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How do I wean my baby off their bottle?

We're breaking down how to wean your baby off their bottle and how to navigate comfort objects.

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Dear Is This Normal,

My son will be 2 in a few months. He still wants a bottle. He usually has 4-5 bottles a day (half water/half milk). It’s definitely a comfort thing because he is not always hungry when he wants one. He eats semi well and is a healthy weight. How do we break up with the bottle? 

Signed,

Bottle’s Up

Dear Bottle,

Oh, this is one that tugs at my mama heartstrings! I had a favorite comfort item as a kid and both of my girls STILL have theirs. Comfort and coddling items are completely normal and a healthy part of attachment development for little ones—plus, they help when a kiddo is feeling stressed or sad or anxious. In fact, experts say that kids who seek comfort from a comfort or coddling object are kids whose need for love and attention is consistently met by their caregivers, so honestly brava to you! The issue definitely isn’t that your son has a comfort object, I get that for sure. But I do understand your concerns about his comfy/lovey being a bottle! At 2 years old, it’s about time to wean him completely off a bottle and there are definitely ways to accomplish bottle weaning even in this scenario. 

Because he draws comfort from the bottle, I would suggest starting the process of replacing it with another comfort object when he asks for one. That can be anything – a toy, a soft blanket or stuffie, even something else he can drink from like a straw cup or no-spill cup. He may already have something that you can start swapping out for, like a favorite stuffie he snuggles with at night. To help him associate the new item with the same level of comfort he derives from the bottle, try attaching an empty bottle to the item (tying one around the neck of a stuffie, for example). Once he starts to think of this new object as a comfort source, you can remove the bottle completely. It may take a few days, it may take a few weeks. But seeing this new object connected to his old comfort object will help the transition.

While you’re in the process of transitioning him to a new comfort item, it’s time to start the actual bottle weaning process. Full disclosure: this one may not be as seamless as the first! But developmentally, it is important that he transitions to a more age-appropriate cup. Since he’s not getting a bottle for nutrition or sustenance at this point, you won’t have to worry too much about the impact getting rid of it will have on his weight or appetite. I would start slow, swapping out one bottle a day with a cup, and then slowly (like over the course of a couple of weeks) swapping out the other bottles. When you kiddo asks for a bottle, always offer his comfort item and a cup instead, and explain that the next bottle will not be ready until later. This takes time, so definitely be patient! And give yourself and your toddler grace during this transitional period—letting go of something you’ve grown attached to is hard, no matter how old you are. 

When you get down to the last bottle to swap out, I recommend making a big deal out of it! Shower him with praise and commend him for being such a big boy who doesn’t need bottles anymore. Give him a chance to say goodbye to his bottle when he’s done with it for the last time, and reiterate that he won’t see it again since he no longer has a need for it. By the time you drop the last bottle, chances are he will have transferred his soothing tendencies to his new comfort object and will be completely comfortable using whatever type of cup you switched them with. 

These transitions and changes can be some of the hardest parts of parenting babies and toddlers—it sucks to take something away that you know they love or be in any way a part of them being sad! But we can do hard things, right? And so can your kiddo. Best of luck to you both!

Signed,

Bye-Bye Bottle Service

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