If you’re like most parents, you’ve got a bit of anxiety about making the switch from a bottle to a sippy cup.
But I want to help you get through this process when you and your pediatrician have made the decision that your toddler is ready.
Here are some of the concerns parents tell me they have about the transition:
- Since baby was born, you’ve been monitoring the number of ounces of breastmilk or formula your baby has been ingesting on a daily basis, perhaps logging amounts in a journal or app, keep notes from doctor’s appointments about growth and together with the pediatrician, making sure she is not dropping on the weight percentile curve. You’re worried about calorie consumption and not giving her enough…
- You’ve also probably heard of kids going on “milk strikes” when a sippy cup was introduced. You have visions of your child having tantrums and you caving…
- It’s hard to find time to focus on making this transition – there’s an upcoming vacation, your child just moved to a different room/teacher at daycare, you have a big project at work…
- You may also really look forward to that snuggly time feeding your child the bottle when she’ll usually fall asleep in your arms and you don’t want to miss out on that…
Let me tell you that these are all very valid concerns, but I want to give you some reassurance and share how to think about these from a different perspective so they can be more positive than negative!
#1 The primary source for nutrition during the first year of life is breastmilk or formula. Once children reach 12-18 months, doctor’s recommend transitioning to cow’s milk and limiting to 16-24 ounces. In my experience, the kids that are taking 24 ounces still have the bottle…once they transition to a sippy cup, they likely won’t drink 3 cups of milk. But that’s ok! At this point, milk is a drink to go with meals and snacks, not to be the meal itself.
Toddlers need between 1000-1400 calories each day (depending on size, age, activity level, etc). Whole milk has ~140-145 calories in 8oz. If your child is getting half of the daily calories from milk, you’ll likely see him not being very interested in solid food simply because he isn’t hungry. Once you taper down the ounces within the recommended amounts, you’ll see his appetite increase and you’ll be able to offer solid food options.
Bottom line…your child will get about the same number of calories when you reduce the number of ounces he’s getting of milk and replace it with solid food.
#2 If your child has a strong association with the bottle, especially if she uses it to get drowsy or fall asleep, then there very well may be a period of ~1-3 days where she rejects the sippy cup. But if you and your pediatrician have decided it’s time to get rid of the bottles, this is the most important time NOT to cave and go back to them! All that teaches your child is that if she throws a big enough tantrum, she’ll get what she wants.
Instead, box up the bottles and put them away and get a couple different kinds of sippy cups to try. Dentists prefer the ones with hard spouts without the safety valve (so they can sip and not suck) or straws (making sipping easier and soft spouts are closer to bottles) or one that mimics a cup without the spout.
Bottom line…give your child a few options for sippy cups and let him choose and once you make the decision to switch, don’t cave and bring back the bottles!
#3 Life will always be busy and there is usually never the “perfect” time to do sleep training, wean off the pacifier, potty training, etc – all those things that your child needs to do developmentally but let’s face it, the process isn’t very fun – and transitioning from a bottle to a sippy cup is no different, except it’s usually much easier than you think it’ll be!
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had four clients with 12-16 month olds that made the transition while working with me. I explained how it would work in the sleep plan I wrote for each, depending on the child’s temperament and age and in every case, the parents told me it was much easier than they thought it would be. One mom even shared that her son was clearly ready and the bottle was more of a crutch for her than him!
Bottom line…be sensible with timing (don’t do it the day before you go on vacation or right as he’s getting a cold) but don’t obsess that you have to find the perfect time because the time you decide to commit will be the right time to do it.
#4 If your toddler is falling asleep with the bottle (or getting drowsy), I bet she’s also waking up in the middle of the night or waking early in the morning. That’s because the bottle is a sleep prop and she’s more than ready to learn how to fall asleep independently without it. Once you take the bottle out of the bedtime and naptime routines and she’s falling asleep in the crib instead of in your arms, you’ll find that she starts sleeping longer at night and it’ll be easier for other people (sitters, grandma, etc) to put her to bed.
Bottom line…you can still have those snuggle moments, especially during bedtime routine, but teaching your toddler to fall asleep in the crib instead of in your arms with help her to be an amazing sleeper – one that will be able to fall asleep for other caregivers whether you’re home or on vacation.
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