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Giving up the bottle

Babies can learn to use a cup from an early age and are usually ready to try from around six months. So, when your baby is around six months old, you can start using a feeding cup to teach your bub how to sip drinks from a cup. Try aim to stop using bottles by the time your baby turns 12 months old. Feeding bottles with teats are for use with breast milk or infant formula during the infants first year and are only recommended for 12 months. Continued use of a bottle after 12 months of age, often results in:

Iron deficiency

Ear infections

Tooth decay

Fussy eating

Allowing your little one to practice daily will help them give up the bottle at 12 months of age. Babies who continue to drink from the bottle well into the second year may drink a lot of milk and have a reduced appetite for other nutritious foods. Less reliance on bottle feeds of milk makes it easier for toddlers to become good eaters. Every baby is different! When transitioning to a cup, some babies will like to progress from bottle-feeding to cup-feeding, while breastfed babies may skip using a bottle completely and start using a cup, often while continuing to breastfeed. Lightweight plastic or bamboo (that won’t break easily!) trainer cups with a simple spout and two handles are a practical and easy to clean choice. Training cups should only be used for a short time, while babies continue to practice drinking from an open cup. Best to avoid cups with teats, spouts and valves, as these only require them to suck rather than sip, which doesn’t teach them drinking skills. Teats, spouts and values can also easily end up for longer periods of time in their mouths and milk around their teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay.

When your baby starts food at around six months, they can have a small amount of cooled boiled water from a cup or if you’re formula feeding or expressing breast milk, these can also be feed in a cup. You should continue to thoroughly wash the cups until your baby is 12 months old. By around 12 of age, most babies can manage a cup well enough to satisfy their own thirst, and the bottle can be stopped. Water and milk should always be offered in a small cup after food. This also helps toddlers to learn a new habit of having milk from a cup after their dinner instead of expecting a bottle of milk at bedtime. Stopping the bottle is often difficult for babies and parents, so here are some tips to break away from the bottle:

1. Give your child a small plastic, non-breakable cup that’s easy to grip and hold.

2. Let your child play with the cup first so that he gets used to the way it feels.

3. The first few times your child uses the cup, guide her by holding the cup too.

4. Use only a small amount of liquid in the cup to reduce spills.

5. A small cup (such as a 20 mL medicine cup) can be helpful with learning to drink while reducing the amount that is spilt.

6. At family mealtimes use a cup yourself to show your child how it’s done – babies love to copy their parents.

7. If your baby has been having a bottle as part of the bedtime routine, try to introduce a new bed-time routine such as story time or bath time or offering a cuddly toy.

Just like learning to eat, learning to drink from a cup can be a slow and messy process. At first, they will need to use two hands and there may be some spills but keep your cool, they will get the hang of it soon!