Bye Bye Bottle
The first big transition is usually the one from bottle to drinking from a cup. Pediatrician Dr. Jon Betts of Old Harding Pediatrics in Nashville, Tennessee, recommends that parents weaning a child from the bottle at the one-year mark. "Moving from a bottle to a sippy cup is important because it reduces the incidence of cavities caused by bottle use particularly in the crib, and it also helps promote good dental alignment," he says.
A good way to get your child used to a sippy cup is to let him play with one filled with water from the time he can hold onto it—between months 4 and 6. He'll probably drop it, bang it on the floor, and use it as a toy, but eventually he'll put the right part in his mouth and take a sip. (A few demonstrations with exaggerated "Yum, Yum!" reactions from Mom help out here.) From then on, a cup filled with water should be his constant companion and available whenever he's seated for a meal.
Eventually, you'll start substituting the cup for his bottle at feeding times. If you replace the bottle with a cup for a new feeding time each week, you can complete the transition in just over a month. Many experts recommend trying the cup at your child's least favorite feeding, so he's not frustrated or hungry if things don't go smoothly the first few times. I found the opposite to be true and introduced the sippy for the first feeding of the morning, when my kids were really hungry and didn't care if I was offering them a rusty bucket to drink from as long as they got 8 ounces of warm milk from somewhere.
That cozy nighttime bottle is often the hardest for both Mom and her baby to let go, but you can still snuggle your little one and even hold the cup for him for the same effect. If your child violently opposes the cup and longs for the sucking pleasure of a bottle, try giving him one with water in it. Put the yummy, satisfying milk in the cup and offer both of them for a few days to see if he makes the switch on his own terms.
True Life Tale: My little brother was the fourth and last child in the family. He drank from a bottle until he was nearly in kindergarten! The kid would come home from soccer practice and plop down on the couch guzzling a baby bottle of orange juice. That stubborn toddler is now a handsome, successful doctor with no ill effects from my parents' indulgence of their youngest one.