When is the right time to transition away from bottle drinking?

By Nicole Tutaj, MA, OTR/L

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests getting rid of bottle drinking by 18 months, and sippy cups by age 2. 

Many parents ask why the bottle needs to go, here are a few reasons to transition to cup drinking: 

  • Bottles can interfere with appropriate oral development and alter palate formation or tooth positioning 
  • Can cause tooth decay due to liquid pooling in the mouth and around teeth 
  • Can contribute to picky eating, especially if a child is refusing foods and only relying on milk 
  • Children may become dependent on a bottle to self soothe and the longer they use it, the longer it will take to help them wean off it 
  • Bottles and sippy cups have be associated with injuries especially with children who are just learning to cruise, walk, or run and fall with the bottles in their mouth 

So how can we introduce cup drinking?

A good time to start introducing and allowing your baby to experiment with open cup drinking, can be as early as 6-9 months. Starting with 1 oz of liquid in a cup so they can get used to bringing their lips to the cup and controlling their intake without too much spillage. 

Between 12 and 18 months, you can help them wean off bottle drinking and transition to sippy cups while they continue to practice in order to have a smooth transition to open cups by the age of 2. 

What if my child doesn’t take liquid in anything but a bottle?

  • Make it fun and special! Allow them to pick out a new cup they like or help them decorate ones they have
  • Engage in pretend play and demonstrate on yourself 
    • “Look how mommy drinks from this cup!” 
  • Provide lots of positive encouragement and get very excited for them!

Lastly, this task requires many skills. From the fine motor control and coordination, it takes to bring the cup to the mouth to learning how to put lips on the cup and controlling intake. 

So remember, this may take time, but keep up the positive encouragement while allowing your toddlers to have many opportunities to practice!

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