Getting kids to sleep soundly is one of the most exhausting challenges of parenthood. Luckily for parents, Cloud b is on a mission to help through all stages of development. Our Q&A series offers “real” mom advice and expert recommendations to help solve your family sleep issues – typically, issues most parents have to navigate. Here’s our latest about weaning your toddler off the bedtime bottle.
Nicole posted this question for us on Facebook:
“We can NOT get my 24 month old to sleep without a bottle first. Still takes one for nap, bedtime AND if she happens to wake up in the night. We do either brush her teeth after or rinse with water whenever we can.
She’s on a cup the rest of the day with no issues. We’ve tried a billion sippy cups, from her regular day time ones to new “special” just for milk/bed cups, tried changing the routine to focus on a different soother/signal, tried cry it out till she (and we) are practically hysterical. We bought her a doll with a bottle and showed her the bottle was for BABY and that’s she’s a big girl now and can use big kid cup…
She’s having NONE of it.”
Moms from our Facebook community had the following advice:
Jessica – Your child will stop using a bottle for bed when he or she is ready, what’s the harm in a bottle at bed to sooth and sleep? If you’re concerned about teeth just switch to water, give milk in a cup before bed, brush teeth and give water, if child puts up a fuss say its water or nothing. There’s nothing wrong with a 2 year old having a bottle at bedtime. She/he will outgrow it. There’s not right or wrong in this situation. You’re not going to cause any harm to your child by allowing a bottle, developmentally or physically. You wouldn’t take diapers away if they weren’t ready to potty train. Why take a bedtime bottle away when they’re not ready? What are you gaining or your child gaining from it at this age? Do what feels right for you and your child.
Linda – She’s just 2….I have raised 3 children and I have 9 grandchildren from 3 months-14 years old…..my granddaughter which is 2, her doctor said no big deal because they need whole milk and if that’s what it takes it’s fine…just make sure you brush her teeth…..From a grandmothers view point…”Let the baby be a baby”…..no rush to take the bottle away….they will put it down…..Don’t make the child cry just because of a bottle….We live in a world that you feel like you have to do something cause someone else is doing it….every child is different…she will put it down when she is ready…..I assure you….
Amber – Cold turkey didn’t work for us. Our son cried till he vomited. Don’t feel bad if cry it out is not for you and DON’T let other moms guilt you into feeling bad. Every kid is different. Thin the milk with water a little bit and increase the water amount every couple days, or slower if she notices.
Candace – Threw out my little guys bottles at 12 months and a day and told him I was doing it. Had one bad night then it was done.
Susan – Maybe wait until she’s ready? I forgot what age when I was little I always drank milk through a bottle in bed. One day my mom told me that I was too old for one and told me to get up and drink from a cup. I just did what she asked me to do without tantrum. If I could remember that, that means I was pretty old, older than 2.
Kate – Mine gave hers up at three…she kept biting them and throwing them that I told her they were broken and threw them out.
Nathalie – Try the Lollacup and don’t beat yourself up all kids are different she will stop whenever she is ready xoxo
Carolyn – Put water in it. My doc said it was fine for them to sleep with a baby bottle of water as long as they weren’t running around with it in their mouth all day.
Dawn – We gave our son one last bottle and then nothing but sippy cups after that…just for rid of them. There was never an issue. Maybe just going cold turkey will work…good luck!
Andrea – All it took for our little one was to put only cold water in her bottles and use sippy cups for everything else (including milk). She’s 4 now, and still likes milk before bedtime, but she drinks it from her Tommee Tippee cup that looks like a regular cup with a flat-ish lid on it. We honestly do this more so that she doesn’t spill while we’re reading books. My niece, on the other hand, was a bottle diva. She refused all other cups before bedtime until her mom and dad simply got rid of all the bottles. She looked and looked, but they weren’t there. She pouted about it a bit but she got over it quick when she decided she was thirsty before bedtime. Good luck!
Expert answer from Kim West, The Sleep Lady:
A bottle can be an unnecessary crutch at bedtime. A primary rule of encouraging healthy sleep habits bears repeating: It’s vital to teach your child to drop off by herself, without needing to nurse, say, or be rocked—and you certainly don’t want her to rely on sucking on a bottle in order to get to sleep.
Still, toddlers are more likely to get attached to things between 15 and 18 months. They swing back and forth between flouting their independence and clinging to you. A child this age can now explore at a short distance from mom or dad, but there are times when she’ll want to stay nearby, especially if she’s tired, sick, or scared. And not only will she seek the safety of your lap, she may hang on for dear life to a familiar and comforting object—like her bottle, if she hasn’t already given it up. A toddler who’s still attached to a bottle will only latch on tighter if she’s allowed to have it as a source of comfort during this critical period. It’s better to encourage other attachments, such as a blanket, stuffed animal, or toy.
Is your child too attached to the bottle?
Let’s say you missed the 15-month mark and suspect your older toddler (or preschooler!) has developed an emotional attachment to his bottle.
Here’s how you can tell:
Her bottle is clearly his security object, or lovey.
She wants it when she’s tired, overstimulated, or anxious, and may even whine or throw a tantrum in order to get it.
She demands a certain beverage in it, and a certain amount.
She needs it to fall asleep.
She carries it around during the day.
To help a child who fits this description break her bottle habit, follow these steps:
1. Give her fair warning. Let her know three to five days in advance that it’s about time to give up her bottle. Tell her everyday, at least twice a day, but pick a time when she’s not tired or about to go to sleep. Be calm, caring, confident, and positive.
2. During the period leading up to D-day, start minimizing the number of bottles she has during the day and reducing the amount of liquid in each. Some parents like to restrict the bottle to naptime and bedtime, or allow it only in certain rooms. When she’s in a bottle “mood,” distract her with a game or offer her another form of comfort.
3. Also beforehand, gather up any bottles that are scattered around the house (your child might like to help you do this), and stop stockpiling pre-filled bottles in the fridge.
4. Some parents like to tell stories about giving the bottles away to babies in the hospital, the recycling center, the Easter bunny (if the timing is right). That’s okay, but you still owe it to your child to tell her in advance.
5. On the big day, “officially” get all the bottles out of the house. Tell your child what you’re doing, and remind her that you’ve been talking about this for several days. Stay firm, and don’t waiver—even if she whines or throws a fit—but at the same time be comforting and encouraging.
Note: Throw away every single one in the house (even the spares you keep tucked in the diaper bag and car). You don’t want your child to discover a leftover bottle and demand a fill-up (it can happen months later!), nor do you want to turn to a bottle out of desperation to calm a tantrum or get a child to go back to sleep at 4 a.m.
6. Offer a special reward or treat.
7. Don’t be surprised if all goes well for a few days, and then your child hits a rough patch and begs for a bottle. Gently remind her that there aren’t any more bottles, and offer a kiss and a cuddle instead.
Thank you, Kim and Cloud b Moms! This is all great advice and we hope it helps you, Nicole!
What are your tips for weaning your toddler off the bedtime bottle? Share them in the comments below!
About The Sleep Lady:
Kim West is a mother of two teenage girls and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for twenty years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past sixteen years she has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world learn to listen to their intuition, recognize their child’s important cues and behaviors, and gently create changes that promote and preserve his or her healthy sleep habits.
West has appeared on the Dr. Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby and CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent and the Washington Post. West hosts the sleep section of The Newborn Channel, played in maternity wards in hospitals across the country.
West has spoken to numerous parenting groups across the country about the importance of children’s sleep and how to gently teach your child to go to sleep and sleep through the night.
West is the author of The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy with Joanne Kenen. She is also the author of 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies (2008) and The Good Night, Sleep Tight WORKBOOK (2010). Both published by Easton Studio Press.
Kim West received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She lives with her family in Annapolis, Maryland.
Visit her website at www.sleeplady.com