Winning the Bottle Battle
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 a social media event [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.)
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