How can I work with my toddler's current bottle habits and improve them?

Q: I'm struggling with my 17 month old daughter's bottle habits. My husband thinks giving her a bottle will always solve all her problems but it frustrates me because I am aware it leads to bad oral hygiene, a longer attachment to milk in a bottle, decreased appetite, and I was even told too much milk can make her constipated. I've told my husband these things but the routine continues. [My daughter also wakes up for a bottle generally more than once a night, every night.] Please help!

A: You’re absolutely right on all counts. At 17 months of age, your daughter really shouldn’t have any bottle habits at all—it’s past time for her to be off the bottle. Continuing to give your 17-month-old daughter a bottle can contribute to all of the problems you mentioned. At this point, the best solution is to wean your daughter—and your husband—from the bottle. You’ll need to start with your husband. When your daughter is happy and relaxed, sit down with him and calmly tell him how you feel, and give him the facts about the downside of prolonged bottle-feeding while you’re at it.

Tell your husband that you understand the temptation to offer your daughter a bottle for comfort or to help get her back to sleep, but also let him know that the short-term benefits just aren’t worth the long-term consequences. Make sure that he understands that you can’t wean your daughter from the bottle without his help. As parents, you have to work together to succeed in making this important change. Also, tell him what to expect in terms of weaning your daughter from the bottle. To be sure, you both can anticipate a couple of rough days and nights. Your daughter might cry when she doesn’t get her bottle. She might not go right back to sleep when she wakes up in the night. But if neither of you gives in, she’ll move right through this phase and quickly adjust to life without her bottle. If your husband agrees to the plan, immediately get rid of all the bottles in your house. That way, there will be no turning back.

If your husband isn’t willing to go along with the plan, it might be wise to ask him to go with you to the pediatrician’s office to discuss this issue. The doctor will be able to provide additional information and recommendations, and can answer any questions that your husband might have. Including an impartial third party—especially a physician—in the discussion might be all it takes to get your husband on board.


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