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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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