When newborns drink a bottle or breastfeed there is usually a defined start and finish. Once meal time has finished saliva naturally washes away the milk, reducing the exposure to acid and sugar in milk. And then…..kids get WIGGLY! Feeding times are less defined. There’s laughing and snuggling and rolling and toddling, all the while sipping. The amount of time your child’s teeth is in contact with the sugar and acid in milk increases, which also increases their risk of tooth decay and cavities. Prolonged bottle use can also impact the straightness of teeth. Sucking on a bottle can change the palette, muscle formation, teeth, and jaw alignment.
So what do we do? We use cups. The 1 year mark is a great time to make the transition from a bottle to a cup. Many children are transitioning from breastmilk or formula to milk at this time, so it makes sense to work on both habits at once. We’d like to emphasize that that sippy cups should be used for water only, unless it’s a meal time. You have the same issue of exposing teeth to the sugar and acid in other beverages if children are allowed to drink them throughout the day.
The thought of changing a child’s routine in anyway can feel overwhelming, especially with something as comforting as a bottle, so we’ve put some tips together to make the transition easier:
- Start introducing a sippy cup at around 6 months. It will help your child become familiar with them when it’s time to stop using a bottle.
- Take your child to the store to pick out a special cup or water bottle! We recently visited the Target in Ballwin and there were so many cute options on sale in the home section.
- Start eliminating the bottle gradually. Replace one bottle feed with a solid foods feed and water in a sippy cup at a time. Don’t try to go cold turkey.
- Be sure you’re practicing with regular cups. Sippy cups are great at preventing spills, but are meant to be used as a transitional tool. Use regular cups at meal time with milk or water, and don’t sweat the spills.
- Make it a social activity! If there are older siblings or friends, have a water ‘tea party’ to mirror the new behavior.
- To eliminate bottles before sleep, create other soothing bedtime rituals to replace the use of the bottle. Playing the same soft music, reading the same stories, using a calming body lotion after bath, and using white noise can all help signal that it’s time for sleep without using a bottle.