Q&A: Any tips on weaning a two-year-old off the bottle?
I can't get my 2-year-old son to stop wanting a bottle. What can I do?
I am very glad you are committed to addressing this all-too-common feeding challenge. I firmly believe that children who are still very attached to their bottles after the age of 15 to 18 months—while entirely understandable—are falling into a very unhealthy trap of drinking out of habit rather than thirst. In fact, this is a subject I’ve specifically addressed in my book, Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup. To summarize the strategies we lay out in our chapter titled “the epic bottle,” I routinely suggest that parents first make sure they themselves are convinced that it is important to get rid of the bottle. Unless you are convinced that it is necessary (both for nutritional sake and the sake of your son’s teeth), it will be difficult to convince your son.
It’s also important to make sure that you have what we call a “sustainable substitute” to offer your child in lieu of a bottle. For a parent trying to wean a 9- or 12-month-old, this may be more difficult if the child hasn’t mastered cup drinking quite yet, but for healthy, normally-developing 2-year-olds this isn’t an issue/problem. And finally, I would encourage you to approach getting rid of your son’s bottle with a “stick-with-it” attitude. I personally find that a cold-turkey approach is much better than a slow bottle-extraction process. Simply decisively bid your toddler’s bottle farewell and offer a cup (when appropriate) in its place. It’s OK to be sympathetic if your son is upset—just don’t lose your resolve to set him on a path of healthy eating habits that includes only eating/drinking when hungry/thirsty and helping him learn to respond to thirst using a cup rather than a bottle.