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Why You Should Wean Your Baby Off the Bottle at Age 1

Most pediatricians recommend switching from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk at age 1. Many parents think the easiest way to make this transition is by giving their child cow’s milk in a bottle, and when their babies refuse the bottle with cow’s milk, parents grow concerned. Babies very commonly refuse cow’s milk from the bottle; so if this happens with your child, do not be alarmed! This is actually the perfect time to wean your child off the bottle.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends eliminating the bottle by 18 months of age, but many speech-language pathologists recommend eliminating the bottle around 12 months. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Prolonged bottle use can cause issues with tooth alignment, changing the position of your child’s teeth over time. The most common effect is an open bite, which occurs when the top front teeth and bottom front teeth grow apart from each other, and no longer make contract when the child’s jaw is closed.

  2. Toddlers who drink significant amounts of milk throughout the day have less of an appetite for solid foods, making mealtimes challenging. With many complaints of picky eating these days, one of the best things you can do to prevent picky eating or help your child who is a picky eater, is make sure your child is getting many opportunities to eat solid foods during the day (3 meals and 2 snacks), rather than filling up on milk.

  3. Offering your child milk when he wakes up during the night makes getting your child to sleep through the night much more difficult. When a child is drinking milk in the middle of the night, he will continue to wake up around the same time every night out of routine, even if he is not hungry. Many parents are concerned that their toddlers wake up in the middle of the night because they are hungry, but you can rest assured, that if your child is eating well throughout the day there is no need for the extra calories at night. Sleep is critical to growth and development, and trumps the need for extra calories at night if your child is a good eater.

What should your baby drink from after 1 year of age? Speech-language pathologists typically recommend a combination of straw cups and open cups. Straw cups promote development of muscles in the tongue, and open cups promote increased lip closure. Stay away from the sippy cup! Sippy cups, although convenient and heavily marketed, are actually detrimental to your child’s speech and feeding development.

Does your baby need milk after 1 year of age? The simple answer is no – not if your child is getting sufficient nutrients from solid foods. If your child is eating a variety of solid foods by 1 year of age, he should be getting enough protein and calcium from those foods to eliminate the need for milk. However, some parents choose to continue to give their babies milk as part of their daily routine for soothing purposes. If you are giving your child milk before bed, remember it’s important to brush teeth before putting your child to sleep! Milk contains a lot of sugar that can cause tooth decay in children as young as 12 months.

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