Ending the night bottle routine

A question from Cameron: “I have made the mistake of letting my daughter keep her bottle when she goes to bed. She is now almost 3 1/2 and her sister is about to turn one. Do you have any suggestions as to how to how to wean both of them off the bottle?”

For the one year old, I suggest you just do it all at once. Change your bedtime routine to include a snack, like some banana slices, plus a cup of whole milk. After the snack, give her a bath, read some books, and put her down in her crib. Do this consistently, and stop offering or even mentioning a bottle at bedtime. She’ll develop a better routine that’s healthier for her teeth and will reinforce good independent sleeping through the night.

For the 3 ½ year old, it’s going to be more difficult. The “cold turkey” approach will to lead to a big prolonged tantrum, so a gentler and slower method may work better. To get rid of the nighttime bottle, start gradually night by night adding a little more water and less milk to the bottle. Over about three weeks, you’ll gradually go from bottle of milk to a bottle of water with a tiny splash of milk. By that time, many children lose interest. Even if she doesn’t, you can just hand her a bottle of water at bedtime from that point on. At least it won’t hurt her teeth.

If your bedtime bottles are part of a routine of holding and rocking as the kids fall asleep, it’s going to be much harder to establish new habits. You’ll have to work on gradually making the bedtime ritual less dependant on the adults, in addition to addressing the bottle itself. You may need more direct personal guidance for this, especially for the older child. Consider speaking with your child’s doctor or asking for a referral to a psychologist or therapist with special expertise with younger children.

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One Comment on “Ending the night bottle routine”

  1. meredith Says:

    My daughter is 18 months old and I still give her a bottle at nap time and bed time. I think it’s more of a crutch for me than her. I know I need to start the “new routine” soon!


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