Eventually your kiddo will move on to sippy cups, then open-top cups, and go on to live happy, full lives brimming with beverages drunk from a myriad of glassware. So, while we don’t recommend panicking about your bottle-loving kiddo, we wholeheartedly recommend that you prepare to transition baby from a bottle to an easy-to-use sippy cup when the time is right. That’s why we turned to Tiffany Fischman, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles—and a mom of two—to help baby-step you through ditching the bottle for good.
For some parents, a cold-turkey drop of the bottle is best—depending on baby’s (and your own) personality. But for others, a gentler easing-off works better.
When to Transition from Bottle to Cup
Weaning baby from the bottle is a big step, and most pediatricians advise starting between 12 and 18 months. Whether you’re right on time or a bit behind schedule (it happens!), we’ll walk you through how to transition from a bottle to a sippy cup, and never look back.
No matter what your approach, know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning babies from the bottle before 18 months. “Those who stick with the bottle longer tend to drink more milk. And drinking too much milk causes babies to fill up and not eat as much solid food as they require,” says Dr. Fischman.
6 Steps to Sippy Cup
Ready to start the shift from bottle to cup? Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to help ease your baby’s transition to this exciting new stage.
Step 1: Say Hello to the Sippy!
Babies can start holding and using a sippy cup at about six months, coinciding with their newly developed skill of holding objects to their mouths. This doesn’t mean you have to start transitioning yet, says Dr. Fischman. “The idea is to simply introduce baby to the sippy cup, so that over time he or she becomes more comfortable with it.” Use a sippy cup with easy-to-hold handles and a soft nipple-shaped spout, like the Transitions Soft Spout Sippy Cup. Fill it with a small amount of water or milk, and serve it with solid food meals. “At this age, sippies are not meant to replace a bottle feed—especially since your child is unlikely to actually drink much out of it early on,” says Dr. Fischman. Oh, and, don’t forget to always cheers with your sippy-cup-holding child—a super fun way to make the sippy cup seem special.
Step 2: Add a Training Cup to the Mix
At age one, children are ready to start cow’s milk, which is a great time to add a new training cup into the rotation. Choose a sippy cup that’s easy to clean and more closely mimics a grown-up cup, like the Transitions Open Cup Trainer. (These have special inserts with “fast” and “slow” settings, to teach kids how to hold and their cup the right way and learn about spilling.) Not only is it a good idea to get baby used to a variety of cups, but dentists actually prefer open-top cups: They help shield baby teeth from direct contact with the sugars from milk or juice that can cause tooth decay.
Step 3: Drop the Midday Bottle
If you introduced the sippy at around six months, your baby should be comfortable with it by the time you drop your first bottle, at about 12 months. “Nutritionally speaking, your baby likely doesn’t need the midday bottle anymore, making it a good first bottle to eliminate,” says Dr. Fischman. And, if baby refuses a cup at midday, or only drinks a bit, don’t worry. “Babies will drink the milk or water if they really need it,” says Dr. Fischman. “An otherwise healthy child will not dehydrate themselves because you took away the bottle.” To help make bottles less desirable, try watering down the milk that baby is still getting via bottle, saving the good undiluted stuff for the cup.
Step 4: Add More Sippy Sessions
Has the midday bottle-to-sippy transition gone pretty OK so far? Sweet. Now replace another regular bottle-feed session with a sippy. Do this every couple of days until only the evening bottle is left. And if baby still isn’t drinking a ton from the cup, don’t worry. “We actually want babies to be weaning the amount of milk they take in at around one year of age,” says Dr. Fischman, since by now babies are starting to get the majority of their nutrition from food.
Step 5: Tackle the Evening Bottle
The nighttime bottle is always the last—and hardest—one to ditch, because so many babies rely on it for comfort before going to sleep. To make this final transition easier, do it once your child has already adapted to using a cup during the day, and keep the rest of the bedtime routine the same, says Dr. Fischman. Do you and baby usually cuddle during bottle-time? Keep on cuddling, but try offering the last drink of the evening a bit earlier and not in the bedroom. (Diluting that last cup of milk with water can also help curb desirability.) It helps to have a soothing toy or a pacifier at the ready. But if your paci-fan has already given up that habit, don’t reintroduce it!
Step 6: Celebrate!
Your baby is becoming a big kid! Let your kiddo know how proud you are—and give back a little power by asking your cup-user to help gather all of the bottles in the house, pack them up, and either donate or recycle them. Just because you’re done with bottles doesn’t mean you should ditch the bottle drying rack. You can use it for all the sippy cup parts too, and here are four other super-smart ways to repurpose your drying rack.