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Weaning off a Bottle

By one year of age, most children will not need infant formula any longer. Along with other feeding milestones, weaning off a bottle is done over time and with practice. It's important to switch from a bottle to a straw or open top cup as your child's teeth emerge. Too much bottle or sippy cup use (or pacifier!) in toddlerhood and beyond can cause a myriad of problems. Speech-language pathologists and feeding therapists warn of the disfigurement of oral/facial muscles with the overuse of sippy-style spouts. Dentists too list concerns about the disfigurement of the teeth/jaw bones.

A note for the breastfed child

Breastfed children may continue to nurse at the breast as long as mutually desired by parent and child. They can switch to drinking breastmilk in a cup if they are bottle-fed expressed milk, or add other beverages to their diet such as cow's milk.

How to Make the Switch

Although formula or breastmilk needs to remain the main source of nutrition for the first year, your child will naturally drink less milk as they eat more and more solid food. Babies typically cap out at 28-32oz of milk a day at around 6 months. They then add solids in increasing amounts. By 9 months they are eating 3 solid meals a day, and may even start having 1-2 solid snacks. Their milk needs start decreasing to around 24-30oz a day and steadily drop to 16-24oz a day by 12 months. Also by 12 months, your baby can eat 5 small solid meals a day, or 3 meals and 2 snacks.

Some babies are very emotionally attached to their bottles. Some struggle to figure out straws. Around 6 months of age, when you have started solid food, start offering your baby water (no more than a couple ounces) or milk in a straw or open-top cup. You can also start a sippy cup, but try to switch to a straw cup once they get the hang of it. It may take a few months of practice, but keep it up, and your baby will be a pro at cups by their first birthday. Over time, offer more and more cups over bottles until you have gotten rid of the bottles completely. Put them away so they are out of sight/out of mind. It's ok if you are using bottles for a little while past 12 months, but make a point to fully transition as soon as possible.

Toddler Beverages: Water, Toddler Formula, Juice?

Marketing geniuses have managed to make a very confusing world of what you are supposed to give your toddler next. Most children who are fed a healthy, varied diet have no need for any kind of beverage other than water. If you make the choice to introduce a new type of milk (cow, goat, or plant-based), speak to your pediatrician about what type is best for the nutritional needs of a young toddler. They may recommend whole milk for the healthy fat content or suggest milk with added vitamins. If you choose not to add milk into your child's diet, speak to your pediatrician or a pediatric nutritionist about what your child's diet needs to include in order to support healthy growth.

Be very wary of sugary drinks. Although fruit juice used to be considered a serving of fruit, nowadays it is viewed as an unnecessary serving of pure sugar. If you must give juice to your child, make it 100% fruit juice with no added sugar, and water it down to just a small amount of juice with several ounces of water mixed in. A great way to have a healthier version of juice is by soaking fruit into a pitcher of water to make flavored water. Toddlers should not be given sodas or caffeinated drinks. Decaffeinated herbal or fruit tea is fine. Again, with no added sugar.

A heavily marketed drink to parents of young children is toddler formula or children's protein drinks. These are unnecessary for the vast majority of kids, and often contain lots of sugar to make the taste palatable. If you are concerned about your child's growth, or if your child has sensory issues that contribute to extreme pickiness, speak to your doctor about the necessity of a toddler formula.

Infants and Water

Under 6 months of age (before starting solids), infants do not need to be given water. They will receive all the water they need in their formula or breastmilk. Breastmilk naturally adjusts its composition to your infant’s specific needs. If your child is on formula and you are concerned about the dryness/heat in your environment, speak to your pediatrician before offering water. Never water down formula. “Babies in the first 6 months after birth do not need water or other liquids such as juices in addition to formula or breast milk, unless specifically advised by a pediatrician. Adding extra water to formula or giving juices reduces the about of nutrients baby will receive. This can slow growth and development. Extra water also disturbs electrolyte and mineral balances such as calcium, sodium and potassium which can lead to major health problems including seizures.”

Once an infant is eating solid food, their liquid intake does start to decrease. While they are still getting lots of water through their milk, they will start to need small amounts of water in a cup. Many infants experience constipation when starting solids because of the lack of hydration. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 4-8oz of water a day for infants 6-12months old, and 8-32oz for infants 12-24 months. It is important to not give infants and toddlers such large amounts of water that they start refusing food or milk.


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