Read my 7 steps in weaning toddler off the bedtime bottle and 8 more ideas on how to bottle wean your little one.
I dreaded weaning my toddler off the bedtime bottle. I know she’d go nuts without it, especially at night. So I stalled and told myself it was fine.
I personally know a lot of friends who bottled fed their children until they were 5 and they seemed fine. Until I noticed my kid’s teeth.
So we went to a dentist and they advised me to wean my toddler off the bottle. I kinda panicked, thinking “How do I wean my 2 year old off the bottle?!!”
It’s one of the things that makes her to go sleep so quickly and easily. So it was really stressful to think about how my toddler being weaned off her bedtime bottle.
But I had to do it, mainly because of the top reason below and for the many reasons after that.
Weaning Toddler Off The Bedtime Bottle: Why You Should Do It
To prevent cavities
My primary issue for bottle weaning my then 2 year old off her bedtime bottle was her teeth.
Related Article: How to Make Tooth Brushing Fun For Toddlers
I thought she was starting to form cavities and although a trip to the dentist proved me wrong, the latter told me to better wean her off the bottle because of baby bottle tooth decay.
I’m sure most of us have left our babies to sleep right after having their milk bottle and unfortunately, milk has some sugar that feeds the oral bacteria, which then releases acid that destroys the tooth enamel.
Some kids are more susceptible to tooth decay so if you want to help your little ones to have sparkling, white teeth and healthy gums when they grow up, do bottle weaning as soon as possible. If you want to be extra careful, many dentists say fluoride varnish helps reduce or prevent tooth decay.
Related Article: Preparing Your Child For The Dentist To Avoid Tears and Tantrums
To discourage sleep association with a milk bottle
This is probably one of the toughest issues I had when it comes to weaning off the bedtime bottle – my kid won’t sleep without it.
It’s like alcohol for a noob insomniac – once they get a taste of it and it helps them fall asleep, they’ll need it every single time.
Now that might not be the most appropriate comparison but you have to admit, it’s pretty hard to remove that bedtime crutch.
Especially when your baby doesn’t understand why you’re taking something that nourishes them, is precious to them and helps them sleep.
It’s important to teach your kid to without having to drink milk. You don’t want them relying on a milk bottle to sleep.
Toddlers can still wake up several times at night and the ability to soothe themselves to sleep without a milk bottle can do wonders, not only for them, but also for the whole family.
To prevent obesity and iron deficiency
The AAP recommends about 1,000 calorie intake for 1 year olds, that’s to be divided among 3 meals and 2 snacks per day.
Of course, it doesn’t always happen that way as toddlers can be quite unpredictable with their eating habits.
But if they keep on feeding on milk and making themselves full in the process, they’ll lose out on other important vitamins and minerals, like iron, that they could get from other types of food.
They might also run the risk of having constipation or becoming obese, from having too much milk.
To encourage healthy eating habits
Loading up on milk might lead to kids still feeling full in the morning and becoming less interested in breakfast.
Also knowing that they’re going to get their milk bottle before eating might disrupt their meal times.
To prevent ear infection
Lying down while bottle feeding might cause ear infections.
The formula milk might go up to your kid’s middle ear, causing irritation or swelling.
So it’s always a good practice to let them keep their head up while feeding, not letting them lie flat or better yet, for them to be weaned off their bedtime bottle altogether.
To avoid speech disorders
I didn’t even know this was a thing until I started researching for this article! And boy am I glad I got my daughter off a bottle when she was 2 years old.
Come to think of it, she had a bit of speech delay but I always thought that all kids are different and such..but maybe her taking of a milk bottle until she was 2 years old could have contributed to that.
So apparently, long term use of a bottle or a pacifier, can affect the development of your little ones teeth, which might cause speech issues.
It makes pronouncing certain letters sounds hard to do and it restricts their tongue so they don’t get enough practice making certain sounds, which can all lead to a delayed speech development.
At What Age Should You Say Goodbye to the Bedtime Bottle?
The AAP recommends weaning your toddlers from their milk bottles between 12 and 24 months of age.
I personally weaned my daughter a month after she turned 2 so even if the AAP advises otherwise, I firmly believe it depends on your family.
Especially if you’re already worried about your kid’s teeth, speech delays, ear infections and such.
7 Steps On How to Stop Bottle Feeding at Bedtime
Here are the steps that I’ve done to successfully wean my toddler off the bottle. You can follow it to a tee or you can mix it up with the other extra tips, which you will see more here.
Consult your doctor
Get the green light first from your doctor if it’s totally fine to do bottle weaning.
If everyone’s not on board to weaning your toddler off the bottle, it will be a very hard and long phase for both you and your little one.
Your partner or other caregivers have to stay committed to the plan of bottle weaning.
If anyone gives in and offers your child a bottle after a certain amount of crying, you will be confusing your toddler and it will take them longer to give up their bottle.
So be consistent, stick to the plan and believe in your little one. You’ll be surprised at how they can quickly learn to bottle wean, especially when you’re committed to helping them.
Manage your expectations
You might have heard or read how other parents have weaned their kids in just 3 days or less than a week.
Or how their kids just went with the flow and gave up their milk bottles without a fight.
That might not be the case for your child and for every other kid for that matter.
So try to manage your expectations with your toddler weaning off the bottle. Don’t compare their progress with other children.
They might be okay without a milk bottle in a day or two or it might take them weeks to get over it.
Expect a lot of crying, bedtime tantrums, hours of refusing to eat, and refusing a cup to drink from but they will eventually learn how to give up their bottle.
Read them a story
This is probably the most important step in teaching my kid anything – reading her a book about or related to the subject that I want her to learn. In this case, it’s giving up her milk bottle.
I highly recommend this book – Bye-Bye Bottles, Zebra.
For breastfeeding moms, you can try this book: Loving Comfort: A Toddler Weaning Story.
Storytelling has a lot of benefits and when told in a fun way, can engage and enhance your little one’s comprehensive skills.
I’ve taught my daughter so many things through her books and storytelling, such as cleaning up, brushing her teeth, potty training, and more.
So I recommend preparing your kids mentally and emotionally by reading to them first.
Give advanced notice
Aside from reading them a story, reinforce your message by occasionally reminding your kid they have to stop drinking from a milk bottle soon.
You can gently remind them, right before giving them a bottle, that next time, they won’t need it anymore as they’re growing up. (You can check up some tips here on how to make your toddler listen.)
That next time, they have to stop taking the bottle to avoid cavities. And so on.
Introduce a cup
Give them a regular cup or a sippy cup and teach them how to drink from it. You can even get them a transitional bottle-cup!
Fun Sippy Cup
BPA-free Cup Set
Make it a fun and special experience for them and let them know that since they’re already getting older, they’re getting a special cup.
You can make them look forward to drinking from a regular cup or a sippy cup by letting them choose their own cups.
You can also let them decorate it or let them reserve a special place for their cups in the kitchen.
Dilute their milk
I started diluting my daughter’s milk with 20ml of water.
I gradually increased it every day until my kid eventually gave up on her milk, probably thinking it kinda tasted bland and less tasty.
8 More Ideas On Weaning Toddler Off Bottle at Night
Go cold turkey
Most doctors (and parents) will recommend to just stop giving the milk bottle to children altogether.
Expect a lot of tantrums for a few days but they will eventually come around and accept the inevitable.
Get rid of bottles
One way to help you go cold turkey is to throw away all the milk bottles.
So you won’t give in to the temptation of giving your little ones a bottle, especially when they’ve been crying and wailing for their milk.
Take away morning or lunch milk bottles
Some parents start with eliminating the morning milk bottle by offering solid food when they get hungry in the morning.
Others opt to give up first the lunch milk bottle. These two milk bottles are easier to tackle with.
Because if ever your kids have a meltdown, it won’t drag throughout the day, disrupting their nighttime sleep.
“Break” the milk bottles
If you’re scared of going cold turkey, you can try slowly damaging the milk bottles, to the point that your kid would hate drinking from it.
You can try cutting a small diagonal slit on the nipple, to increase the milk flow.
Have them try it then after a few days, cut another slit on top again, creating an “X” and increasing the milk flow further.
If they won’t give it up, damage it even further by making the hole on the nipple larger, making drinking milk an unpleasant experience because of the crazy milk flow.
Doing this would hopefully get your kid to voluntarily wean themselves off the bottle.
Make up rules
If they asked that you buy them another set of bottles because theirs is “broken”, tell them the rules that once the bottle breaks, you can’t get another.
Because the government said so.
Because everyone is only allowed a certain number of bottles.
Because if you get more milk bottles, the tooth fairy won’t be able to visit them soon.
And so on.
Introduce the tooth fairy
Tell them about the tooth fairy through books or make up your version about it.
Make them look forward to the tooth fairy visiting them, which can only happen if they give up their milk bottle and start taking care of their teeth by stopping milk drinking at night.
Give them a party
Put up a “Bye bye milk bottles” party!
Celebrate by having some cake, decorations and if it’s okay, let your kid throw away their milk bottles and give them a cup or a sippy cup as a present.
Make it into a big deal, prep them about the big day and remind them after, when they’re whining for their milk, that they’ve already said goodbye to it.
Use other sleeping aids
You can help your kids go back to sleep without a milk bottle by retraining them to associate sleep with another object – like a lovey, for example.
Buy two, just in case they lose the other one outside, on a trip or in childcare.
FAQ: How to Stop Bottle Feeding a 2 year old At Night
What if my kid is too attached to the bottle?
Introduce another sleeping aid and help your kid get attached to it, such as a lovey.
How to wean off a nap time bottle?
Do the same steps and/or mix it up with the these – (More Ideas On Weaning Toddler Off The Bedtime Bottle) to get rid of the naptime bottle.
When to stop the bedtime bottle?
You could also start when your kid turns 1 or at least between 12 months to 24 months.
I personally started with a bedtime bottle, as I know it would be the hardest one to wean off. Then the rest became much easier to get rid of.
Why is it so hard to wean toddlers off the bottle?
Aside from it being an unfortunate bedtime crutch, milk can actually help kids and even adults, sleep well.
It stimulates the secretion of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.
So it helps parents actually, to get their kid to sleep well.
Which would mean more time for parents to do chores, work, etc at night, without their kid hovering around them.
So it’s pretty understandable if both parties are in distress when bottle weaning starts. I know I was!
Weaning Toddler Off The Bedtime Bottle: My Takeaway
Bottle weaning seems daunting as it takes away a soothing routine that your child has grown accustomed to.
Plus it can lead to wild and heartbreaking tantrums and sleepless nights, which can lead to stressful days or even weeks.
Some parents have opted to wait until their kids are older.
And honestly, I believe that’s perfectly fine.
If you think it’s best to wait until you know your kids are ready and they can understand what’s going on, then I think it’s perfectly fine to delay bottle weaning. Even if they’re already 3 or even older.
I personally waited until my child was 2+ years old and I’m glad I did because she understood what was at stake. It made transitioning away from the bottle so much easier.
Some kids had no dental or any other issues from prolonged bottle feeding so, at the end of the day, you know what’s best for your kid so do what you think is best.
If you’re also struggling with making your kids brush their teeth, I have some tips and tricks here on how to make toothbrushing fun for toddlers.