There seems to be an unwritten rule that your toddler must be free of bottles and dummies by the age of two! Rest assured, most toddlers naturally lose interest in their bottles at some stage in their third year of life, so don’t rush the process unduly before then.
However, by the age of three, if your toddler is still attached to his bottle (during the day or night or both!) this is a good time to take control of the situation and wean him completely off his bottle.
But what about his milk feeds?
Your toddler needs no more than around 400ml of milk per day, including food such as yoghurt, cheese and custard. Unless he's ill, your toddler doesn't need any nutrition during the night, regardless of how badly he ate during the day – in fact, the most common reason for poor eating habits in toddlers is frequent night feeds.
Depending on your toddler’s thirst, water can be on offer from a sippy cup or straw at any time during the day or night. By the age of three, your toddler will have a mouth full of teeth, so do think about teeth decay from milk pooling in his mouth all night long.
Now that your toddler is older and you can communicate with him, the good news is that you can discuss and negotiate with him why it’s time to ditch the bottle.
I want to keep things calm with a bottle
A common sleep problem in the toddler years is getting up a few times each night to fulfill your little sprog's demands for endless bottles of milk or juice. Should you refuse to offer this feed to your toddler, all hell breaks loose, and because you are so tired and worn out (not having had a good night's sleep for a while), you give in because that is the easy option to ensure peace and quiet!
Even if your child is less than three, you can use the same strategies discussed below to wean him off night-time bottles. Whether your toddler is still very attached to his bottle for comfort and security, or if he wakes in the middle of the night insisting on a bottle of milk or juice, follow these simple steps:
1. Acknowledge his feelings. "I know that you want your bottle now."
2. Then mirror the feeling by saying, "I would like to give it to you."
3. Then give a reason. Explain why you can't: "The milkman has gone home."
4. Offer a choice. "Would you like some water from your cup?"
5. Remind him about an alternative calming object: "Here is your teddy - this will make you feel better."
6. Expect him to reject all offers of alternatives. Ignore a tantrum, but offer comfort if he is distressed.
7. Repeat the acknowledgement of his feelings, sympathise with him, tell him why you have made your decision and offer him an alternative in the form of his water cup or comfort object and offer to stay with him for a little while.
8. If the tantrum persists tell him that you don't like it when he shouts at you, so you are going back to bed and you will see him in the morning. Leave the room and close the door, no matter how much he persists.
9. Go back and reassure him in a short while (after a minute or two), offer him words of comfort and many hugs, then repeat the process.
10. Gradually extend the amount of time spent out of his room so that he is on his own for longer and longer periods of time. With time (and this may take a few days), he will realise that you have not abandoned him, and that you are still around (albeit on your terms).