Your child has been feeding on the bottle for a while now, and you’re wondering if he is ready to move on to the next phase – the sippy cup. But before we get into transitioning from milk bottle to sippy cup, let’s discuss the foundations that need to present to ensure a smooth journey between the two phases.
Breast Milk Is Best
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 the 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 for 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 baby from the bottle
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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. However, using the milk bottle longer than it is recommended may have some setbacks on your child’s development.
Problems found with prolonged bottle-feeding
Prolonged bottle-feeding has been associated in some studies with excessive milk intake, tooth decay, poor positioning of teeth, iron deficiency, and poorer performance in school.
Another Canadian study published in the journal Pediatrics, led by paediatrician 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 per cent 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.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be weaned off their milk bottles completely by the age of 15 months.
When can you start the transition from milk bottle to sippy cup
Signs that baby is ready to start using the cup
As we have learned, babies develop at their own pace. So while one 7-month old baby can have good control of his hands to use a sippy cup, it may take longer for another 9-month old baby to let go of the habit.
However, one way to determine whether your child is ready to move on from the milk bottle to the sippy cup is to look for signs of readiness. Some signs that your baby may be ready to transition are the following:
- Baby can sit without support
- Baby has good control of her hands.
- Baby can hold the bottle and tip it to drink independently
- Baby has started eating solid foods (even just purees)
- Baby shows interest by reaching for your 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.
How to transition from milk bottle to sippy cup
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 from milk bottle to sippy cup successfully over the several days or weeks:
Let baby get familiar with it first.
Babies are curious in nature, so it’s likely that your bub will be intrigued by the look and feel of the shiny new sippy cup. Allow them to play with it to become familiar. Let their fingers explore how to touch and hold the sippy cup. Just make sure that it’s empty, so as not to waste the milk.
Show your baby how to take a proper sip.
While your little one has become a pro at drinking milk from a bottle. However, drinking from a sippy cup may seem intimidating. Once your baby has familiarised himself with the look, feel, and mechanics of the sippy cup, start filling it with a small amount of milk and demonstrate how to take a sip.
Guide his tiny hands onto the handles, show him how to lift the spout to their mouth, and take a tiny little sip. Just let him practise with just a small amount of milk or any other liquid every day until he gets the hang of it.
Trade one bottle-feeding to a sippy cup session.
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 your 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 for the baby to grip.
Dr Jacquelyn Crews, MD, a paediatrician and certified lactation consultant at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital suggests transferring your child’s milk or her preferred drink in the sippy cup and only putting water in their baby bottle. This makes the sippy cup more desirable than the bottle, she said.
If you’re breastfeeding, you can continue to do so. Just offer water using a sippy cup.
When your 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.
Trying to wean a baby from the bottle to the cup can be challenging and stressful for parents. 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.
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Choosing a good sippy cup for your baby
There are a plethora of drinking receptacles suited for helping babies make that transition from bottle to cup. There is a whole range of sippy cups, cups with straws, cups with drinking spouts, 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 the 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 them 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.
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