  12. mommy nhoj says:

    My 10 month old baby doesn’t like sippy cup. She spits the milk from it. We recently stopped giving her pacifier but my nights are a bit restless! She would drink more milk in a bottle at night! And would want her in my arms. True they find comfort in it. I wish I can limit her bottles at night. She’s not drinking enough water too

  13. My son is 15 months and we have manage to mostly ween him off the bottle. Still struggling with the bedtime one. He doesn’t get to go to bed with it, but if he doesn’t get a bottle of warm milk before we put him to bed, he will just scream bloody murder for hours. We do have him totally weened from his binkie though by the time he was 13months.

  14. jesster131 says:

    My son started using a cup for water at 9 months by 1 year we were all done with bottles. By 18 months the soft cups were gone & he was using hard spout cups. He is 23 months & working on straws now.

  15. LIZ says:

    i did switch to a sippy cup since she was six months old, my father told me the sooner the better and then youre not gonna have so much trouble


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