July 02, 2015

Q: How can I stop the bottles with formula and just get my 14 month old to only drink milk from a cup? She doesn't seem to like milk.

A: On one hand, it seems that you want to transition your toddler from milk to formula. On the other hand, you want to transition your toddler from a bottle to a cup. In a perfect world, you’d both wake up one day and your child would forgo her usual bottles of formula for cups of milk and water. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, my advice is that you work towards both goals slowly and simultaneously. First, I recommend taking your toddler to the store and allow her to select a few different kinds of “big girl” cups made in colors she likes. Since you know your toddler likes the taste of formula, at first offer some formula in a cup instead of in a bottle when she’s most hungry or thirsty and most likely to take it (for example, first thing in the morning.)

To encourage your toddler to drink milk, offer it in small amounts in a cup perhaps as part of a familiar daytime meal. If she refuses at first, don’t give up. Stay positive, try not to make a big deal out of her refusal, and continue to offer a cup of milk at other meal times. It may take several attempts before she tries and accepts the milk. At the same time, you can continue to offer a small bottle or two of formula over the course of the day but over time you’ll gradually replace those, one by one, with a cup of milk or water. (If you offer a bottle of milk before bedtime—usually one of the last bottles to go—be sure to wipe down your toddler’s gums and teeth with a wet cloth or toothbrush to reduce the chances of baby bottle tooth decay).

Although the transitions from bottle to cup and formula to milk may take days, weeks or months, you can help ease the transitions and promote healthful habits by gently encouraging your toddler (without force) and speaking positively (with no pressure) during the process. Change isn’t easy for any of us, but with support, empathy and modeling milk drinking in a cup, your toddler is likely to eventually make the change.

Answered by Elisa Zied