Research shows that the prolonged use of bottles can lead to tooth decay and the Committee on Medical Aspects (COMA) Report states that bottle use should be actively discourage from 12 months but how are we supposed to get our little ones off the bottle by their first birthday?
We hope these tips will help make the transition from bottle to cup more manageable for you and your little one…..
Start by offering water in the free flow beaker or open top cup frequently from weaning age. Allowing your child to explore, play with and practice sipping from a beaker from around 6 months will get them familiar with something other than the bottle and put them in good stead for making the change when they reach 1yr plan ahead. Decide on a date that you are going to ditch the bottles and talk to family and friends about your plans so they can support you. By making a plan of when and how you are going to do it you are more likely to stick to it.
If you prefer the ‘Get it done’ approach you may decide to switch to the cup for all milk feeds and ditch the bottle in one altogether step. This may feel daunting but it can be easier for the child to get to grips with as they will quickly learn that the bottles are gone and that is that.
For those children who take time to adapt to change you may find it easier to make the switch more gradually. You could begin offering the milk feeds in a cup or free flow beaker one a time perhaps leaving the night time bottle until last.
Depending on the age of your child you can begin talking about getting rid of the bottles with your child explaining that “you’re a big boy now and can have your milk in a big boy’s cup.” “Bottles are for babies, you’re not a baby anymore.”
When you are offering milk in the cup make sure that all bottles and teats are out of sight and cannot be discovered by your child. It will be much harder for your child to understand why they can’t have the bottle if they can see it.
Collect all the bottles in the house bag them up and throw them away. Depending on the age of your child you can do this with their help and take the bottles to a bin outside of the house such as the local park so they can’t be retrieved! It can be easier for your child to understand that the bottles have gone for good if they have been part of this process.
If you anticipate that bedtimes are going to be more challenging without a bottle of milk to settle your child try to find alternative sources of comfort such as a new teddy, blanket, extra cuddles and stories to make up for the absence of the bottle. This will help to create a comforting environment without involving the bottle.
Be consistent. Once you have decided to make the change don’t go back even if your child refuses the milk in a cup. Going back on your decision can be confusing for the child and will make it harder for both of you in the long run.
What if they refuse to drink any milk from the cup?
This is not a problem. From 12 months your child’s daily milk intake should be no more than 1 pint or 500ml maximum and may even be a lot lower than this. Even if your child drinks no milk at all you can ensure they are receiving enough calcium by offering 3 portions of other dairy foods such as yoghurt, cheese, custard, rice pudding or milk on breakfast cereal throughout the day.
Why are bottles bad for the teeth?
Drinks flow slowly through the teat of a bottle meaning they are in the mouth for longer and allow much more contact between the teeth and the fluid. Night-time bottles can be particularly problematic especially if the child falls asleep with the bottle in their mouth and the milk remains in contact with the teeth throughout the night.
What is a free flow beaker?
A free flow beaker allows the fluid to flow easily and more quickly from the spout allowing a sipping rather than a sucking action. This results in the fluid having less contact with the teeth. Some sippy cups and non-spill cups use a valve to stop the fluid flowing freely. With these beakers the fluid must be sucked much the same way as from the bottle. It may be possible to remove the valve from the beaker to create a free flow which is much safer for the teeth.
It is good practice to progress from a lidded free flow beaker to an open top cup as soon as your child is ready.
For more information on suitable drinks for toddlers and how to care for your child’s teeth visit