If you’re breastfeeding, you can offer your baby a cup for milk right away when you decide to stop. There’s no need for them to be introduced to a bottle.
If you’re formula feeding, when your baby gets older and before the age of 12 months, it’s a good time to introduce them to milk from a cup rather than a bottle
The Department of Health recommends the introduction of a cup from 6 months and for babies to be off the bottle by 1 year of age. There are lots of important reasons for the switch from bottles to cups at this stage, including those described below.
The natural sugar (lactose) in milk stays close to the teeth for longer when sucked from a bottle. This is especially damaging for teeth if your baby goes to sleep on the bottle and there’s not an opportunity to brush their teeth after a feed. It can even affect the shape of emerging teeth, by altering facial muscles and the roof of the mouth.
Drinking from a bottle is easy and often comforting for babies because of the sucking action used on the teat. Therefore, toddlers who continue to drink from bottles tend to take more milk than they actually need. Research has shown that this is linked to childhood obesity, as children consume more calories than they would otherwise.
Having too much milk displaces nutrients from food and, unfortunately, nutritional deficiencies can occur as a result. The most common one seen in young toddlers is an iron deficiency.
Taking in too much milk between meals impacts the appetite, which means little ones have less incentive to eat food at mealtimes. What’s more, if they don't eat well, parents often offer milk to fill them up, which means that children learn that there’s no need to try new food. So it can form part of a vicious circle.
Toddlers who drink from bottles can experience delayed speech, as well as problems sounding out words, due to the way their mouth muscles have formed.
1. Introduce milk from the same kind of cup that your child uses for water. That way, there isn’t another new skill for them to learn.
2. Use different coloured cups for the different drinks, so that your child knows what to expect before they drink from one.
3. Use open cups, free-flow spouted beakers or straw cups. Avoid any cup with a non-spill valve that requires your little one to bite down, because this is an unnatural way of drinking and can confuse skill development.
4. Start by switching to a cup for daytime milk feeds first, before attempting the bedtime one, as often bedtime milk is needed for comfort as well as nutrition.
5. Be knowledgeable about how much milk one-year-olds really need, as it may not be as much as you think. 350-400ml per day, including what you add to cereal and into other foods, is about right.
6. Be persistent, as strong-willed toddlers can resist the change. Do stick with it though, because the longer your little one has a bottle, the harder it can be for them to give it up.