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The Advice Smackdown’s All Things Weaning Extravaganza

Oct11

by

To the guru of all things baby related:

I need to wean my just-turned-one son. My husband really wants me to and I kinda want to have my body back (but it is just so easy to offer the boobies…) About a month ago, the little guy stopped nursing all the time and dialed back his requests–so I thought we were on the way, but he is still doing four sessions–the goodnight, the middle of the night, the good morning, and the home from school session. He also takes 1 bottle at daycare. So here are my issues:

1. How do I get him to give up his one bottle? I know that at a year it needs to go. He has a love-hate relationship with it. I think I could just take it away and he would be fine. EXCEPT I am scared that he will refuse the sippy cup and that one bottle is the only liquid he gets from 7 am to 3 pm. Do I just dump it in a sippy and hope he takes it because he is thirsty?

2. How do I get him on sippy cups? He will drink from them sometimes but it isn’t a guaranteed thing. He took an ounce of cow’s milk yesterday and has a sippy of water (and sometimes juice) that I send with him to daycare. He plays with it.

3. How do I wean him? I was thinking of cutting the good morning feeding first since it is his shortest and closest in time to the middle of the night feeding (which is, honestly, the biggest feeding he does). My husband helped distract him this morning and I think it went okay. After about a week, I was thinking of giving up the goodnight feeding (once again, it is just a short one). But then I am lost…mainly because his cutting down on feedings last month was not accompanied by increasing any other liquids. I don’t want to dehydrate him–that would earn me a bad mommy award.

I know I am totally over-thinking this and he will probably surprise me (just like he does with everything). In a few months, this will all be a non-issue (just like his nap schedule, his refusal of real human food, his inability to clap, and sleeping in the swing), so history shows that I worry for nothing. Help me make progress on this without making myself insane.

Obviously an OCD First Time Mom

Here’s how to wean to a sippy cup in two easy steps:

1. CALM DOWN

2. See step one

It’s good that you recognize your tendency to overthink and worry, because yes, that’s exactly what you’re doing here. I tried to count the number of potential disasters you listed in your email — potential disasters that have not happened yet, because they exist off in the future in response to things you have not done yet — and lost track after “a whole bunch.” So maybe that should be our secondary topic: How to slow your parenting anxiety roll. Meditation, yoga, journaling out all these “but what ifs” and “but then whats” you’ve got going on, more relationships with other moms you can talk to and get advice from, SOMETHING. I’m not saying it’s abnormal to be super unsure of yourself the first time around, but I’d hate for you to one day look back on your son’s baby and toddlerhood and remember nothing but an endless parade of needless worry and stress over doing everything the right, “perfect” way.

Because guess what! Your son WILL wean. He WILL graduate to some kind of cup or cup-like receptacle. He will NOT end up hospitalized from dehydration.

But he’ll do it in his own unique way, in his own time. So let’s start with Step A and stop worrying about Step Z.

So three things ideally need to happen here: You want to wean him from both the breast and the bottle, and you want him to accept liquids from a sippy cup of some kind.

1) The bottle one sounds like it won’t be the struggle that other parents face, because he only drinks one and isn’t even that into it. BAM. Just do it. If he is thirsty, he will drink, full stop. He might change his liquid intake to a sip here, an ounce there (as opposed to the eight solid ounces in one go a bottle provides), and that’s FINE. Normal. Toddlers are actually quite excellent at setting their own portion controls for food and drink — provided you LET them, as opposed to micromanaging them and demanding empty plates and sippy cups at every meal. Believe me, I have been a complete asshole to all three of my children by taking the bottle away after 12 months  — even the ones who loooooovvvvvved it and still drank them multiple times a day — and they all made the transition just fine.

2) There are a TON of sippy cup options out there, so I encourage you to buy a few different kinds and try them out. Some kids like the hard spout, others need a more gradual step up from the bottle and prefer a more nipple-like spout. Some skip the spout completely and go right for the straws. (And then there’s the handle/no handle options! AHMAHGAH.) I can’t offer a ton of guidance here because my kids were all different. Noah loved the Munchkin cups with the straw. Ezra never had a strong preference for spout/straw type but HATED anything with handles. (He also made the leap to a “real” cup almost annoyingly early,  so OH MY LANDS, the number of spills I have cleaned up because he’s the world’s biggest mealtime klutz.) Ike was probably my most particular — he would drink from nothing but these soft-spout Munchkin cups for awhile, and we are currently locked in a 2-year-old battle of wills over saying goodbye to the hard-spouted Take n’ Toss cups and moving full-time to the straw version. God, he LOVES those cheap-o cups beyond all reason and GOD, sometimes I just don’t care and want to get through a meal without someone crying over a dumb cup.

(Straws are ultimately preferable for oral motor skills/speech development, but please don’t freak out about that when picking a first cup. The important thing is to find one your baby can hold and drink from. The transition to straws can happen later.)

3) You’re on the right track with weaning from the breast! The morning feeding is a good place to start since there’s a lot of options for distraction AND let’s face it, breakfast tends to be the “easiest” meal for toddlers. Place a sippy cup on his tray every morning with milk. Do not freak out if he ignores it. Send in a cup for water and one for milk to daycare. (I admit I’m not a fan of giving juice to babies this young, BUT it can be an effective temptation to get them to accept a sippy cup. Just promise me you’ll water it down a LOT — like a 70/30 water-to-juice ratio — and don’t make it a default/regular thing.)

As for the rest of the feedings, go slow. You mention your husband wants you to wean but…uh, sorry dude, this is a mom-and-child decision type deal so don’t feel like you should rush or push on his behalf. I would definitely keep the after-school session and the bedtime session — the after-school session will help ease YOUR fears about the lack of a bottle and transition to sippy cups. The bedtime session is typically the last one to go, so once you’re comfortable that the morning session has been fully and peacefully eliminated, start working on that middle-of-the-night one. At a year old, he’s DEFINITELY okay going all night without liquids or food, and even though it’s the biggest feeding now, he’ll probably adjust pretty quickly and make the (necessary) shift to eating only during the day and not at night.

So how to eliminate that middle-of-the-night feeding? Well, it depends. If you weren’t also trying to eliminate the bottle, I’d probably tell you to have your husband go in for a couple nights with a bottle so he still gets his food but understands that the boobs are now closed at night. Or you can go in and rock and cuddle and all that, but without offering the boob. Take a “don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach, so if he’s rooting and getting distressed, let him nurse. But see how it goes if you simply don’t immediately whip out a boob, or if your husband handles the waking and makes it more about getting him back to sleep via other non-boob methods.

Once you’re confident that he’s drinking from a sippy cup, stop offering the boob post-daycare. (Again, he doesn’t need to chug the cup’s contents in one go; as long as he’s sipping from it and swallowing that’s a WIN. And as long as he’s eating real food, he’s FINE and you aren’t going to harm him by weaning.) Bring him home and distract him. Put some Elmo on or have a new/interesting toy waiting for him. Or put him in the high chair right away for a snack (with a sippy). Again, if he’s crying and tugging at your shirt, nurse him. No big deal if it happens in fits and starts.

The bedtime feeding will probably be the last to go, and you’ll kind of just know when he’s ready to say goodbye to it. But that’s Step Z and not worth worrying about now. There’s no ticking time bomb schedule thing here. You might discover that, husband’s wishes and your vague sense of wanting to be done aside, that you aren’t ready to wean completely. And that is also fine! The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until two, so if your husband is just getting weirded out that your son is “too big” or something, there’s a ton of research and facts to refute that and assure him that letting him nurse a bit longer is not a bad thing or some indication that you plan to breastfeed him until kindergarten.

My last baby weaned around 15 months, through absolutely no planning or effort on my part. It just…happened. I actually probably fought it a little bit by continuing to offer the boob even though I knew he’d never notice if I didn’t. It was very bittersweet and yet remarkably easy from a “omg how do I do this without dehydrating/starving him” perspective. He was eating and drinking just fine; I was extra and I was comfort.

Now, by the way, that same child won’t even LOOK at a meal until he’s had his Take n’ Toss sippy cup of milk, which he downs in one long, sustained chug. Withhold the cup (in hopes that he’ll eat more if he’s not filling up on milk) and face his endless, horrible wrath. So maybe one day you’ll write in again looking for advice on how to wean from the stupid sippy cup and I can only HOPE that I’ve got it figured out by then. But in the meantime, meh, it’s not worth stressing or obsessing over; we’ll shamble through it all eventually.

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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21 Responses to “The Advice Smackdown’s All Things Weaning Extravaganza”

  1. Hi, I'm Natalie. Oct 11 at 1:27 pm Reply Reply

    I’ve had good luck offering smoothies instead of juice to temp kiddos into learning how to use straws – a banana, some berries, cow’s milk to water it down… it’s good stuff.

  2. cj Oct 11 at 3:12 pm Reply Reply

    I know it seems unintuitive, but give the straws a try. I think we also have the munchkin ones. Our son went on an extended bottle strike at 6 months. He still has trouble with sippies, but he took to the straw in one day.

  3. Amy Oct 11 at 3:34 pm Reply Reply

    The only sippy cup my son will take is the ThinkBaby one, which is basically a bottle that you swap out the top for a sippy cup lid and then a straw lid. The fact that it looks like a bottle and has a soft tip seemed to do it for us, before that the kid didn’t drink more than 3 oz. of liquid for 5 days…and then got a viral infection which meant we had to revert to bottle to get some liquid in him. Sigh. Anyway – hopefully your child is neither so willful nor stubborn as ours but these were like magic in our house.

  4. Myriam Oct 11 at 3:37 pm Reply Reply

    My daughter was getting 1 bottle at daycare, and being breastfeed the rest of the time, exactly like your baby. I wasn’t as strict as Amy regarding the whole bottle-at-12-months-thing, as my daughter was allergic to cow milk and not eating dairy. The bottle was her “only” calcium-related beverage with prescription-formula and was causing me a little bit of anxiety to drop. Between 10 and 15 months, my daughter slowly dropped all her breastfeeding sessions except the night ones, and by 15 months, I ended them for her! The bootle was replaced by a sippy cup during that time, as she was now able to eat cheese and yogourt (but still unable to drink milk). Finally, around 2 yo, we stopped the formula altogether and she now drinks the occasionnal glass of milk (or coffee, as she calls it), preferably in an open cup, like a big girl! So, my a**vice is this : breath, and take it one step at a time. There is no need to worry about what ifs, you’ll probably never have to deal with them anyway. Also, the more you stress about something, the more indecive you’ll be and appear to your son, and the more he might react to the changes. If the new things appear to be part of a new world order, he might just go with the program! Good luck!

  5. K Oct 11 at 3:40 pm Reply Reply

    I know, “buy a few sippy cups, see which he prefers” is stock Amalah advice, but just to offer a different perspective, here’s my experience.  We were extremely poor when he was an infant. We bought a two pack of Tommee Tippee trainer cups when he was six months.  He drank from them after some initial confusion/experimenting.  We bought a two pack of hard spouts when he was a year old.  He drank from those, too.  So we went all out and bought two more of those kind.  I really don’t think you have to go crazy and buy ALL THE CUPS to see which one a child prefers.  Buy one.  Use it.  Wash it at night.  If the child takes it, great.  Buy more of that type.  If not, buy another type.  I can’t help but wonder if experimenting wouldn’t just be confusing/overwhelming for everyone.  Not to mention wasteful, money-wise, if you buy six cups and he only likes one.  Even if we’d been more affluent, I couldn’t see myself doing that.  

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Kallman Oct 11 at 5:48 pm Reply Reply

      Thanks for adding your perspective. But, the definition of “few” is “a small number.” It is not six.

      • S Oct 12 at 12:28 pm Reply Reply

        While I agree that “a few” is “a small number”, I don’t think K’s point was really about how many cups you actually end up buying. I read this as more of an encouragement not to give up if the first cup you choose isn’t your kids favorite from the get go. As long as there are no developmental/motor issuses that need to be considered, whatever cup you choose is fine and your kid will learn to drink from it when they are ready. All these transitions from baby to toddler to oh just stop growing already! are so nervewrecking and time consuming – if you let them be. But if you don’t? Yeah, not so much. Its just a bottle, or a cup, or whatever. If you want to buy a few different cups, by all means, do. Your kid will surely like at least one of them. Only want to buy one? Do that, and your kid will drink from it. At some point.

        • K Oct 23 at 12:03 pm Reply Reply

          Yes, this.  Honestly, I don’t see the point of buying “a few” and then worrying over which one your child will like best.  Buy one. Try it.  Your kid will more than likely learn to drink from it.  Then buy another.  Perhaps six cups was overexaggeration in making a point.  Fine.  I would still find buying three types of cups with the goal of seeing which one the child likes best as needlessly wasteful and possibly confusing (three is a few, yes?  More than two, which would be a couple, and less than six, which is apparently a huge number in your mind.)  

          The real point is, unless there are real motor skill issues at play, it is not a big deal which kind of cup you choose.  Odds are, the child will like best whichever one they’re given most frequently and learn to get juice/milk/water from first.  If they really, really hate the first cup you buy, try another.  However, I’d lay odds that most people won’t have to.  It’s really not a huge thing.  

          Honestly, I am saying this because I’d READ the stock Amalah advice about buying a few cups and seeing which one he liked and we could only afford one type, and I was SO FREAKED OUT and ashamed that we could only get one type and ohmigod, what if we got the wrong one?  What if he HATED it?  Shouldn’t I be seeing which one he prefers? Doing some kind of baby-led sippy-cup?  And, so, yeah.  This is partially directed to my own first-time-crazy-mama self and any other first-time-crazy-mamas.  There are Big Scary Parenting Decisions.  First time cup is not one.  

  6. IrishCream Oct 11 at 4:25 pm Reply Reply

    When my younger daughter was 10 months, I stopped pumping, and she went on strike against formula. She went eight hours a day at day care without drinking anything. I was stressed about it, but she was clearly fine…eating tons of solids (which contain liquid, don’t forget!) and playing happily. She nursed extra at home for the next two months, and then was fine with cow’s milk in a sippy cup from 12 months on. So even if your worst-case scenario comes to pass, and he goes all day without drinking, he will be fine, I promise. If he’s becoming dehydrated, he’ll be thirsty enough that he will drink. No bad mommy award for you–and really, let’s save those for truly awful behavior, not loving moms that are doing their best!

  7. Nancy Oct 11 at 4:51 pm Reply Reply

    The ONLY sippy my son liked and used was the cheap-o take and toss. For every beverage ever. (He also preferred the cheap-o take and toss straw cups.)

    At almost 4, I’m still desperately trying to get him to wean from one as his “bedtime cup” of water even though he’s exclusively on regular cups at all other times. (The only reason we still used it for right before bed at 2 was because it had a lid and dumping water in his bed was hella harder to deal with than dumping water in the kitchen during meal or snack time.)

    Note to OP: It never ends… save yourself and never offer water in the bedroom once he boob weans. ;)

  8. Autumn Oct 11 at 6:09 pm Reply Reply

    Or just go straight to an open cup, and save your self the hassle in a year.  We started working on an open cup with my kiddo at 8 months (an ounce of water at most) and now at 2 she is the champ at day care.  I said we don’t do sippy cups (I’m the annoying feeding parent in her classroom) she drinks from an open cup with her milk from home. We use the Beaba toddler soft cups which only hold 4 oz, so we do a lot of refills, but if she spills it’s not too much.  She has the Frogo stainless steel sippy cup for her “water bottle” cause it looks like a mini version of my stainless Camelbak bottle, which we do so she can have free access to water and I don’t have to deal with spills.  

    As for Boob, the good morning feeding and the welcome home feedings were the last to go.  Night night boob (her phrase) went away when we got serious about sleep training, which also eliminated any night feedings.  My hubby and I agreed that I had been on full time night duty for 14 months, he owed me a few nights.  She didn’t mind, and I got glorious sleep.  If your husband is serious about weaning, make him work/make it his problem.  

  9. Brooke Oct 11 at 7:50 pm Reply Reply

    I first tried offering all varieties of sippy cups with watered-down juice. No go. What worked was I started offering a bottle with water, which he loved. And then suddenly one day, the idea of a sippy cup clicked and he drank his milk like a pro. I want to note that I refuse to offer milk in a sippy cup with a straw, because ew, too much cleaning. His milk is in a hard-spouted sippy cup and his water in a soft-strawed sippy cup. At 2 1/2 he’s showing interest in drinking from a glass, but that’s going to wait until I’m more sure of his patience.

  10. EW Oct 11 at 9:08 pm Reply Reply

    Just a warning about gentle weaning — sometimes it doesn’t work.  My daughter was classic.  Drop a feeding every few days, and let her adjust.  The whole thing took a couple of weeks and was easy on both of us.  

    My son was not.  His attitude was “okay, you drop the day feedings and I’ll just get up all night every two hours like a newborn.  Thanks!”  Finally, after a month of that, we just quit cold turkey.  My husband cared him full time, and I couldn’t even pick him up for a couple of days which was hard, but we both survived it, he weaned, and now, at 2 1/2, he’s fine!  Now we did switch to a bottle and got him onto the sippy cup closer to two, but he never had a bottle at night (which was my doctor’s major concern).  So whatever happens, it will work out.

  11. Mona Oct 11 at 9:43 pm Reply Reply

    We bought tons of sippy types for both our boys, trying desperately to get them to take ONE. Just one kind!
    As it turns out, they both transitioned from bottle to straw, never got the sippy thing down. So, had I the whole thing to do over, I’d buy one sippy with transitional nipple and one straw and just see which direction he went. I’m sure I confused mine with so many different kinds at once (forget six, I’ll bet I bought ten different kinds).

  12. Mona Oct 12 at 9:08 pm Reply Reply

    S-
    Agreed- sometimes (often) mikestones can rule how we feel as parents. But some things you have to feel your way through- I also didn’t take away their bottles at 12 months. Don’t tell my pediatrician. But they enjoyed the comfort, and, yes, gave them up when they were ‘more’ ready. Not the right decision for all, but it worked for us.

  13. KO Oct 12 at 11:17 pm Reply Reply

    We had similar concerns when transitioning to cow milk/water—my son didn’t take to a sippy OR a straw for the longest time (and only took a bottle, like, five times EVER)(we offered it too little, too late, and missed the window). 

    This cup (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006GYLL8Y/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=1535523722&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B00018XCTM&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1SXTMG3ZRYV4J636WDDB) was a lifesaver for us: it’s like a regular cup, but with a lid that depresses when the upper lip pushes down on it, and the liquid comes out. It was the only thing he’d drink out of for a while. Now, we use it for milk, since it’s pretty easy to clean. Only downside is that it isn’t completely spill-proof, but since we pretty much only offer milk to him when he’s in his high chair, or otherwise sitting down, it’s not *that* big of a deal. It doesn’t leak that often, and when it does, it isn’t much. So! That’s one suggestion to try, if he looks at the sippy spout like, “What the heck do you want me to do with THIS?!” 

    The way we got him drinking out of a straw was to use those individual, pre-packaged milk boxes (Horizon or Organic Valley are the ones I see most often). They come with a little plastic straw, and it’s a lot easier to suck liquid through it than it is through the thick rubber straws that come with brands such as Tommee Tippee. The REALLY helpful part about trying it with the individual box milks, though, was the fact that you can squeeze the box. We put the straw in his mouth and gently squeezed so the liquid would go up the straw—it didn’t take long for him to figure out, HEY, I can suck it up through this thing!

    Eventually, he got the hang of the sippy cup (along with the Tommee Tippee straws I mentioned above), but those were *HOW* we got him to transition. 

    Good luck!!! 

  14. Helen Oct 14 at 12:32 am Reply Reply

    just to add another string to your bow if you need it: my daughter wouldn’t transition to sippy cups until we removed the valve – and then there was something about the ease of drinking that switched her on to it. Of course, you have to be a bit more careful about avoiding spills!

    • MARY Oct 14 at 1:43 am Reply Reply

      Helen – my daughter was the same way! No valve and we were a GO, but the same cup with a valve she will try and then throw in frustration. Along the same lines, some straw cups have built in covers for the straw for storage/ travel to further prevent spills. We found these also slightly pinch the straw even when open so these straws require extra suction to get any water through. She is not willing to use those, but will use a simple straw in a cup happily.

  15. hp Oct 14 at 9:43 am Reply Reply

    OP here. Thank you for the reply–I think I needed to know that the situation isn’t hopeless and that eventually it will all work out. As neurotic as I sounded in my letter, I figured I should let you know that the whole journalling thing recommended–yep, that was writing this letter. Once I wrote it, I calmed down a lot and got to the day-to-day living without the what ifs. Little guy is doing well dropping the one feeding–he has “sip Dad’s water from his cup” time in the morning now with his first breakfast. Still doesn’t do much with the sippy (and yes, the juice is way watered down. All I could drink while pregnant was apple juice, so I was *hoping* he would associate a faint apple tinge with good stuff). The day I wrote this, the daycare teacher complimented the little guy on his progress with the sippy, so he may be holding out on me at home. He does that. He was crawling for a week at daycare before he would show off at home.

  16. Olivia Oct 14 at 2:09 pm Reply Reply

    My son didn’t understand sippy cups at first, but he figured out a straw easily at a year old. Though, at 17 months, I’ve reintroduced the Take ‘n Toss* sippies because he kept pulling out the straw and making a mess, and he can drink from them now.

    So, weaning…I’d like to reiterate what Amalah said about it being a mother/baby decision. Wean if you want to, but please don’t do it just because your husband wants you to. My 17 month old still nurses pretty much on demand (I’m home with him). If I’m busy or I don’t feel like it, I will try to distract him, but I don’t push it. It’s good for him and this time is short. It can also be a valuable parenting tool to encourage sleep or calm a tantrum.

    *We tried several sippy and straw cups and I like the Take ‘n Toss both for price and ease of cleaning. Plus the lids are interchangeable so my daughter uses the straw lid and my toddler uses the sippy lid and all the cups stack neatly together. Also, pipe cleaners are great for cleaning straws.

  17. Melissa Oct 18 at 12:00 am Reply Reply

    The husband needs to sssshhhh. For real. Not his decision and it should have no bearing on yours. I mean, HE can wean if HE’S nursing, but YOU do it when you and baby are ready.

    Our favorite cup was the Tilty cup. No valve, super easy for little ones. We loved it for our last two little guys. You can also get a slow flow lid or a smoothie lid for it.

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