A very commonly asked question on our parenting support group is when should bottles and sippy cups be weaned? The answer to that is at 12 months, all bottles must be stopped, whether they contain pumped breastmilk or formula and the child must start using open cups or straw cups for drinking liquids. Sippy cups should not be used beyond 7 to 8 months of age.



The next question asked is why 12 months? If a baby can breastfeed on demand as long as they want, why can’t they use bottles as long as they want too?



The answer to that is, bottles are just a method of feeding milk, unlike breastfeeding, which is much more than just a way to feed a baby. There are three main reasons why bottles must be weaned at 12 months:



  1. Prolonged bottle/sippy cup use leads to poor mouth and jaw development: Babies suck on bottles and sippy cups with a primitive type of suck pattern, and prolonged use of bottles and sippy cups can lead to weakness in some mouth muscles because they are not being used at all.


  1. Prolonged bottle use can lead to teeth decay: If babies suck on a bottle to fall asleep, often the some milk remains pooled in the baby’s mouth and this pooled milk can cause teeth decay.


  1. Prolonged bottle use may cause poor appetite and iron deficiency anemia: It is very easy for a baby to quickly drink a large amount of milk from a bottle. However drinking too much cow milk causes a baby to fill up liquid calories and thus they eat less food. Too much milk can also cause iron deficiency anemia because milk causes micro-bleeding in a child’s intestine and milk itself has very little iron and excessive milk intake suppresses appetite for other iron rich foods.


Along with the above discussed factors, prolonged bottle/ sippy cup/pacifier use may cause crooked teeth and lisping speech because of poor mouth muscle development, poor jaw development and prolonged primitive front and back tongue movement.



Also, the aspect of comfort. Sucking is very comforting for babies. It is easy to calm down a baby by quickly giving a pacifier or bottle to suck. But doing this for too long leads to an unhealthy attachment to an object for comfort, rather than a child learning to comfort themselves by or by getting comfort from human interactions. Pacifiers or bottles are NOT meant replace a parent’s comforting presence.



And sometimes babies must cry. Crying is the way babies communicate. Our goal as parents is not to always keep a baby happy or to stop crying at any cost by giving pacifiers or bottles. Our job as parents is to teach babies and toddlers how to recognize and deal with all emotions including anger, frustration and anxiety. Objects cannot teach children to recognize and deal with emotions, appropriate human interaction teaches this. To learn more about how to help your child learn to manage emotions, read our blog on toddler tantrums here.




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