Weaning your baby from the bottle or breast is an important early developmental milestone. Hopefully, it will come somewhere after sleeping through the night and before potty training. Ideally, It is a process, and works best if you follow your baby's lead. Many parents dread weaning their infant to a cup. They envision temper tantrums, power struggles and sleepless nights. Breastfeeding moms may not want to give up the nurturing of nursing. Starting early and allowing your baby to lead the process will avoid much of this.
Many physicians, myself included, recommend introducing a sippy cup at 6 months of age. By 6 months of age your baby, even if breastfed, should be learning about solid foods, water and juice. A sippy cup is a natural part of this, and the first step toward weaning. Your baby is eager to try new things and will treat their sippy cup as a new toy. Experiment with different types of cups. Some infants want a sippy cup with a spout, others prefer straws. Some like handles and others don't. Most like bright colors and cartoon characters. Try a variety of sippy cups to see what your baby likes best. This will make weaning fun for both of you.
Initially, you may want to put only water in the sippy cup. As your baby becomes used to the cup, try juice as well as formula or breastmilk in the sippy cup. Your baby will be less anxious about weaning if they know the cup contains their usual formula or breastmilk. Many breastfeeding moms are reluctant to do this. That is understandable. This is not something you need to do daily. However, if you try this once every 2-3 days, you will find time to do other types of nurturing such as reading to your baby. Also, keep these colorful cups out where baby can see them. Keep bottles out of sight. This way, when baby is thirsty, she will ask for the sippy cup, rather than the bottle.
Eventually, the time will come to stop using the breast or bottle. Pediatricians and dentists recommend this occur between 12 and 18 months of age. I recommend trying to complete the process by 15 months. Waiting longer seems to make weaning more difficult for everyone involved. Start by using the sippy for all beverages except first thing in the morning and again at bedtime. This will be a gradual process for breastfeeding moms. Substitute one episode of nursing for one by sippy cup at the same time each day, the first week. The following week, substitute 2 feedings a day with the sippy cup, and so on. For bottle fed babies, you will eventually put nothing but water in the bottle. This makes in uninteresting and less desirable. Most babies will still need a little push to get rid of the nighttime breast or bottle feeding. A regular nighttime routine that includes a bath, a story and some snuggle time helps tremendously. You will need to let your baby lead you through the timing of this process. Don't make big changes when your child is ill or teething. Avoid doing these things when you are moving, traveling or changing jobs. Above all, remember that you are not alone: if you have problems or questions, contact your pediatrician.
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~Dr Nan N~