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Milk Wars

Milk Wars

By Amalah

Advice Smackdown ArchivesOh Wise Amy, Please help!

I’ve scoured through your archives and haven’t seen any advice on this topic so I hope you and the lovely commenters can help me.  My daughter is 11 months old and has absolutely refused a bottle her entire life, like I would rather die then drink from that bottle.  Which is ironic because my oldest daughter would only take a bottle after being given one in the NICU, so this whole thing has been very confusing to me. 

I’ve tried five kinds of bottles, most recently, the Adiri Natural Nurser you said cute baby Ike was a fan of but to no avail she screamed and screamed like she was being tortured. She will, however, drink from a sippy cup but will only drink water or more preferably water with a little bit of juice mixed in.  If I give her breastmilk or cow’s milk she takes a sip then spits it out and will not drink from that cup for the rest of the day even if I replace the contents with water/juice.  In an act of desperation I put a little bit of chocolate syrup (I know the horror) to see if it was a sweetness thing and she still spit it out.  So I have two questions….

1.  How do you go about weaning? Cut out a feeding a day? My daughter really only nurses when she wakes up and before naps or bed so how do I replace that comfort?

2.  How do I get my daughter to drink the other milk? What other options do I have, if any?

I would appreciate any help….I love my little girl but I would also love to be able to leave her for more than four hours at a time.  

Thanks so much,
L the Nurser

Yikes, this is a tough one. Not an unusual problem, though, SO I HAVE BEEN TOLD, but one that I have not had to personally deal with. I’ve had one baby (Noah) who took any kind of bottle you waved at him and then easily and seamlessly made the move from formula to milk and bottle to cup right when you’re told babies are supposed to. (Of course, he’s spent every waking minute SINCE throwing me one developmental curveball after another, but at least he gave me the milk/bottle thing.) Then I’ve had two babies (Ezra, Ike) who went through vaguely finnicky phases with bottles but got over it. Ezra also loves cow’s milk. Ike…well, we’ll see. Perhaps we’re due.

At 11 months I’d say it’s probably time to just give up on the bottle thing. Not gonna happen, and even if it does you’re then faced with needing to take it away almost immediately. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a stickler for the no-bottles-after-a-year recommendation. And everybody in the comments says I’m overly harsh about it but we’re just going to have to agree to disagree on this one.)

So. Your questions. For weaning, I’d probably start with the morning feeding? I’m all about Not Messing With Bedtime Until You Absolutely Have To, so the morning feeding can more easily be skipped over in favor of heading right to breakfast. Ezra weaned himself at 10.5 months, and I mostly missed the morning feeding because it let me doze a little longer while he nursed, but he was perfectly happy getting up and going directly to the breakfast table.

There are a lot of ways to cut out the bedtime session, some more painful/time-consuming than others, depending on how…uh, dependent your daughter is on getting nursed to sleep. If she nurses and then you rock and sing and put her down still slightly awake, you can try simply not offering one night and see what happens. Or have your husband/significant other do the rocking and singing or whatever else is part of her routine. If she doesn’t really HAVE a bedtime routine outside of nursing, start one! Bath, books, singing, even just a quiet application of body lotion with the lights off, some music in her room, whatever. Ezra’s bedtime comfort post-nursing was a Taggies blanket and cuddling while I sang him songs and rubbed his head. Simple, but effective.

At 12 months her sleeping through the night isn’t super-connected to her tummy being super-full, so if she’ll just take water before bed instead of milk, she’ll still probably be okay. If you’re worried, try to make sure there isn’t a huge time gap between the last time she eats and bedtime. Add an after-dinner (but before bedtime and toothbrushing) snack and don’t stress if you’re unable to get 8 ounces of some kind of milk product in just before she goes to sleep.

It’s possible she might warm up to other milks once she’s weaned from the breast. POSSIBLE. I’d stop pushing it, since you know the reaction. You will never, ever be able to “make” a child drink or eat something that they don’t want, no matter how much you try or plead or cajole or re-package up the presentation. (Though this is a tenet I STILL have to remind myself of on an almost daily basis. I should cross-stitch it up and hang it next to my coffeemaker, or something.)

There’s also the possibility that you’re just plain getting ahead of yourself: the official recommendation is breastmilk or formula only until 12 months. Some pediatricians will give you the green light earlier (mine did), but the fact that she’s not consistently drinking cow’s milk at 11 months old is pretty normal. As is refusing breastmilk from anything other than the actual breast.

But if you’re concerned about her lack of milk intake after you wean — and I fully understand your desire to wean after a solid year of being the ONLY acceptable milk source, gah — rest assured there are children out there who don’t drink milk of any kind, and who are perfectly, wonderfully healthy. My pediatrician has remarked SEVERAL times that we put far too much emphasis on milk being some kind of perfect miracle drink for children. To the point that parents are giving babies and toddlers far more than they actually need (about 16 ounces a day, at 12 months), or assuming that as long as their child is drinking milk, it’s okay that the rest of their diet is full of abysmal crap.

Perhaps your daughter would prefer whole milk yogurt? We buy plain, unsweetened yogurt and then stir in fruit or fresh vanilla bean (not extract) or honey (after 12 months). Does she like cheese? Butter? Macaroni with cheese and butter and milk in the sauce? Oatmeal mixed with butter and milk? Hell, ICE CREAM? Frozen yogurt? There are plenty of opportunities for her to get enough dairy fats and calcium in her diet from other foods than milk.

For non-dairy sources of calcium and vitamin D, there’s tofu, beans, broccoli, eggs, leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, collards), fish (salmon, tuna, cod), papaya…and lots of juices and cereals will often be fortified with one of these nutrients. These foods might be tougher sells than butter and cheese, but they can be done. I’ve scrambled eggs for Ezra with (organic, non-GMO) tofu and cheese, and he used to love creamed spinach (until Noah started rubbing off on him, BAH). For a super-picky eater like Noah, I’ve added broccoli and green veggies to fruit and yogurt smoothies. (Though I doubt your beverage-picky daughter would go for those yet. More of an older toddler thing.) I make a white bean puree (open can, dump in blender, pulse) to add to mac-and-cheese and cook and freeze our own veggie-fortified fish sticks. Even though my kids DO drink milk with no problem, I still find I have to be diligent and creative when it comes to their diet. Milk is not a get-out-of-the-kitchen-free card, you know?

And if you’re still concerned about her nutrition post-weaning, an age-appropriate multivitamin and DHA supplement might put your mind at ease that she’s not going to wind up malnourished if you take a little break from pushing the milk-in-a-sippy-cup thing. Give her a chance to FORGET how much she hates it and you might get her to reverse her staunch position later on. In the meantime, though, it’ll be okay. She can develop strong teeth and bones without the milk, promise.

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

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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