It’s time for bed, your toddler cuddles down, her bedtime bottle in hand. She sucks hard as her eyes start to droop. She is soon asleep, her bottle fiercely clutched under her arm, a drool of milk leaking out the corner of her relaxed mouth. But, if you try to remove that bottle, those closed eyes will open, an accusing look on her face as she shoves the bottle back in and sucks heartily.
Why a bedtime bottle isn’t a good idea
Between the ages of six and nine months, the bedtime bottle moves from being a necessity to a comfort says The American Academy of Pediatrics.
And while you may think this is a harmless comfort and part of your bedtime routine, the experts reveal that the opposite is true. Firstly, the longer you offer this bottle at bedtime, the more your toddler becomes attached – she soon won’t be able to fall asleep without it.
Secondly, once your baby’s teeth start to come through, falling asleep with a bottle can lead to tooth issues later on. The milk tends to pool in your baby’s mouth while she is sleeping and the natural sugars will target your baby’s new teeth.
Research shows that toddlers who continue to bottle feed past 15 months take in more than the recommended amount of milk required on a daily basis, which can increase your child’s risk of obesity, constipation and iron deficiency. In fact, the recommended intake for toddlers aged two to three is two cups, or around 500ml, of milk per day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics further recommends that you should ideally aim to wean your baby off her night-time bottle by 12 months.
Try these tips to get your little one to leave her bottle:
- Change up the night-time routine. This may seem counterproductive − especially as you have just gotten her into a good sleep routine, but this will be of benefit in the long run. Firstly, start by introducing a sippy cup with a smaller amount of milk and offer this to your toddler after her dinner. This can be followed by brushing of teeth and a bedtime ritual, like reading a story.
- If she is slightly older, have her help choose her new cup. Alternatively, have two cups on offer and let her choose which one she would prefer to have that night.
- Offer another comfort object, like a favourite stuffed toy or soft blanket at bedtime instead of her bottle.
- Provide loads of encouragement. Your toddler may find this to be a traumatic time as she identifies her bottle with being able to fall asleep. Words of encouragement and praise and lauding her being a “big girl” will be helpful.
- Fake it. Watering down her milk over several nights may encourage her to decide that night-time drink isn’t as desirable as she thought. This can be done in conjunction with introducing the sippy cup.
- Choose your fights. If your toddler is going through a stressful time, like getting to know a new caregiver, starting daycare or school, or any other major changes it’s probably not the best time to wean.
- Your toddler’s milk intake could affect her eating habits, as toddlers can be picky creatures when it comes to eating. Removing this bottle can help. As long as she is reaching her milestones, growing, pooing and weeing regularly, she will be fine.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.