It’s time for bed, your toddler cuddles down, his bedtime bottle in hand. He sucks hard as his eyes start to droop. He is soon asleep, his bottle fiercely clutched under his arm, a drool of milk leaking out the corner of his relaxed mouth. But, if you try to remove that bottle, those closed eyes will open, an accusing look on his face as he 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 – he 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 he 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 his night-time bottle by 12 months.
Try these tips to get your little one to leave his bottle:
- Change up the night-time routine. This may seem counterproductive − especially as you have just gotten him 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 his dinner. This can be followed by brushing of teeth and a bedtime ritual, like reading a story.
- If he is slightly older, have him help choose his new cup. Alternatively, have two cups on offer and let him choose which one he would prefer to have that night.
- Offer another comfort object, like a favourite stuffed toy or soft blanket at bedtime instead of his bottle.
- Provide loads of encouragement. Your toddler may find this to be a traumatic time as he identifies his bottle with being able to fall asleep. Words of encouragement and praise and lauding him being a “big boy” will be helpful.
- Fake it. Watering down his milk over several nights may encourage him to decide that night-time drink isn’t as desirable as he 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 his eating habits, as toddlers can be picky creatures when it comes to eating. Removing this bottle can help. As long as he is reaching his milestones, growing, pooing and weeing regularly, he 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. You can learn more about Kim Bell here.