When your little one is on a liquid diet at the beginning of their life, they need a bedtime nursing or bottle to help fill them up. This pre-bedtime feeding helps ensure that they are full and can sleep longer stretches. Their needs will change as you start introducing solid foods. Eventually, they will get enough solids to no longer need that bedtime feeding.
WHEN TO DROP YOUR BEDTIME BOTTLE
Your baby can usually drop their bedtime bottle around 12-13 months. They should be getting a majority of their nutrition and calories during the day from well rounded, solid foods. Milk becomes something to accompany their solid food diet. It is no longer their primary source of nutrition and calories.
If your child is still wanting a bedtime bottle at this point, they are most likely using it to comfort themselves. I recommend trying to remove it from their bedtime routine because it is no longer needed. There are other ways for your little one to learn how to comfort or self soothe at bedtime.
Your pediatrician will also most likely recommend transitioning from bottles to sippy cups, cups with straws and open cups around this age. Completely removing bottles from your child’s life will help this transition go smoothly.
WHY DOES DROPPING THE BEDTIME BOTTLE MATTER?
As stated above, it will help with the transition from bottle to sippy cups, cups with straws and open cups.
It will help your child develop healthy eating habits during the day. Your child will learn to fill up on solid foods at dinner rather than relying on their bedtime bottle.
Your child’s oral health will benefit from dropping the bedtime bottle. As they start cutting teeth, you want to decrease the chances of cavities and milk deposits. After they have their solid food dinner, you can introduce brushing their teeth to their bedtime routine to take care of their teeth. No longer offering a bedtime bottle keeps their teeth clean after you brush them.
TRANSITIONING AWAY FROM BEDTIME BOTTLES
This process will look different for each child and how dependent they are on the bottle to fall asleep.
You can start moving their bottle feeding further away from their bedtime. Instead of providing the bottle just before they are meant to fall asleep, move it to the beginning of their bedtime routine. Some children will notice this change, others will not. This is an option so that you are removing it cold turkey. If they refuse the bottle at the earlier time, do not offer it again. They will eventually adapt to the new schedule. After doing this for a few nights, provide milk with dinner and only at dinner. This transition should take place between the ages of 12-18 months. After 18 months, you should just remove the bottle cold turkey. This will cause less confusion for your child who is more developed at this age.
HOW ARE BEDTIME BOTTLES AND BEDTIME NURSING DIFFERENT?
A mother’s milk changes in composition as a child grows and develops to meet their needs. If you are nursing, there isn’t as much of a need to remove the bedtime feeding. With nursing, it is just important to move it to a point in their bedtime routine to where they are not dependent on the feeding to fall asleep. We want to establish healthy sleeping habits!
As always, remember that consistency is key to success. You know your child best. If they have specific dietary needs, be sure to discuss this transition with their pediatrician to make sure that it is what is best for them. If you have any questions during this transition, don’t hesitate to reach out!