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Tips for moving from bottle to cup
Q: I was going to take my 1-year-old son's bottle away and have him start drinking from a cup, but he will have nothing to do with the cup. He turns his head, pushes the cup away, and screams if we try to get him to drink from it. The one day I, my husband, and our day care provider tried to take the bottle away, he only drank three ounces of liquid in that day, so I gave his bottle back. How can I get him to drink from the cup, and how important is it to take his bottle away?
A: Making changes or transitions can be difficult for children. Sometimes, they can go through transitions without missing a beat, but usually it takes a little time and a lot of support and patience.

Child development and nutrition experts recommend switching your child from a bottle to a cup around the first birthday. But this usually doesn’t happen overnight. If you start getting your child familiar with drinking from a sippy cup around 6-8 months of age, he can be comfortable and skilled at drinking from the cup when he’s 1-year-old. If you start him with the cup at 1 year of age, it might also take a few months for him to become comfortable and skilled.

Why is this a good time for your baby to switch from the bottle to the cup? Infants have a strong need to suck for nutrition and comfort, but sucking becomes less important after 1 year of age. Between 1 and 2 years of age, your toddler’s skills are developing rapidly and he’s gaining increasing independence in feeding himself. He’s getting better at using his hands and can hold a sippy cup and bring it to his mouth well, and he’s learning to feed himself with his hands and a spoon or fork. Although milk is still an important part of his diet, table foods are becoming an increasingly important source of his nutrition. In fact, toddlers who continue to drink from a bottle can drink too much milk or juice and ruin their appetite for solid foods, which can lead to anemia, diarrhea, and growth problems. They can also get dental caries (known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay) from having the milk or juice on their teeth for prolonged periods of time. At 1 year of age, 16-24 oz. of milk per day is recommended.

Encourage your child to drink from the cup by offering him milk or juice when he’s thirsty in an attractive sippy cup. During the transition period from bottle to cup, save the bottle for the times he really needs the comfort such as bedtime, but try the cup at other times. You, your spouse, and your day care provider can all encourage and praise him for being a “big boy” drinking from the cup and point out all the other big kids who drink from cups. When he’s comfortable drinking from the cup, you might plan a celebration to get rid of the bottle—maybe packing it away in a gift box and “giving” it to a little baby you know.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician