Your toddler is walking, talking and even feeding herself—sometimes with a spoon! Child development experts agree that a great time to say bye-bye to the bottle and hello to drinking from a cup is by your child’s first birthday. While you might not be ready for this step, your child may already be showing signs that she is. Here’s how you can tell if it’s time to make the switch and how.
It’s normal for children to form attachments to their bottles; for the first year of life, it’s a source of comfort and nourishment for many kids. While you might have already introduced your toddler to a sippy cup as early as six months old, now he might be ready to move up again. Your little tyke is ready for a cup when he:
- Wants to drink out of your cup
- Tries to drink bath water with a cup
- Is already drinking from a sippy cup
Here are some more tips for weaning your toddler off the bottle:
- Start out slow. Gradually reduce the number of bottles he gets throughout the day—replacing the nighttime bottle last.
- Introduce the cup a few days before you offer your child a drink in it, and tell him how he’s going to get to drink from it soon just like Mommy and Daddy.
- Offer a cup to play with. When he starts showing interest in it, fill it with a little bit of water and help him take a few sips. It will help if he sees you drinking water or milk from a cup too.
- Offer water in the bottle and milk in the cup. Since the milk is most likely going to be more appealing to him, he may reach for the cup on his own.
Not all toddlers fall in love with the cup right away. That’s OK! Some push it away or throw it on the floor. This is all part of the journey of learning a new skill.
Start by letting your tot select a cup he’s excited about; maybe one with his favorite character or color. A little messiness is part of the learning process, but you can minimize it by starting slow with a few sips of water. Then, when you’re both ready, let him try sipping a little milk from a cup at the dinner table.
If you’d rather move from a bottle to a sippy cup before jumping into an open cup, try one that your child can hold comfortably and fill it with water to try first, then milk. We would even recommend skipping the sippy and trying out a straw cup instead. Drinking from the sippy cup isn’t much different from a bottle, whereas the straw requires your child to suck, helping him develop drinking skills more effectively.
Even after considering when and what type of cup to use, you might still have a few questions about moving away from the bottle.
- What should my child drink? Water and plain milk are the best choices, as they hydrate and provide important nutrients. Offer water anytime and about 16 ounces of milk per day.
- What about juice? Even though 100 percent fruit juice is natural, our bodies process it the same way as added sugar, and one serving of fruit juice has as much sugar as a serving of soda. Too much juice can also lead to tooth decay. If you want to offer juice as a treat every once in a while, consider limiting the serving size to 4 ounces and watering it down.
- Bottle before bed? Many kids do well during the day on a cup and cry for the bottle at bedtime. If your toddler is in this place, help her transition off the bottle by providing water at bedtime in the bottle and a little extra cuddling or story time.
There’s no one way to help your child develop. Everyone is different. Just remember to enjoy the journey and do what works for you and your little tyke!