When Josh Shear and his wife were choosing a new daycare for
their then 11-month-old son, Matthew, the facility required that he
drink from a sippy cup. The couple, of Valparaiso, Ind., began by
introducing the new cup at breakfast one morning instead of a
"He didn't want anything to do with the sippy cup," Shear says.
"It was a rough road."
They tried several techniques, Shear says, starting with making
the switch as a gradual transition instead of a cold turkey
approach. They gave Matthew, now 1½, a soft-tipped cup instead of
the hard-tip they started out with and sometimes put a bit of sweet
glucose water on the tip to make it more appealing. Ultimately,
though, Shear says a bit of "tough love" was the most
"If you need him to take the sippy cup he will take it if that's
the only resort," he says, adding that the entire transition took
between three and four weeks. "Then the bottle was in the closet
and he was on the sippy cup."
Families like the Shears aren't alone.
"Some babies will go on strike completely and not drink milk,"
says Dr. Lori Walsh, a pediatrician at Glenbrook Pediatrics in
Glenview and on staff at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
She suggests that parents start the process when their child is 6
months old to get the baby used to the cup, filling it with water
so he or she can practice with it. Walsh tells her patients to
introduce a straw at 9 months, which helps with speech and mouth
muscle development, and to have the child completely off the bottle
between 12 and 15 months.
But if your child struggles with this timeline, Walsh offers
several suggestions. Sometimes parents find it helpful if they put
water in the bottle and milk in the sippy cup, to disassociate milk
from the bottle. And if it's the cow's milk your child is
rejecting, mix formula and the new milk over the course of two
Try keeping only one bottle during the day, either in the
morning or the evening, Walsh says, but fill it with less formula.
If you choose to get rid of the evening bottle, she cautions,
you'll need to come up with a new bedtime routine instead of the
bottle ritual, like cuddling up with a favorite blanket or stuffed
If these tricks still don't have your baby off the bottle, Walsh
suggests trying to go cold turkey, while incorporating calcium in
other ways, like adding milk to oatmeal or serving yogurt.
Sometimes putting an ice cube in the milk is appealing to babies
who like the sound of it in the cup, while others enjoy drinking
out of a straw. "There are a lot of ways to do the same thing,"
Walsh says. "Ask your pediatrician if you're stuck."
While the techniques can vary, what's important is that you
eventually make the transition. If babies fill up on cow's milk the
way they did with formula, they may become uninterested in eating
their meals, creating problems with iron deficiency.
Also, after 12 months, children shouldn't have any sugar after
brushing their teeth at night, including the bottle, to prevent
And, along with these potential problems, the bottom line is
that the longer you wait, the more difficult it can become to wean
your child off the bottle.
"We all need some deadlines to make things happen," Walsh says.
"It just gets harder and harder. Babies turn into toddlers and
toddlers have a mind of their own."
Laura Schocker is a graduate student at Northwestern University
and a Chicago Parent intern.
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