It is tough to start bottle weaning. Most of the time, your baby is so attached to the bedtime bottle, that your heart breaks to separate them from it. However, to build your baby’s habits and to keep them healthy, you need to start bottle weaning.
If you let your baby fall asleep with the bottle, it may result in cavities, an attachment to the bottle, and a reluctance to eat solid food. A lot of times, your baby uses the bottle as a bedtime crutch.
Here, we will talk about how you can wean your baby off the bedtime bottle. We will also talk about when you should start bottle weaning.
When should I wean my baby off the bottle at night?
You should wean your baby off night feeds when they turn one. It is a good idea to start the process prior to that, preferably when they are around six months. This is because babies do not need the bottle for nourishment after they turn 6 months old.
If you delay weaning your baby off their bottle, you increase the chances of them getting too attached to it. After that, you will find it harder to break the habit.
At around a year old, the baby’s teeth start to grow rapidly. This means that you need to brush their teeth every night. That won’t be possible if they fall asleep sucking on a bottle. Not brushing their teeth can result in cavities and tooth decay.
At 18 months, your child needs more food. However, giving them a bottle at night discourages them from eating since they know they will get their regular ounces before sleeping.
Bottle weaning at a year old also reduces the chances of your baby getting attached to the bedtime bottle. They won’t view the bottle as a bedtime crutch, making it easier for them to fall asleep without it.
So, to make life easier for yourself and to ensure your baby’s wellbeing, you should start bottle weaning at 1-year-old.
How do I get my 1-year-old off the bedtime bottle?
This is the question most mothers have. They want to get their baby off the bottle, but they don’t know how to do that without inviting tantrums or creating further problems. Here are some ways in which you can get your 1-year-old off the bottle at night:
Reducing the volume of milk
This is a gradual way to stop night feeding. You can reduce the volume of milk by 20-50 ml each night. Once the number reaches 60 ml, you can stop giving them the bottle altogether. If your child already drinks 60 ml or less each night, you can just stop giving them the bottle altogether.
Go Cold Turkey
This is a controversial weaning method to get your child off the bottle and it can result in a difficult few weeks, but it can work. You simply throw away all the bottles. You can try different techniques to put them to sleep instead.
Use a Sippy Cup
A great way to stop bottle feeding is to introduce a sippy cup they can drink milk in instead. You can encourage them to use the sippy cup in a number of ways, such as using colourful cups with pictures on them, or rewarding them with something every time they drinks. Gradually, they will get used to drinking from the sippy cup.
Slowly Take Away the Morning Bottle
One way to stop night feedings is to gradually take away the morning bottle. Usually, when you create a habit of drinking from a sippy cup, the child grows used to it, making it easier for you to wean the nighttime bottle.
Dilute the milk with water
This is a night weaning technique you should try alongside the sippy cups. While your baby grows comfortable drinking from a cup, you can replace some of the milk in their nighttime bottle with water. When the milk isn’t desirable anymore, it will become easier for you to break the bottle habit.
Change the Bedtime Routine
Instead of sticking to your routine of giving your baby a bottle right before they sleep, give them a sippy cup of milk or a diluted bottle an hour or a half before they sleep. This will break the habit of drinking from a bottle in the middle of the night and improve their nightly routine.
Find something else they can get attached to
The reason night weaning is hard is that babies get attached to their bottles. When putting them to bed, give them a lovey or a stuffed animal they can get attached to instead. Having that toy in bed will reduce the tantrums for not having a bottle.
A dream feed means that you give your child a final feed before you go to bed when they are already asleep.
You can wake them up so that they are aware you’re doing it. This may help them sleep longer. It can also, however, make them demand more feeds in the middle of the night so if that is the case, forget this method.
Gradual vs Cold Turkey
Some mothers prefer to stop bottle feeding immediately while others think gradual weaning may turn out to be more effective.
Many experts prefer a gentler, gradual approach. However, this approach does not work for all babies, and it may make the process tiring and lengthier for parents. Some parents use the cold turkey method as a last option. So if nothing else works, they go for it.
A gradual method means that the baby will get off the bottle without any distress or discomfort. The process will be easier for you emotionally since you won’t feel that you’re being cruel. The baby won’t throw tantrums or struggle to sleep at night either.
However, stopping immediately is a way to involve your child if they are older. You can tell them that they won’t be allowed to drink from the bottle after a certain day. Stopping the bottle suddenly is quicker and usually more effective. It also requires more willpower.
Many parents have said that the gradual method worked for one of their children while just stopping the bottle out of the blue worked for another. The effectiveness depends entirely on you and the child.
How To Get Your Baby to Fall Asleep Without Bottle Feeding
You may be trying different night weaning methods. With those in place, how do you get your baby to sleep through the night without night feeds? Here are some ways you can get your baby to fall asleep:
Move bottle-feeding to the beginning or the middle of your bedtime routine
If your baby needs the bottle to fall asleep, it means that they are used to drinking from it right before they sleep. Change that. Instead, plan different activities before bed, such as reading them a book or telling them a story. Keep using the bottle in the middle or at the beginning.
Change the time or location of feeding
Another thing you can do is that you can move bottle-feeding to a time of the day other than the nighttime routine. You can also change the location. So, instead of the room in which they sleep, feed them in the living room or the guest room.
Begin sleep coaching
If your baby needs a night feed to fall asleep, you can try to gently train them to sleep through the night. You can create a sleep plan or try sleeping techniques that will teach them how to fall asleep without a bottle.
Hold or rock your baby
When you put your baby to sleep and they don’t stop crying, you can hold them until they calm down or rock them a few minutes before they sleep. However, you should put them back in their crib before they fully fall asleep.
Visit your baby if they cry
If your baby cries when you don’t give them the bottle, visit them whenever you hear crying. Comfort them but don’t stay for that long.
Put a few hours between feeding during the day
Feeding your baby too often during the day may create a habit of comfort feeding. Instead, put 3-4 hours between each feed.
How to Wean Breastfed Babies
Weaning breastfed babies is also a hard task, but with similar techniques, you can break the habit! A sign that you need to start weaning your baby is if they feed for more than five minutes.
Here are some ways to wean babies you breastfeed:
- Gradual: Over the span of several nights, you can reduce the time for which you feed your child. Most babies may feed for up to 15 minutes. You can reduce the time you spend feeding them by 2-5 minutes each night. When the time reaches 5 minutes or less, you can stop breastfeeding altogether.
- Resettling techniques: Choose your preferred resettling technique and use it on your child after every feed you shorten.
- Make sure your child eats: The more your child’s caloric intake, the less they will want nighttime feeds. By feeding your child a good dinner, you not only reduce the chances of them wanting a feed but you also meet their nutritional needs.
- Make sure your child is comfortable: Your baby might demand breastfeeding because of some sort of discomfort. This can include digestion issues, teething problems, illnesses, or allergies. Try to fix these issues before you put your baby to sleep. This way, they might fall asleep without breastfeeding.
- Feed your child more during the day: If you want to reduce nighttime feedings, try nursing your baby more during the day. This way, they won’t demand more night feedings for extra calories.
- Use a different non-nursing family member: If your baby is uncomfortable and you come to see them, they will expect you to feed them, too. However, if you send their father or any family member who does not nurse them, they will only expect comfort. The other person can make the baby feel more at ease, taking away the need to breastfeed her to calm her down.
- Put your baby to sleep before they are too tired: When your baby is overly tired at the time you put them to bed, it can further lead to discomfort and trouble sleeping at night. Instead, put your baby to sleep when they are a little tired, but not too much.
- Eliminate distractions during daytime feeding: Sometimes, your baby may need nighttime feeding because of insufficient or unsatisfactory daytime feeding. In such a case, distractions may play a role. They can prevent the baby from drinking as much milk as they need. To avoid this, you should sit in a silent room and reduce any kind of distractions while you feed them.
- Make sure the baby gets higher-fat milk: Something that can help your baby go longer between feeds is drinking high-fat milk. You can tank up and feed them from one breast at a time and then from the other when they wake up at night. This way, they will get higher-fat milk, increasing satisfaction.
- If your baby is hungry, feed them: If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to be fed, or if they cry during the day, chances are, they’re hungry. Don’t assume. Listen to the baby.
Weaning your baby off the bottle at night is not an easy decision for any mother. It is a chore, one that takes a toll on your baby’s mood and on your comfort.
However, there are several ways in which you can wean your babies. You can try to dilute their milk, you can reduce at least two ounces of milk over the span of a few days, or you can try sleep coaching them. You can also try out a sippy cup.
Most experts suggest a gradual, gentle approach to bottle weaning. However, if your child is old enough, you can go just stop giving them the bottle or talk to them.