When to Wean Bottles and Why
It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to wean babies completely from the bottle by 18 months of age. They recommend beginning to wean from the bottle at 12 months by offering a sippy cup or regular cup for drinking during midday.
Weaning from a bottle becomes more difficult the longer you wait. Just like pacifier use, the bottle suckling becomes an emotional attachment that is most difficult to wean at sleep times. Nighttime bottles typically are the most difficult for a family because parents are tired, babies and toddlers are tired, and everyone just wants to go to sleep.
Let’s start with WHY it is important to wean a bottle at this recommended time, prolonged bottle use can lead to:
- Increased tooth decay
- Tongue thrusting for suckling which may impact:
Speech sound development (for tongue articulated sounds /s, z/, “sh,” and “th”)
Facial development (overbite and underdeveloped maxillary and mandible/jaw)
Skilled chewing (children who have difficulty transitioning to solid foods)
Safe swallowing (swallowing with an adult swallow pattern instead of an immature swallowing patter of tongue thrusting)
- Increased attachment to bottle suckling due to the age and development of a child’s emotional needs to help soothing.
- Increased intake of milk with efficient suckling instead of meeting a wide variety of nutrient needs through a healthy, balanced diet with solids included.
- Delay of oral motor development through skilled chewing, rotary chewing development, tongue range of motion, and ability to control the fine-motor movement of articulators in the mouth cavity for development of more refined sound production for later developing sounds.
I understand this is a lot of information to take in, and it continues to be complicated to understand how breathing/swallowing/eating/breathing again all need to work together based on individual situations. This is why I recommend seeing a speech-language pathologist for questions regarding your child’s or your own difficulties in any of these areas:
Transition to solids
Ability to wean from the bottle
Difficulty transitioning to cups or sip cups
Poor chewing that ends in child spitting out harder-to-chew foods like meats
Coughing, choking or gagging with swallowing of solids or liquids
Tongue thrusting during swallow past toddlerhood (seeing the tongue extend past teeth to move food posteriorly for the swallow).
Speech sound development delay or disorder
A speech-language pathologist can evaluate your or your child’s specific difficulties, advise on a range of typical, and make recommendations. These recommendations may be “take and go” tips or you may choose to have received more in-depth assistance in making improvements. Every plan is tailored to your needs/lifestyle/questions.
Lauren Tandy, M.S., CCC-SLP is a certified speech-language pathologist licensed in Idaho and Washington. She has a special interest in early intervention, feeding and swallowing issues, oromyofunctional disorders, and speech-language development. You may find more information at tandytherapy.com. Feel free to contact Lauren with any questions at email@example.com.