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Winning the Bottle Battle

Aug27

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Hi Amy,

I love your column and straightforward, honest opinions. Here is my problem: my 14-month-old will not give up her bottle. I nursed her until she was close to 13-months-old, and then made the grave mistake of letting her switch to a bottle in the morning and at bedtime. (She does not take the bottle to bed with her – we brush her teeth after she finishes her milk.) During the day, she is perfectly fine drinking out of a sippy cup, but if I try to give her one in the morning, all hell breaks loose. She screams. She cries. She throws herself on the floor. She pushes the sippy cup away, throws it on the floor, etc. I usually cave in and give her the bottle because otherwise I will be late for work. I know I shouldn’t. I don’t give in any other time she throws a fit.

I know from reading your column and your blog that you take the bottles away at 12 months, and I am just wondering how you do it. Did your kids just accept that as the new reality, or do you have any other method of weaning from the bottle? Should I just not give her any milk at all if she refuses the sippy cup? She is fed breakfast at daycare about an hour after she wakes up. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated!

Well, for starters, cut yourself some slack — 14 months old really isn’t at all out of the realm of a “normal” weaning timeframe, even if you were aiming for a right-at-12-months cut-off. It can take time, particularly if there’s one bottle a day that is more of a comfort habit than sustenance. The sustenance bottles are the easiest ones to get rid of: You make a straight swap of cup for bottle and that’s usually that.

The comfort bottles (morning, bedtime, pre-nap, etc.) are tougher. In *my* experience, it’s been easier simply to forgo any milk at all at these times rather than offer the sippy cup. That’s when your baby is like, “Are you KIDDING me? No thank you. I shall protest now.” Offering the same beverage in the wrong vessel just leads to a meltdown, when the vessel is actually the thing they want and are attached to.

At this age, they don’t need nearly as much milk as they did in their first 12 months — in fact, you WANT them to cut way back on the cow’s milk anyway, since it’s constipating and filling, and they should be getting more balanced nutrition via real meals and foods. A 14-month-old baby should drink no more than 16-24 ounces of milk in a 24-hour period, which you can easily hit just by offering milk with each meal and no in-between extras.

So my advice would be to skip the pre-daycare milk altogether, for a couple days at least. See what happens if you DON’T offer the offending, horrible, awful sippy cup at all. She’ll get breakfast (with milk, I assume?) in an hour, so really, she’ll be FINE without the milk first thing. If you’re worried she will be hungry, or need further distraction from the potential “WHERE’S MAH BOTTLE WOMAN” tantrum, put her in the high chair with some of her favorite finger foods while you finish getting ready.

In a few days…a week, tops…you’ll likely have successfully broken the bottle habit. And can probably even try offering the sippy cup again (just sneak it onto the high chair tray during her morning pre-breakfast snack and see what happens, or wait until she’s in the car). I’ve found that this age is MARVELOUS for “out of sight, out of mind” type trickery. When I weaned Ike from bottles, he would cry if he SAW a bottle (like in the cabinet or clanging around in the bottom of a diaper bag I hadn’t used in awhile), but after just a few days of not seeing bottles, not being offered bottles, that was that. He never wailed in misery over something he couldn’t see and wasn’t being offered, basically. His attention span and memory just aren’t that long.

Your daughter is seeing the sippy cup and making the “DAT’S NOT A BOTTLE” connection, hence the fit. Remove both the bottle AND the sippy cup and you’ll hopefully get over this last morning routine hurdle. Note that there’s a limited window for this sort of thing to work — a two year old, for example, knows damn well that desirable things continue to exist even if she can’t see them and knows how to ask and demand them, often through (spectacular!) tantrums. At 14 months, it’s a little easier to simply let things mysteriously “disappear.” Sorry, sweetie, but all your bottles went to go live on a big farm upstate where they have lots of room to run around and play and etc….

(Oh, and while nobody asked me and this is only tangentially related, but I have found the Best Sippy Cups Ever and they are the Munchkin trainer cups with the “click lock” top. I got them in a gift bag at the SocialLuxe Lounge [along with the ones in all of my friends' gift bags, as their kids were all past the sippy-cup age] and hand to God, they are the greatest. And I have gone through literally dozens of sippy cup styles and brands over the years. They do not leak; they do not drip. They are easy for Ike to hold and drink out of and did I mention the part about them NOT LEAKING? Even when hurled to the floor or held upside down? Oh, my sanity and my floors thank you, Munchkin.)

Photo source: Pixland/ Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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7 Responses to “Winning the Bottle Battle”

  1. April Aug 27 at 12:21 pm Reply Reply

    My son was the exact same way, and our friends who had a little girl a year older than him gave us some AMAZING advice… it was to take the bottles away when you are on vacation or similarly out of your normal routine. He looked at us a little funny the first time it happened, but otherwise was all “oh, maybe this is what we do in this different place”…. then we made sure before we left that the bottles were all packed away in the attic so he couldn’t be all “Ba ba! and point at it when we got back home. Plus we wouldn’t be tempted to just give it to him that way as well. But it worked like a charm… :)

  2. Kelly Aug 27 at 2:36 pm Reply Reply

    I have learned that it doesn’t matter what sippy cup i buy, since my LO has decided he will just put said fluid in his mouth and then dribble it down whatever he is wearing. Yup, even cranberry-grape juice awesomeness.
    OP, no worries! I am guessing with a little perseverance from you and a little aging from her everything will work out. Also I like the advice about the change of scenery=change of routine.

  3. chitown Aug 27 at 3:09 pm Reply Reply

    I went the (mean?) route of offering the sippie, and if my daughter threw a fit, I just said “sorry, it’s this or nothing”. And I would leave the sippie somewhere she could get at it and walk away, and lo and behold, after throwing a tantrum (that I would ignore and, to be clear, lasted a mere few minutes at best), she would go after the sippie. And this only lasted maybe two days. After that, I could give her the sippie and she was fine with it. It’s sort of like sleep training…if you can steel yourself against the crying for a day or two (difficult, I know), it doesn’t take long for them to get the idea. Maybe start your routine a bit early for a couple of days so there is extra time built in for the inevitable tantrum. In my experience with tantrums (which are getting more numerous now that my daughter is nearing 2), walking away is the best solution. They are decidedly less apt to cry and carry on if there is no audience. Obviously, if the tantrum escalates a lot or goes on for more than a couple of minutes, it’s time to go back in and console. But I almost never have to do that (if ever?).

  4. AU Aug 27 at 4:24 pm Reply Reply

    I think I might be a little confused, if it’s breastmilk you’re talking about there’s no reason to limit the amount because it’s plenty nutritional unlike cows milk. But I agree take it away and replace it with like Cheerios for a few mornings and if you really want her to have the milk maybe give her the sippy cup in the car on the way to daycare. I think I may also be a little mean because for tantrums I tell my daughter, “tell me when your done ill be in ___,” she usually gives it up quickly when she knows she’s not getting her way. Oh or for the annoying fake cry at the beginning of a fit I tell her, “that’s fake, I don’t listen to that.” Sometimes that prevents the fit sometimes it doesn’t.

  5. A Aug 28 at 9:48 am Reply Reply

    My son who nursed himself to sleep FINALLY took a bottle at 13 months and would. not. give. it. up. at. bedtime. I talked to my Ped about it and he suggested putting water in the bottle. Then he would still feel soothed but there would be no damage to the teeth. That went on for a couple of weeks and he stopped wanting it so much, then after about a month he went without it completely.

    So maybe for your situation you could give the bottle but just have water in it? I also like the finger food swap for the bottle.

    From a training standpoint if a child throws a fit and gets their way even one time they learn that it works and it will be harder to “ignore” your way out of the tantrums. My advice is to figure out the road you want to take and stick with it for at least a week, tantrums or not. Hope this helps!

  6. Brandee Aug 28 at 12:19 pm Reply Reply

    I used the cold turkey method with mu son.  I also follow Amy’s blog and with a little one the same age as her youngest, when she mentioned she was starting the process I knew it was time.  I made sure it was a couple of days we had no major plans, kept busy, and didn’t tell anyone. No one seems to understand why it was necessary to stop the bottles. He now has one soppy for milk and a different kind for water. It took 2 days. He was upset at nap time but quickly moved into a new routine. You can do t. Just don’t back down. Then you’ll have to through it all again!

  7. Em Sep 10 at 1:56 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for all the advice. :) I tried skipping milk in the morning for a few days. The “out of sight, out of mind” trick worked like a charm. She is fine with having her sippy cup in the morning now.

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