It might be time to retire the bottle. Using a bottle too long may negatively affect a child’s health. In fact, extended bottle use has been linked to dental problems, iron deficiency and childhood obesity.
“Prolonged bottle use has been shown to cause cavities, as milk sucked from a bottle will cause sugars and acids to stay on teeth,” says Theodore Kremer, MD, a pediatrician at Esse Health Florissant Pediatrics.
So, when is it appropriate to call it quits? Dr. Kremer recommends introducing your child to sippy cups between 9 and 12 months of age. She should be completely bottle-free by 18 months.
“If mothers have exclusively breastfed up to 12 months, skip the bottle entirely and switch straight to milk from a sippy cup,” Dr. Kremer says. “For formula-fed infants, a natural time for some parents to switch children from the bottle to cup is when you are moving from formula to milk.”
It can take your toddler a few weeks to fully transition from a bottle to a cup, so don’t be discouraged if he struggles at first.
“Be patient but firm,” Dr. Kremer says. “If you give your child a cup at a meal and she loudly protests, be patient but firm and stick with it.”
Your pediatrician can help develop a weaning plan that works best for you and your child. Don’t have a pediatrician? Call St. Louis Children’s Hospital at 314.454.KIDS (5437) or toll-free at 800.678.KIDS.