Switching a baby from bottle to cup could be a challenging task for first-time parents as the child gets dependent on the sucking and swallowing habits that are used for bottle feeding. For some, the process could be as daunting as toilet training. However, proper understanding of the process and a few tips could make it a simple and pleasant experience for the parents as well as for the baby.
The sucking and swallowing by a baby is a coordinated process by various parts of the mouth. During suckling, the tongue thrusts forwards towards the gums, just behind the upper teeth area. This process helps in expelling breast milk or the bottle milk and pushes it towards the back of the mouth. This process contrasts the swallowing pattern in adults which involves pressing of the middle part of the tongue towards the hard palate and then swallowing it. So, if you feed an infant with a spoon, the baby may seem to spit it right back outside.
Most pediatricians recommend the introduction of the cup at around 6 months of age. If this period is missed out, you can start weaning
within the next year. By the end of 2 years, your toddler should be drinking from a normal cup.
Why Should I Switch my Baby from Bottle to Cup for Drinking?
Drinking from a bottle may be comfortable for the baby and convenient for the parents. But using a bottle for longer than required may cause harm in later life.Bottles can Accelerate Tooth Decay:
Milk contains lactose – a type of sugar – that may stay on the teeth and attract bacteria. Drinking juice from bottles is even worse as juice contains acid that harms teeth. Some babies are put to sleep with a bottle as a part of the baby-sleep training process. The saliva in the mouth washes away most of the milk or juice when awake. But when the child is sleeping, there is less secretion of saliva, which means that the drink will stay longer in the mouth. Prolonged Bottle Use may Cause Obesity:
Research shows that kids who use bottle till the age of 2 years are more likely to be obese by 6 years. Some kids have a habit of having a bottle filled with milk or juice even between meal times, just because it gives them comfort. This can cause a lot of calorie intake, which may lead to obesity
. Further, the child may be become a very picky eater and skip main meals that are healthy and nutritious.Bottles can Cause Mal-alignment of Teeth:
Prolonging the infant sucking pattern can cause malocclusion or altered alignment of teeth. As the tongue thrusts towards the upper gums, the upper teeth may protrude forward. The development of the palate, the roof of the mouth, is also affected. The forward protrusion of the teeth leads to overbite, which needs to be corrected with braces in later years. Increased Chances of Ear Infections:
When babies drink from a bottle, they need to lie down to facilitate the milk flow into the mouth. The swallowing movements cause the ear canal (Eustachian tube) to open, allowing the contents to flow into the middle ear cavity. This can cause ear infections
Using "Sippy Cups"
Weaning from breastfeeding or a bottle is ideal if started at the age of 6 to 9 months. This is the time when the baby starts moving and also starts to hold the bottle with its hands.
Most parents use a special cup, called “sippy cup”, as an intermediate step for weaning from bottle to cup. A sippy cup is a cup that is closed from all sides except for a spout that has three to four tiny holes. The cup has two handles to which the baby can hold on to. The sucking action is similar to that used with the bottle feeding. The baby can be introduced to sippy cups with the following steps.
- Hold the cup to the baby’s mouth and let a few drops of milk dribble down to her mouth or lips.
- Let the baby hold to the handles of the cup and put the cup into her mouth.
- Show the cup in a fun way, encourage with claps or saying “yummy”. You can also have a separate cup for yourself and encourage your baby to imitate you.
- Squeeze the cup at the bottom end so that milk squirts out into your baby’s mouth.
- Initially, give one feed with the sippy cup and the other meals using the bottle.
- Slowly replace the rest of the meals with the sippy cup or other semi-solid weaning food.
- Remove all the bottles from the baby’s view during the weaning process.
- Night weaning for bottle feeders must be done as the last part of switching from bottle to cup for babies.
- Bottle feed is a means of comfort for the baby. Add a bit of hugging and cuddling during the baby’s transition period of bottle to cups.
Some children may resist the use of sippy cups with crying, refusing to drink milk from them or even use tantrums to get the bottle back. Bottle battles can be overcome with the use of cheering the baby, saying encouraging words and the necessary actions to comfort the child. Do not make the experience of using a sippy cup or an adult cup a negative experience for your baby.
Using the sippy cups for weaning from bottle to cup is convenient for parents too. It is fully sealed and spill-proof. So, it does not create any mess on the carpets or floors. Further, a spill-proof cup is an ideal mealtime companion during travel.
Sippy Cups Do's and Don'tsDo's:
- Use sippy cups only as means of transition towards switching baby from bottle to cup.
- Use encouraging words and keep the sippy cup meal time a pleasant activity.
- Never let the baby go to sleep with the sippy cup in her mouth.
- Don’t let the child carry the sippy cup or keep it in her mouth all the time or between meals as it could result in tooth decay.
- Do not use punishments or show your anger when the baby is resisting a sippy cup.
Weaning from a sippy cup is also necessary, as the sippy cups may result in the same problems as the bottle feeding. Further, the hard spout of the sippy cup could cause malformations of the hard palate and the soft palate and deviations in the alignment of the teeth.
Switching to Adult Cups
Once the child has got used to the fact that food can be consumed from cups also, it is time to go for regular cups.
- Let the child sit in an upright position. Using a high-chair at the dining table along with other family members at meal time is a great way of encouraging and supporting the baby.
- Show the contents of the cup to the child and explain with enthusiasm that he or she is going to be a “Big Boy/Girl” by drinking from the “new” cup.
- If required, feed using a spoon and then let the baby sip slowly from the cup.
- Carefully guide the child to hold the cup in an upright position and tilt is as required.
- If you must use sippy cups, use them for main meals and adult cups for between meals.
- Gradually wean away the sippy cups and replace all drinks like milk, juice and water in adult cups.
- If you are using pacifiers or if the child gets into the habit of thumb-sucking, the age of one year is the ideal time to get them out. By the age of 18-24 months, the baby must be completely habituated to adult chewing and swallowing habits.