Q: When should my baby switch from a bottle to a sippy cup?
A: Most babies should be off the bottle around the time they turn 1. The longer you wait to wean, the more attached your baby will get to his bottle -- and the harder it will be for him to give up. In addition, bottle-feeding past this age can lead to tooth decay. (Children tend to take longer to finish drinks in a bottle, exposing their teeth to the sugar in formula and milk for longer periods.)
It's a good idea to get your baby used to a sippy cup around 9 months (or earlier, if he's showing interest), so he has time to get used to it. Pick a plastic spill-proof cup with a spout, which looks most like a bottle. Finding the right cup for your child may require some trial and error. Some children go through several styles before finding one they love (some children like handles, while others can't stand them, for example). It's not a good idea to take the bottle away cold turkey, since this might cause your baby to see the cup as a punishment, rather than as a big-kid milestone.
At first, you should just offer water or diluted juice in the sippy cup during meals or snacks. Then as your child gets more comfortable, start filling the cup with breast milk or formula so he gets used to the idea that all his beverages can come from a cup. (Just don't make the cup available 24/7 or your child may graze from it all day long and disrupt his normal eating schedule.) The first few times your baby drinks from the cup, it can be a bit messy (expect lots of drooling and dripping). Hold the cup to his mouth and let a few drops trickle out. Don't force him to take more than he wants, since you don't want to turn this into a power struggle. If he tries to grab the cup to drink on his own, by all means, let him.
After your baby's comfortable with the sippy cup (about a month or so), you can begin the weaning process. Start by phasing out one midday bottle feeding (since babies usually eat the least at this time) and replacing it with a meal of solid foods and/or a sippy cup of milk or formula. Wait a week (or two if your baby is struggling with the transition) before eliminating another bottle feeding. Continue phasing out one bottle feeding per week until your child is off the bottle completely. If you start the process at around 11 months your child should be done with bottles between 12 and 13 months. By one year, many toddlers are willing to give up their bottle and relish the opportunity to sit at the table like big boys and girls.
Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.