Mothers find bottle-feeding comfortable as well as convenient. No looking for privacy or pumping involved. Just take along a box of formula, a warm bottle of water, your baby’s bottle and you are good to go. Before you know it, your baby is so attached to the bottle that he’ll take it along everywhere and refuse to drink from anything other than a bottle. Getting your baby to give up the bottle can sometimes be a hard and frustrating process. We show you why and how you must encourage your child to give up the bottle habit.
A prolonged bottle-feeding habit is harmful to the baby’s well being in many ways:
- Tooth decay: Babies who fall asleep while bottle-feeding have a higher incidence of tooth decay as the milk tends to pool in their mouth while they are sleeping and rots their teeth.
- Obesity: Research has indicated that kids who are still using the bottle at 2 years of age have a higher likelihood of being obese by 6. They sometimes get overly attached to the bottle and find comfort in roaming around with the bottle in their mouths all day feeding more than they need.
- Ear infection: Drinking while lying down increases the chances of ear infections as the milk which is pooling at the back of the child’s throat can grow bacteria which can, in turn, infect the eustachian tube (the tube which connects the middle ear to the throat).
- Over attachment: Children who are overly attached to the bottle, find comfort in bottle-feeding. When introduced to solids, some picky eaters might choose to replace meals they do not like with a bottle of milk and not eat enough. This is not ideal as growing children need a variety of nutrients from a variety of foods.
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Keeping all the above cons of bottle-feeding in mind, make sure you wean your baby away from the bottle before he gets too fond of the bottle. Follow a step by step approach to Bottle Weaning:
- Start at the right time: Many paediatricians suggest the right time for introducing cups to be around 6-8 months. That is the time when babies are introduced to liquids other than breast milk. Introduce other liquids in a cup, not by the bottle, not by spoon as many mothers do so that your baby starts to become familiar with holding, handling, and drinking using a cup.
- Replace one bottle at a time: At around one year of age when your baby is familiar with the Sippy cup, start by replacing one feed of bottled milk by offering it in a cup instead. Some children might throw a tantrum – don’t give in, stick to the Sippy cup of milk. You could make it more tempting by adding fruit puree and making it a strawberry, mango or banana milkshake instead.
- Positive reinforcement: Every time your child successfully finishes his drink using a cup, praise his efforts. Give warm hugs, go play in the park or offer a treat of healthy snacks. Positive reinforcement will encourage your child to try to use the cup for more drinks.
- Model behaviour: Make a small party of drinking out of the cup which will make your child excited to join in. Sit down with your own cup and a few healthy snack and ask your child to join your tea party with the condition that he can do so only if he is drinking out of a cup. Make it sound like a fun, grown-up thing to do and chances are your child will be keen to join in since every child wants to be a big boy/girl.
- Dilute the milk in the bottle: Dilute the milk progressively while giving milk to your child in a bottle. Offer them whole milk in a cup. Your child will gradually realise that the milk in the cup is tastier and will enjoy it more.
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Deciding which cup to use can be crucial. Make sure you choose the right cup:
- Sippy or training cup: This is a plastic cup with handles and a spill-proof lid with a spout. A Sippy cup is an easy way of transitioning the child from a bottle to a regular cup as they are easy to hold, help improve hand-mouth coordination while helping the child learn to drink independently without spilling the drink.
- Regular cup: another option would be to offer the baby liquids in a regular cup or tumbler straightaway. While it has drawbacks like spillage and difficulty in holding, you will reduce one additional step in the transitioning process which is from the Sippy cup to a regular cup.
- Spoon: Spoons should only be used to introduce solids to the baby. Feeding liquids using a spoon is not only time consuming and frustrating for the mother, but the child also may not get enough nutrition by being spoon-fed liquids.
It is ideal to start transitioning the baby home bottle to cup at before the age of 1 before the child gets a chance to be very attached to the habit of bottle-feeding and finds it hard to give up.
The earlier you stop the bottle habit, the easier it might be for the child to transition. Breaking the bottle habit at 1 year of age is definitely easier than 2 years of age.
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