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Baby Waving Bye

Bye-Bye, Bottles

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

First, thank you so much for all your sane, balanced advice. And for helpfully having a baby just a few weeks before I did, so I always know what’s coming next! 

As I’m pretty sure you’re aware, our babies are almost a year old now, and I’m already wondering about bottles. The getting rid of them part. I know the “no bottles after 12 months” rule and I know my pediatrician is gung-ho about it (she mentioned it at our nine-month visit, at which point it still felt like 12 months was AGES away), and I’m pretty sure you are too. So…how do you do it? And when? All at once, cold turkey? Gradually? Will I completely screw up bedtime? And sippy cups! The selection! The choices! 

I’ve tried offering my son water in a sippy cup and so far he’s only interested in throwing it on the floor, so I’m really wondering how the heck I’m going to get him drinking all his fluids and milk regularly in just over a month’s time. And we’re firmly stuck in a bottle before naps and bedtime routine. On the plus side, he’s a great eater so I’m not overly terrified that he’ll wither away to nothing once we eliminate formula…but I am pretty nervous that he’ll hate me for taking away his comforting ba-ba (residual guilt that I couldn’t breastfeed him as long as I wanted). So I feel like I should do it gradually and should be doing something already to prepare us both for the transition. But maybe not? Guidance, please!


Okay, so let’s both collectively brace ourselves, because this is never a popular topic. Every time I bring up the “no bottles after a year” thing I get mildly slammed for being harsh and going overboard and it’s not really that big a deal, my kid had a bedtime bottle until X years old and is just fine and has no cavities or speech issues blah blah blah.

That’s awesome to hear. I take bottles away at 12 months. I am just THE MEANEST.

Granted, my kids all had/have a TON OF TEETH by their first birthday. Baby Ike is especially shark-like, since he’s up to 12 TEETH, including all four molars. That’s a lot of precious enamel to worry about, plus the kid is gnawing on skirt steak and roasted vegetables at dinner time: He really doesn’t NEED bottles and formula anymore. So yes, we’ve been “working” on the transition already, gradually.

Like your son, our first experiments with sippy cups were not really successful. I bought a variety by Playtex that I remembered Ezra really liking (and being one of the few truly “spill-proof” cups out there), but Ike seemed mostly baffled by it: the valve was too difficult for him to drink from, so I removed it, but then he didn’t quite grasp that he needed to tilt the cup upwards. Then the cup would land on the floor and leak everywhere, since I’d brilliantly taken out the spill-proof valve and gaaaah never mind forget it. 

So I went back to the store and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a ridiculous variety of cups, figuring that we’d keep trying until we found one that he liked. And behold! We did. This style cup by Munchkin, with no handles and a soft silicone spout. Pretty much the OPPOSITE of the cup Ezra preferred. (And Noah liked the kind with the super-hard-plastic spout.) So point is: It’s going to take some trial and error on the first cup.

(NOTE: The cups Ike likes all claim to be leak- and spill-proof. The cups are full of lies. Buy some paper towels while you’re at the store.)

Likewise, every kid is different about what kind of beverage they’ll be most tempted by. Some want formula or breastmilk. Some want water. Others like going right to milk. (Most of ’em would also like juice, but seriously: Resist the juice for as long as humanly possible.) Noah wanted milk, Ezra liked water (and also, weirdly, vegetable broth) and Ike also needed to be tempted with milk and formula first. Now that he’s got the hang of the cup, he’ll accept water as well.

So the mechanics of cup-drinking are one thing. You will probably have to try a few different cup/beverage combinations. (BTW: Sippy cups with STRAWS are much, much better for speech and oral motor development. If you can get your baby using a straw from the get-go, you officially pretty much Win. We’ve always had to use transitional spouted cups first though, then make the switch to a straw later.) The other issue is, of course, the sleep routine thing.

I’m still kind of barely technically breastfeeding. My supply took a nosedive as Ike really ramped up on solids, I hated pumping and decided I didn’t want to do it anymore, so it’s strictly a comfort thing now, not really much of his nutrition. We nurse in the morning (and he usually wants it after a fall or a scare) and about a month ago he started refusing to nurse at bedtime, preferring only his bottle. I was sad but accepted — I always want him to take the lead on that, after all — and then after a couple weeks was like: Oh, crap. I just let him get even more dependent on something I have to take away soon.

So the first thing I did was add toothbrushing to the routine. I mean, I always brushed his teeth, but usually at the beginning, before the rocking and the bottle. (Yeah, that’s not good for his teeth, I KNOW. FORGIVE ME O DENTISTS.) But I started bringing in the little prepared fingerbrush thing into his room and brushing his teeth after the bottle, in the rocker. This meant he couldn’t fall asleep on the bottle, but was roused a little before I moved him to the crib. After a week of that, I brought him into the bathroom for toothbrushing, so he was even more awake. Then I went back in and rocked/sang/read an extra book/whatever. Basically ever-so-slowly changing up the routine so the bottle was NOT the last step anymore.

I also occasionally swapped out formula with regular cold milk, with our pediatrician’s blessing, just to further mess with the routine. Ike likes milk, but it’s not the same, so he wouldn’t always finish it. On nights I gave him the formula, I gave him four or six ounces instead of eight, mostly to reassure myself that his sleeping through the night wasn’t completely dependent on getting a full bottle and a full tummy.

Last night, he went to bed without a bottle at all, for the first time. I’m not saying we’ll never do a bedtime bottle again, or that we’re done with them completely — these things aren’t necessarily a straight, linear shot. I assume we’ll continue to work on bottle elimination for another month or so, with the hopefully realistic goal of tossing them completely by 12.5/13 months.

Last night, I waited until he was visibly tired, did everything we usually do at bedtime, just without the bottle. Diaper, jammies, brush teeth, book, lullaby, bed. I offered nursing, he declined, I put him in the crib. He protested for about five minutes, then seemed to forget all about it.

He slept in until EIGHT. FREAKING. THIRTY. AM. That is unheard of. That child has been waking up at 6 in the morning for months now. Probably because those eight ounces of formula were turning into a ridiculously soaking wet diaper overnight and he was waking up yowling for fresh pants. This morning he was wet, but not excessively so, and didn’t seem overly starving or ravenous or anything. Just…you know, like a big boy ready for some milk in a cup and scrambled eggs. No bottle, no biggie.


Photo source: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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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  • Leigh

    May 18, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    My just turned 12 month old daughter tried a variety of cups and decided (strongly, with pointing and noises) that she loves her 3 year old brother’s camelbak straw bottles best. So I got her some and got rid of the dozen other kids of cups I had collected. They are not totally spill proof, but I know they will have a long life.
    Now she can also take on full size camelbaks when the mood strikes her.

    I am SAHM/WAHM and with both kids I stopped their occasional bottle cold turkey at a year, while continuing to nurse. No fuss on any side.

  • LBH

    May 18, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    My 15mth old hasn’t been getting bottles during the day for 3 months now. It’s the night-time/middle of the night thing that he has completely suckered us into believing is vitally important to his happiness/growth/wellbeing/give me the #*$ing bottle or I will grow up to be a serial killer. I haven’t been super strict about it because he just barely has 4 teeth (got his first tooth 3 days before his first birthday), but we are going cold-turkey as soon as our last sleeve of bottle liners are gone… If I don’t chicken out.
    I would say be prepared for a little bit of fuss, but they DO get over it and adjust.

  • Nicole

    May 18, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    My older daughter preferred the Munchkin cups Ike likes and then went to a straw cup which my SLP friends like. My 16mo seemed easier to switch over since she sees big sister but still likes a bottle post-nap. I know, I need to ditch it.
    The bedtime thing kinda worked itself out after a few nights of late dinners. DD2 went straight to bed after dinner with a full belly, no milk needed. Both girls switch around to whatever I hand them depending on the situation.

  • Summer

    May 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Finally something I can MAYBE help with. My baby boy is turning a year old at the end of June. And I guess I WIN, because he is already using a straw. The boy LOVES water. Doesn’t care for juice that much, but will guzzle down the water. Here’s how I got him to use the straw-easy breezy. Playtex makes a cup that is marked for 4mths+. You push on the bottom of the sides of the cup and the liquid comes to the top of the straw. After working with him with it for like a day, he was drinking out of a kids cup with a straw at any restaurant we went to. I think it’s marked as a straw training cup, definitely Playtex brand. Hope that helps! I am telling everyone I know about it!

    • Myriam

      May 20, 2012 at 9:49 pm

      If you’re not opposed to juice, you can get the same effect with a juice box.  You can push on it to get it going, and they figure it out pretty quickly.  My then 12 month old figured it out in 2 sips, and then I started giving her watered-down (1 once of juice for a cup of water) juice or plain water in a straw-cup.  My favourites, actually I should say hers are  They keep the liquid cool for long enough, and a pretty spill-proof.  Good luck!

  • Carolyn

    May 18, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I started giving my son less and less formula/milk before bed – we went from 8 oz, to 6 oz for a few weeks. Then to 4 oz for a week, then 2 oz . . . And then after that I just stopped with the bottle altogether. He has always been a pretty easy going baby, but I think more than anything it helped convince ME that he was okay with less milk before bed (he’s a picky eater and had been having a lot of sleep issues that I was worried were because he was hungry at night). Gradually cutting down on the bottle feeding let me see that his sleep pattern didn’t change at all (so he wasn’t waking up at night because he was hungry!) and that freed me from the guilt of thinking I was starving my baby 😉

    Also, we tried a bunch of different sippy cups, and also had great luck with the training straw cup – once he understood how to suck and get liquid, he was able to handle the other sippy cup straws with more difficult bite valves without any problem. 

  • Betsy

    May 18, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    My youngest (of three) is 11, but what we did back in the olden days is start watering down the formula ounce by ounce at the same time as introducing the sippy cup of formula/milk. Around the time it was all water they lost interest except for comfort, and we felt a bit more relaxed about easing it away since it was just water.

  • [email protected]

    May 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I want to frame this article and give it to my husband, whose MOTHER (the wife of a retired dentist!!!!) got my 23-month-old hooked on a bedtime bottle last summer.  I am not allowed to protest this when we are at their house (it wouldn’t make a difference anyway), so every month or so I have to start the bottle-weaning process all over again with my adorable but very stubborn toddler.  Not Fun.

  • Nancy

    May 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    We switched from formula to milk at 1 year. Decreased slowly to half the amount, then started swapping a little milk for water until it was nearly but not quite all water. Then we decreased the amount slowly again and finally switched it out to 1-2 oz of water only. But I’ve got to warn you, he didn’t even entirely give up that water in a bottle until just before 2. He did, however, decide it on his own, so… yay?

    By the way, this is just regarding night time bottles – he was well and truly over daytime bottles by age 1 and into regular (non-sippy, adult-like) cups by age 2 during the days. Our transitional sippy that he liked best was actually the cheapest out there – the take and toss ones that are 5 for $4ish. Go figure! He hated the safety valves like all get out and never could tolerate ANY of them that had them.

  • Jenny

    May 21, 2012 at 8:34 am

    I couldn’t get my 13-month-old to drink from a straw. Until I let her hold my Mocha Frappuccino at the grocery store. Then she figured it out. Of course. 

  • Amy J

    May 21, 2012 at 8:53 am

    My girl would take milk from no vessel but a bottle. Water was easy, she took it from everything, including an adult straw, but milk, oh not her. I bought every cup I could find and cold turkey-ed all of them for days. And at 18 months, finally she decided the take and toss cups would work for ba-ul (bottle). I guess “Keep trying!” is the lesson?

  • Jen

    May 21, 2012 at 9:02 am

    I was glad this question came up – but I seem to have a different problem than others. My 13 month old daughter doesn’t really miss the bottles if we take them away from her cold turkey (she does love her bottles but she doesn’t need them for naps or anything). The thing is, she won’t drink milk without them. I know it’s not too big of a deal because I can give her cheese and yogurt, but is it that big of deal if she gets 2 bottles a day and downs them as fast as other kids do with a sippy? She doesn’t nurse them and again she doesn’t use them to sleep, so she’s not falling asleep on them.

    I went cold turkey for a week without bottles and she ended up not drinking much of anything at all. My doctor told me not to worry because as the summer hit she’d be drinking more water, and she’s right – she downs water all the time. So I know what I need to do is really just go cold turkey on the bottles again and give up on the milk, but I really LIKE the fact that she gets about 12-16 oz of milk from bottles these days and I don’t have to worry too much about always making sure she gets yogurt (which I have to flavor b/c she won’t eat it plain). She does eat a stick of cheese a day so I guess I could just up that to 2 sticks of cheese and there are her 2 servings of calcium, and get her Vitamin D in other ways? I got so stressed OUT the whole week we experimented with no bottles trying to figure this all out that I was incredibly relieved when we just took a nice break and went back to bottles.

    Adding to it, I’m due …well, like now..with my 2nd baby, and I expect her to regress a bit. So really I’m just asking permission from other moms to keep on with the bottles for a bit longer. Sorry for the novel.

    • Rebecca

      May 30, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      Jen — your daughter sounds exactly like my 12 month old son. He’s ok with out the bottles for comfort and will go down without them, but he will not drink sufficient liquids from sippy cups. He CAN drink, but just a little and then refuses, no matter what’s in it. He gets about 16 oz milk via bottles a day and I don’t know how to replace that much fluids from a cup. We live in a hot climate, so I’m not going to go cold turkey and get him dehydrated, esp in the summer.  But I am fretting about this, too!  

  • kelleyD

    May 21, 2012 at 9:29 am

    For those who want to start out with a straw sippy, I would recommend these. You can “prime” the straw by pushing down on the top of the cup and it will suck up whatever you have in the cup into the straw. That way when your little one puts his/her mouth on the straw they have it right there to taste and to get the idea to sip. Used these with my second and they were pretty wonderful. The DO leak when the liquid inside warms up and the pressure equalizes.

  • Kate

    May 21, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Oh Amy, you make it sound so EASY! Can you come take bottles away from my 9 month old in a few months? sigh… I am decidedly less strict about the bottle thing (let my now-3 yr old have them until he was 2), but I think even the squishier among us on this topic can all agree that it is better to take them away earlier rather than later. I will try it this time, I WILL.

  • tasterspoon

    May 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    My pediatrician is pretty laissez faire, so her recommendation was no daytime bottles at 12 months, and then none at all (including bedtime) at 15 months. That’s what we did and there was zero drama. Of course, our baby LOVES milk, and that probably helped. She’d drink it out of one of those Yard of Ale glasses if that was the only option.

    I don’t know if it helped, but we also presented water in a variety of ways, including ordinary glasses, from very early on (before age 1) – her favorite is drinking out of a regular old bike bottle. Ikea sells little 1-oz shot glasses that have matching 5-oz juice glasses, so we drink water from our matching glasses and she has no problem with the drinking part. The not-pouring-out-what-remains is a continuing challenge. (Note that we have cork floors, so I’m not worried about the fact that they’re glass – they’re very sturdy. If I had tile floors I might stick to plastic.) She got the hang of a straw only recently (18 months), probably because there was a milkshake at the other end, and is still unclear on why you don’t tip the cup back.

    Our issue is moving the toothbrushing to the last element of the routine. She still has milk last, and I feel all kinds of guilty. Debating whether to re-order the routine or to swap out the last drink to water. Carolyn’s comment is very reassuring – I don’t want her to wake up hungry.

  • Corinne

    May 21, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Okay, my almost 13 month old likes his straw cup way more than any of the sippy cups we’ve gotten him. (We have the playtex one mentioned earlier, seriously a great cup). However, here’s the problem: He can’t get the last ounce or so of liquid out of the cup with the straw. Not a big deal when it’s water, but he’s still getting breastmilk at daycare. He has a dairy (and soy and wheat actually) protein intolerance, so he can’t switch to whole milk, and hemp milk is hard to find, almond milk is not allowed at his nut free daycare, soy milk is obviously out, and breast milk is just so much nutritionally better than coconut milk (which he’s not supposed to drink tons of anyway, since it’s an antibiotic) or rice milk. As anyone who has pumped for their child (still 2x a day, ugh) knows, losing an ounce of milk every time he eats is a pretty BFD. So, is there a straw cup that will suck up all the liquid? Right now he’s getting the rest of the milk in a bottle or a sippy cup held for him like a bottle (Is there actually a difference?). But I want to get rid of the bottles entirely, and I like him being able to drink by himself, not having to be fed.

  • liz

    May 22, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Corinne, why not ask the daycare to put that last little bit into a small regular cup and see if he can drink the rest of it that way? Good training for actual cups, and since that last ounce would otherwise be wasted, it’s less of an issue if it spills.

  • Brenda

    May 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Amy – Thank so much for this timely advice.  It was just the kick in the pants I needed.  My twins will be 1 in a week.  I was still breastfeeding 4 times a day, but last night, we just skipped the milk part.  So, dinner, bit of play, bath, jammies, then NO nurse, instead straight to crib and story time.  A tiny bit of a rough night, but not much.  And, they slept as usual from 645pm to about 630am.  I think I needed to feel like I was filling them up more than they actually needed it.  

    Like you said, they may get a nurse or bottle again, but they don’t need it, I guess.  Next step will have daycare replace afternoon bottle (3pm) with milk in a cup at snack time.  They won’t even notice.  

    I’ve found our kids are incredibly resilient and can rise to all sorts of expectations.  I’m the reluctant one, sometimes.

  • Andrea from Letters for Nursery

    May 23, 2012 at 7:47 am

    I stopped my son from feeding on the battle when he started to sit. The first step I took to wean my baby off the bottle was by keeping the bottle out of his sight. They said that the moment a baby sees the bottle, he will start to cry and demand to be bottle-fed. When he feels hungry I give him a straw cup or  a food. It took a couple of weeks before my baby realized that he’s not going to get the bottle anymore. And since then, he also started to take food normally.

  • […] ‘Alpha Mom’ said: I went back to the store and spent a ridiculous amount of money on a ridiculous variety of cups, figuring that we’d keep trying until we found one that he liked. And behold! We did. […]

  • donna

    October 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm

    Hi my baby girl is 1 a week on firday is it ok to start her with our milk xxx

  • Athena

    April 28, 2014 at 3:23 am

    It always does my self-esteem great good when you espouse the goodness of straw cups because straw cups at four months, seriously. Then again, that had nothing to do with me REALLY. All I did was drink out of a cup with a straw myself, and my son was all OMG GIVE ME ONE TOO WOMAN until we got him one and, boom. Straw cup.

    (I know they don’t need the water that young generally – the water went in at first mostly just so he wouldn’t get confused and decide sucking on the straw was the wrong thing to do when nothing came out. That said, it took a little bit before much went in… and not too long after getting the cup, we hit a pretty hot summer with a very hot baby. As in, including a stretch of days where he wore nothing but nappies because honestly if you dared put anything else NEAR him he would break out in heat rash. So… the cup ended up being a good thing, because in that heat, a little water isn’t a bad idea even for a five month old)