Health Advice



Ask the Pediatrician: How do I help my baby transition from drinking from a bottle to a cup?

Dr. Jennifer Shu, American Academy of Pediatrics on

Published in Health & Fitness

You've probably heard that when your baby is around 6 to 9 months old, it's time to begin moving away from bottle feeding. But like many parents, you may feel a little apprehensive about this next step in your child's growth and development.

If your little one pouts, shouts or bursts into tears when you offer them a "big kid cup," take a deep breath. Protests like these are totally normal! After all, little humans don't like letting go of familiar habits any more than we do. And the comfort they get from sucking on a warm bottle can be hard to give up.

Like all growth stages your child will pass through, this one takes patience and time. But there are many good reasons not to give in when your child demands a bottle.

Pediatricians and dentists stress the benefits of training your child to drink from a cup at mealtime as you gradually reduce the number of bottle feedings. Ideally, this transition will begin around 6 months, when you offer your child a cup for the first time. You will then reduce the number of bottle feedings slowly, completing the transition sometime between 12 and 18 months.

Letting children bottle-feed longer than this can cause them to:

— Skip meals. Little ones who sip on bottles during the day often don't feel hungry at mealtimes. This may mean they're getting less of the fiber and rich nutrients found in solid foods. If you're begging your child to eat, bottles might be the cause.


— Reach an unhealthy weight. For many kids, bottles become high-calorie meal supplements and snacks, leading to toddler obesity. And while many people find chubby toddlers adorable, pediatricians point out that early obesity sets the stage for weight (and health) problems later in life.

— Develop cavities. Early childhood caries, sometimes called "baby bottle tooth decay" or baby tooth cavities, happen when your child's teeth are constantly bathed in milk, formula, juice or other drinks. Little ones who drink from bottles well into their second year may also have tooth alignment problems and even speech delays, since little mouths need to strengthen the muscles for clear speech.

— Resist even more. Toddlers cling to their bottles even more fiercely as time goes by. This can trigger a major power struggle between you and your child, so starting early is the healthiest path for both of you.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you offer your child a cup when they start eating solid foods, usually around 6 months. You can use a "sippy" (training) cup with a spouted lid or offer a cup and straw. Some children may choose to drink from an open cup without a straw — and that's just fine, too.


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