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  • Ready For Baby Weaning? A Mom Shares Her Experience And The Ideal Time Frame For It

    Missing the window of transitioning from bottle to cup could lead to a lot of struggles later on.
    by Grace Bautista .
Ready For Baby Weaning? A Mom Shares Her Experience And The Ideal Time Frame For It
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/Mama Belle and the kids
  • Whether you are directly breastfeeding or bottle feeding with breast milk, you will eventually start teaching your baby to drink from a cup around the sixth month. But when is the best time for a baby or toddler to completely stop feeding from a bottle?

    The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life. Breast milk has all the nutrients your baby needs during this period and it can sustain them until they are ready to start solid food at around six months.

    If you are bottle feeding with breast milk, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that a baby should ideally be weaned from the bottle and transition to a cup between 12 and 18 months. From experience, I know that missing this window could lead to a lot of struggles later on.

    Using a bottle longer could lead to varous problems including "tooth decay, obesity, picky eating, poor nutrition, misaligned teeth, overbite, and ear infections," according to WebMD.

    Lessons from my own weaning experience

    My first two babies were breastfed during their first year and yet both of them still used bottles and got so attached to them that weaning was a struggle. With them the progression was: Breastfeeding during the first year (and beyond), transition to formula in bottle after the first year, and then transition to a sippy cup much later, as they neared the 3-year mark.

    This was a pretty common practice among moms I know so I thought all was good. That my boys seemed pretty happy and healthy with their milk bottles also put me at ease. I was a working mom who did not have much energy left to resist their demands for bottles, especially at night. Nor did I have much time to prepare natural, nutritious food for my kids most of the time.

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    Because the bottle was a source of both nutrition and comfort, my kids drank too much milk every day. My second at age two, for example, would have four or more 9oz bottles of milk during the day and up to four bottles again at night before he could fall asleep. Because he drank too much milk at bedtime, this also meant heavy wetting at night, which meant we used more diapers. Needless to say, it was also pretty expensive.

    I wish I could have been more informed and intentional in transitioning from bottle to cup sooner so we could have led a healthier and more eco-friendly lifestyle. We could have used less plastic bottles, sippy cups, teats and diapers!

    Now with my third child, I've been able to make healthier choices, thanks to lessons learned from raising my first two kids, dealing with gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy, and the wealth of information now easily accessible online.I’ve directly breastfed longer (still at it at 33 months), potty trained earlier, and offered natural food as my toddler’s main source of nutrition from age one. 

    My toddler now also drinks whole milk and sometimes formula, but we are not dependent on it nor is my son attached to the bottle. He happily takes his milk from an open cup or an open cup with straw, and very rarely from a bottle.

    How to transition from bottle to cup

    From research and personal experience, here are the things I learned about bottle weaning and how to transition from bottle to cup:

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    Exclusively breastfed babies can skip the bottle and sippy cup altogether

    Breastfed babies can be taught to drink water from an open cup as soon as they start eating solids. If you decide to stop breastfeeding or start supplementing with fresh milk, full cream milk, or even formula at age one, your baby could go straight to taking milk from an open cup or a straw cup.

    Available for Php795
    PHOTO BY Courtsy of babymama.ph

    For bottle fed babies, try to gradually wean from the bottle early

    Like breastfed babies, bottle fed babies can be taught to drink water from a cup as soon as they start eating solids. At 6 months, when you start offering solid food to your baby, also offer water or milk in an open cup or a sippy cup.

    If he/she does not take any significant amount of liquid from the cup right away, it’s fine. Just continue offering the cup at mealtime so your baby can associate it with feeding time. You can encourage your baby by showing her how to drink from a cup, or bringing the cup to his/her mouth then tipping it until the liquid comes out.

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    At around 8 months old, you can start teaching your baby to drink milk from a straw cup and swap one bottle feeding with it. Gradually drop daytime bottle feeding sessions in favor of cup feeding. Give your baby lots of encouragement and praise in the process to further reinforce the new habit!

    When your baby has learned to drink from a cup throughout the day, start transitioning the evening feedings as well. If your baby requires a bottle or two for comfort before falling asleep, expect the process to be challenging and laden with tears.

    Try creating a new milk-drinking routine outside of the bedroom while sticking to the rest of your baby’s bedtime routine. Give your baby lots of encouragement, praise and reward for cooperating with you in the process. For example, you can offer to read one more book after he/she finishes the cup of milk. As soon as your baby is able to sleep without the bottle, pack away all bottles and keep them out of sight.

    Among the many options for baby cups, which one do we choose?

    Some speech and language pathologists tend to favor open-type cups and straw cups over sippy cups. They do not recommend sippy cups because, "Besides teaching children to not actively participate in the drinking and swallowing experience, they (sippy cups) also teach the child to propel their tongue forward into a forward resting posture, which negatively impacts speech and swallowing skills," writes American occupational therapist Ashley Thurn in her blog, Helping Hands OT.

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    When drinking through a straw, however, "those straw drinking muscles they are using are the same muscles they need to manipulate food in their mouth better and say more speech sounds," says occupational therapist Alisha Grogan.

    All babies are different and some babies may be able to stop the bottle cold turkey, while others may need a long, gradual transition from bottle to cup.  Whatever the case, you can help your baby transition easier with a little creativity, lots of encouragement, praise and some rewards. As a first step, perhaps you could start by trying different cups and observing which ones your baby likes.

    The Oxo Tot Transitions Straw Cup is recommended for babies 8 months old and beyond.

    Available for Php795
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of babymama.ph
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