When to Stop Giving Your Baby a Bottle Before Bed

Many babies have a bottle or nursing session before bedtime, but they can quickly become dependent on this practice. Here’s when to wean them off the nightly feeding session.

Father feeding baby with bottle

Getty Images

Babies seek a bottle or nursing session for comfort as much as nourishment. That’s completely fine for the first several months, since infants need to be fed pretty much around the clock. But as you begin to drop nighttime feedings, you may wonder when to stop giving your baby a bottle before bed. 

Of course, there’s no right answer, and every parent and child may have a different timeline that works for them. But in general, there comes a time where the drawbacks of pre-bed bottles begin to outweigh any advantages. 

Here, we’ll explore when to stop feeding your baby before bed, with tips for how to wean them off the bottle at night.

When to Stop the Bedtime Bottle

At approximately four months of age, babies begin to develop the ability to self-soothe. Around this time, it can be helpful to move the nighttime feeding to the beginning of the bedtime routine so your baby doesn’t develop a sleep association, says Charissa Chamorro, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and sleep consultant in New York City who specializes in anxiety disorders and sleep-related issues. 

By the age of six months, many babies don’t need the bedtime bottle for nourishment, and by nine months, very few need the extra calories and nutrients offered by the bedtime bottle. That’s because they’re typically eating and drinking plenty throughout the day. What’s more, infants develop the ability to sleep through the night between six to eight months of age, says Dr. Chamorro. 

All that said, by the time babies are around nine months old, the bedtime bottle is usually optional (although most little ones don’t seem to think so!) The longer you keep giving that bedtime bottle, the harder it seems to do away with it, for both you and your baby. Many experts recommend completely eliminating the bedtime bottle by their first birthday.

Drawbacks of Giving Your Baby a Bottle at Bedtime

Continuing a bedtime feeding for too long isn’t just unnecessary; it actually comes with several disadvantages as well. Here, Dr. Chamorro outlines several drawbacks of a nighttime feeding past when your baby actually needs it for nutrition. 

  • It can cause a sleep association. “If a baby is consistently given a bottle right before bedtime and they fall asleep while bottle feeding, they will eventually begin to depend on it in order to fall asleep,” says Dr. Chamorro. 
  • It can cause tooth decay. “To prevent this, bottle feed at the start of the bedtime routine, then gently brush their teeth or gums after the feeding,” says Dr. Chamorro. 
  • It can lead to an unhealthy weight. Assuming your baby is eating some solid foods during the day, the added calories of a bedtime bottle may not be necessary. 

Tips for Weaning Your Baby Off a Bottle at Night

Dr. Chamorro provides the following tips for weaning your baby off of that last bottle of the day. 

Start with a later bedtime. One way to make this transition easier is to move the bedtime later, says Dr. Chamorro. “A sleepy baby is more likely to fall asleep quickly. After a few nights, you can move the bedtime back in ten-minute increments until you’re back at your target bedtime.” Don’t keep your baby up too late though, because this can mess up their schedule.

Use your presence to soothe. You can gently pat or rub their back, as well as provide verbal reassurance that you’re there. “This can increase feelings of security, and eventually your little one will learn to fall asleep without the bottle. You can gradually reduce the amount of time you spend with your baby at bedtime until they are falling asleep on their own,” says Dr. Chamorro.

Create a consistent and soothing bedtime routine. This is the key to helping your baby learn to soothe themselves to sleep. “The bedtime routine should be clear and consistent with lots of connection. Once you establish a clear routine, this will become your baby’s cue that it is time for sleep,” says Dr. Chamorro. “Remember, the bedtime routine should still include lots of physical connection and cuddling! Make the end of your bedtime routine a goodnight phrase with a hug instead of a bottle and you’ll set your baby up for better nighttime sleep.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles