Tips for a smooth transition from feeding bottles to cups
Find out how you can take your child through a smooth transition from feeding bottles to cups!
Before we get into transitioning from feeding bottles to cups, let's discuss the foundations that need to present to ensure a smooth journey between the two phases.
It is universally undisputed that breast milk is best for babies, regardless of whether the baby is fed directly from the mother’s breasts or breast milk that is stored in a milk bottle. In fact, it is highly encouraged that mothers breastfeed their babies directly as it is not only seen as a most natural way of feeding, but the process also helps develop that crucial bonding that is critical between the mother and the child.
Breastfeeding can be very challenging to many women. Despite the pressures that modern societies place on women, especially those who lead an active lifestyle and/or are required to return to work after their maternity period, they can choose to sustain the breastfeeding process quite sensibly, by continuing to express and store their breast milk to be given to their babies subsequently.
However there comes a time when the nutritional value of breast milk will be insufficient for the needs of a growing infant who must be supplemented with other forms of food groups that will help ensure that baby gets the required sustenance for optimal nourishment, growth and development. This will be the time that weaning comes about.
Weaning is the process of gradually introducing an infant to what will be its adult diet and withdrawing the supply of its mother's milk. The best cue to determine readiness should come from the baby. The following are some signs of developmental readiness that you should look out for:
- Able to hold head up and maintain a steady upright position, which is important for spoon-feeding
- Sits well when supported
- Makes chewing motion and is able to move food from front to back of mouth to swallow
- Disappearance of the tongue’s thrust
- Interest in food, perhaps eyeing your food or reaching out for it
- Dribbles and increased frequency of putting things into mouth
- Cries for feeds before usual time, which is a sign of hunger
Weaning a baby off the milk bottle can be a challenging affair. After all, they’ve grown very accustomed to using it. There is a certain convenience to using a bottle. It doesn't spill and at a certain point, babies can hold it themselves. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be weaned off their milk bottles completely by the age of 15 months.
Prolonged bottle-feeding has been associated in some studies with excessive milk intake, tooth decay, iron deficiency, and poorer performance in school. Another Canadian study published in the journal Pediatrics, led by pediatrician Dr. Jonathon Maguire of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, suggests that a good time to start weaning the babies off the bottle is at 9 months because, the older they get, the harder it will be to modify their behaviour.
That study also found that there was no significant deficiency noted in levels of iron for children by age 2 years. Parents who followed a one-week plan to switch their 9-month-old to a sippy cup were 60 percent less likely to have a child who was still using bottles at age 2, compared with parents who didn't receive any advice at all. In fact, parents who waited until after age 1 to wean their baby off the bottle seemed to have a more difficult time.
A sensible approach to weaning your baby off milk bottles works best most of the time. While there are certainly no hard and fast rules to doing this, here are some easy and practical tips on how you can help your little ones make the transition successfully over the several days or weeks, once you’ve started the process of weaning:
Change can be daunting to some babies as they’re so accustomed to the sight of a feeding bottle. Replacing one regular bottle-feeding with a sippy cup serves to introduce babies to a whole new world of drinking and feeding. Do this on a daily basis until baby accepts this mode of feeding before attempting to increase frequency.
Babies seek comfort from sucking off the nipple on the bottle. Start with sippy cups with spouts similar to a nipple of a bottle. Sippy cups that come with handles also make it easier to grip.
When baby is drinking wholly from a sippy cup, it may be time to start swapping one of your baby’s sippy cups with a training cup.
As your baby gets bigger and eats more solids, slowly phase out the bottles so that your baby is off them by 12 months. Ideally, at 1 year, most babies should drink milk and/or other fluids from a cup.
Trying to wean a baby can be challenging and stressful for parents. Some parents will find it plain sailing, while others are fraught with plenty of hurdles. This is an important stage of emotional and behavioural development for the baby and thus an overdose of patience is required. It helps if you constantly encourage your little ones along the way, especially when they’ve managed to reach certain transition milestones. Positive reinforcement helps to support behavioural change and makes for a much faster and smoother transition.
There’s a plethora of drinking receptacles suited for helping babies make that transition from bottle to cup. There are a whole range of sippy cups, cups with straws, cups with drinking spout, etc., all made with different materials and designed keeping in mind the developmental factors of the growing child. Choosing the appropriate one is a trial and error activity in finding the one that works perfectly for the parent and the baby. There are options for everyone, no matter what performance attributes you decide on, or metrics you feel are most important.
To help you in your decision making process, it is important that you follow a few simple steps to ensure that you make the right purchase decision:
- Always read labels on the packaging to ensure you are buying age appropriate products for your baby.
- Ensure functionality of the product suits the stage of training your baby to wean off bottle-feeding.
- Ensure that the product is made with BPA free plastic parts.
- Consider leak-proof ones if you intend to use for the convenience of storage and travelling or are fussy about messiness
- created from accidental spills during usage.
Sippy/ training cups may have a few deep and hidden corners, which need careful cleaning to avoid any growth of mould or bacteria. Use baby accessories cleansers which are mild and gentle and use brushes to reach the inside corners to give them a thorough cleaning.
Lastly, as your baby transitions from bottle to cup, do expect plenty of thrills and spills. While there are some infants who may transition rather effortlessly without as much as a single spill, there will be others who may need some effort getting there. So parents, have lots of patience and plenty of encouraging words to help prod your little ones during this time of transition.