How to wean your toddler off the bottle

Posted on May 7th, 2019

Wondering how on earth you’ll persuade your little one to give up her beloved bottle? We have some advice. By Lisa Witepski

How to wean your toddler off the bottle

Imagine being told you have to give up your wedding ring. Not keen? Now you know how your baby feels when you let her know there’s not going to be any more “bottie”. More than just a source of nutrition, bottles can be comforting, too. That doesn’t mean the bottle can stay forever, though – drinking through a bottle can contribute to tooth decay, and may also affect the development of the facial muscles and palate, and the position of the teeth. So, just how do you encourage that separation?

ALSO SEE: How to wean your toddler off transitional objects like his blankie and dummy

When to do it

According to registered nurse Lynette Scheepers, unit manager at the Paediatric Ward at Life St George’s Hospital, the best time for bidding the bottle goodbye is around the first-year mark, or latest, 18-months. This is usually around the time you introduce cow’s milk, which may make the transition easier. Wait any longer than this, and you may make your task harder, Lynette warns. This really is a bit of a “rip the plaster” scenario.

Before you start

Your child should already be drinking out of a sippy cup (a milestone that usually occurs around eight or nine months, when babies start to drink liquids besides breast milk or formula). The earlier you introduce a sippy cup, the easier you’ll find bottle weaning, says Lynette.

Now you’ve made the decision to wean, be firm. “Even if you wean slowly, there is going to be pushback. Don’t expect this to be easy – but whatever happens, don’t give up.”

How to do it

According to Lynette, there are two ways to give up the bottle. Going cold turkey is, as it says, an abrupt end. One day, you simply stop giving bottles. If your child is old enough, you might involve her in the process, telling her to say goodbye to her bottle because she’s a big girl now and is going to drink out of a sippy cup.

Weaning, on the other hand, entails slowly swopping out bottles for cups. Start by serving milk, juice or water in a cup instead of a bottle one day, then add a second cup the next week. It’s usually easiest if the first bottle you take away is the midday bottle, and the last bottle removed is the night time one. This one is all about comfort, so make sure you have a comforting routine in place to make a difficult task a little easier.

ALSO SEE: 7 tips to wean your toddler off her bedtime bottle

How other moms did it

“When they’re ready to go off the bottle, they start getting hungry. Mine didn’t need any pressure at all; one drank till two and the other until four, but when they gave up, it happened naturally. Both are happy and healthy.” – Maretha

“My son decided when he was ready, as with everything! We usually give him rooibos tea after supper, but we stopped offering the bottle and only made one if he asked, until gradually he just stopped asking for it. He still occasionally asks for some warm milk before bed.” – Alexandra

“I gradually diluted the milk more and more until it was just water.” – Clara

Lisa Witepski

About Lisa Witepski

In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at and, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.