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Bottles & Pacifiers: When Do I Really Need To Take Them Away?

By Amalah


I am the mother of a great almost two-year old (will be 2 in March) who absolutely refuses to drink his milk in anything other than a bottle and still must chomp on his pacifier in order to go to sleep (night or nap). Honestly, this doesn’t bother me all this much, but I’m getting THOSE looks from other moms.

James has had several issues with sensory integration (he had a small stroke while we were in labor and has limited use of his right hand) and I feel like I’d be a monster of a mother if I forced him to give up something that he loves and that makes him feel safe.

His Occupational Therapist (who is female) agrees with me and thinks we should let James decide to give these things up on his own. His Physical Therapist (who is male) disagrees with me and thinks that we are setting James up to be teased. His doctor gave me the whole “it’s bad for his teeth and speech” speech, but didn’t really address the issues I have.

But it’s the other moms who are bugging me the most about it. Those moms who always know what is best for every kid.

What do you think? I know he’s a big kid and should have outgrown these things, but should I insist that he do so?

Thank you so much,

Oh goodness, what a tough situation. Although I am a teensy bit glad to read that I am not the only parent who has gotten the conflicting advice from the “experts.”

Prime example: Carrygate. Noah’s former OT yelled at me about carrying Noah in the big bad overwhelming outdoors and was all, “TIME FOR TOUGH LOVE, SENSORY BOY.” His current ST is all, “Why are we putting crazy demands on BABIES, for chrissakes? Snuggle that little bunny head all you want.”

My point in bringing this topic up (AGAIN!) is not to make this all about me, but to point out that just because you hand your child over to Early Intervention and therapists and whatnot does NOT mean YOU personally check out of the process. (There was a comment on my initial post, somewhere, that seemed to think otherwise, and I’ve encountered that mindset before as well. That because one OT [who had a looooong history of expecting too much, too soon and had only recently moved from elementary-age clients to toddlers] told me something, it was irresponsible that I disregarded her advice.)

Trust your instincts. Take everyone’s advice (including mine) with a healthy shake of salt. If you believe your son has enough to deal with right now and will choose to give up his oral comforts when he is ready, put this thing on the back burner for a few months. Practice some snappy comebacks in the mirror to whip out at the playground. “I’m sorry my son’s developmental challenges are bothering you so much, hoe-bag” would probably work just fine.
The pacifier, in particular, strikes me as a non-issue. I mean, how many kids suck their thumbs or stroke a blankie well into elementary school to help them sleep? I’ve known a couple “big kids” whose parents reluctantly allowed pacifiers in bed (and ONLY in bed) well beyond the toddler years. And you know how many of them are STILL asking for the pacifier right now? Zero. They started preschool, somehow picked up on the “pacifiers are for babies” vibe and abandoned it. If you haven’t already, I’d probably get on the only-in-bed bandwagon, since it’s really not that hard of a concept for a 2-year-old to grasp AND will save you some of those dirty looks out in public. (I know I still do double-takes at four-year-olds running around with pacifiers at the playground and I KNOW all about the sensory stuff and oral-aversion problems and should know better.)

The bottle is kind of another story, since this IS causing you stress out in public and your doctor DOES have a point about your son’s teeth. (Although bottle rot is mostly brought on by putting them to bed with a bottle, thus letting them suck on a semi-milky nipple all night. So that’s another concern you can probably quibble with.) A trip to a pediatric dentist might not hurt — either to clear your conscience with a clean bill of dental health OR to find out that there is a problem and make the cracking-down on bottles feel less cruel.

You could possibly try to implement a similar rule about the bottle — inside the house only, perhaps, or only at seated meals in the high chair. (And I’m guessing you’ve probably tried every sippy cup under the sun, but just to cover this from every angle…the Nuby cups are extremely bottle-like with the squishy rubber spouts, but more socially-acceptable looking.)

We’ve noticed Noah has developed a bottle/blankie/lovey-type relationship to his sippy cups. He carries them around in his mouth, constantly sucking and chewing on the rubber straw, long after they’re empty. Juice boxes and regular cups are met with weeping (although he will eventually accept a juice box), so we’re trying to curb this a little bit. No sippy cups away from the high chair or table. If he needs a drink of water in between meals, he gets it in a non-straw hard-spouted cup (which he actually will just sip from and discard).

I’m trying to be better out at restaurants too, since Noah even refuses to drink from those kiddie cups with lids and bendy straws. He knows I probably have the beloved Diego Munchkin cup in my bag and will transfer his beverage in order to avoid a scene. This one we’re still working on. Because I suck and like to avoid scenes. But you know what? In the fall he’ll start preschool and will be presented with juice boxes and regular cups and Mama will not be there to dump his milk into his preferred type of cup. And I suspect he will deal with it.

And eventually, so will your son. I can practically guarantee that even if you do nothing right now, you will not be packing a bottle in his first-grade lunch box. Again, trust YOUR instincts and balance out what’s best for BOTH of you. Sure, he loves his bottles, but it’s also okay if you are over the judgment and the dirty looks.

(Don’t even get me started on all the photos of Suri Cruise still walking around with a bottle. Who the eff do I think I am?)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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Well, I still *breastfeed* my two-year-old a couple times a day, though you can believe I don’t share that info with many of my non-virtual friends. My feeling is, if anthropological research shows that human beings have a need to suck on stuff till they’re four or so (and it does) then who are we to quibble with biology? (If you’d like to see the research you can google Katherine Dettwyler.) So trust your instincts, like Amalah says. And that’s coming from a mama of an 8-year-old with SPD, a 5-year-old on the autism spectrum, and a 2-year-old who’s too… Read more »


My son will be 2.5 soon, and he only really switched to sippy cups after he turned 2. It was a slow transition, but I didn’t stress it and just let it take the time it needed to take, for the most part. I haven’t, however, taken away his nighttime bottle. He gets one bottle a night filled with only water. It helps him get to sleep and STAY asleep, which is good for MY mental health, too. There are as many ways of raising kids as there are kids in the world. We all have to find our own… Read more »

Heather S

I have a 4 year old with SPD. Her occupational therapist felt that if she needed a binky/pacifier to organize herself orally, there wasn’t an issue at the age of 2. We allowed her to have it in bed only until she was 3. If we encountered a stressful situation for her out in the world, we gave her a lollipop or a piece of candy – something much more societally acceptable that still gave her that oral movement. (Trust me – do not take a sound-sensitive child to Sesame Street Live. You’re just setting yourself up for a world… Read more »


For what it’s worth, I sucked my thumb until the fifth grade, and I turned out fine.
(I also tolerated *years* of family attempts to quash it, including serious talks about how I was ruining my teeth, vinegar-soaked Band-aids, and several months of this horrible tasting product you paint on your thumb called “No!” And I ain’t got nothing but love for them, and was equanimous when I did, two years later, get braces.)


gain, Amalah, you rock.
To add my own 2 cents (despite the fact that you said pretty much exactly what I would have said, but in a much nicer and well-thought out way)- those people giving you Those Looks? Are exactly the same people who are judging what you wear, how you talk, and would berate you publicly if, say, your child were screaming in public because how DARE a child make a noise.
Screw them. Do what you feel is right. That’s your best judge ever of what your child needs.

Anne Glamore

I was hugely anal about this and have specific times I took my boys off the stuff cold turkey but that’s all I’m going to say because you know what? Amalah’s right. It’s YOUR kid, so your intuition about the situation is the absolute best thing to go on. I may have gotten a kid off the pacifier, but I couldn’t do a damn thing about the one who insisted on sucking his fingers while fondling the tag in his underwear. I just said THANK GOD he doesn’t want to fondle the tag in other two-year-olds’ undies. (Eventually he got… Read more »


Every family has a different right answer. This also applies to day care and when to move the kid to a bed, and a million other situations. For what it’s worth, my youngest, a very well-adjusted 17 year old who is yearbook editor and swim team captain, still sleeps with something that used to be a blanket and is now a rag. It goes to sleepovers and it went to France with her exchange program. It may well go to college with her, and I don’t care!