Thursday, December 16, 2010

Transitions...breaking the bottle habit.

Once your baby reaches their first birthday, they are mature enough physically to drink whole cow's milk.  This does not mean that you have to wean completely - only that you now have more options for your growing toddler.  But how to make the switch from bottles to cups, mommy milk to cow's milk?  There are a million ways to work this one, but this is how we've done it with each child.

6-8 Months: Introduce organic yogurt
Whaaaat?  Yogurt?  Yes, you read that right.  Organic whole milk yogurt is a safe and very healthy food for your growing baby.  High in nutrients, essential fats, and beneficial bacteria, this is a great habit to get your baby started with early in life.  We love Yo-Baby brand, but any will do.  What does yogurt have to do with weaning from bottles?  Not a whole lot, except that personally it lets me know that my baby will most likely not have major problems (allergy or taste) with switching to whole milk several months down the road.

9-10 months: Introduce a Cup
Some time around the 9 month mark, I start giving my babies a sippy cup full of water to play with at mealtimes. You could try earlier, but my children never seemed to have much success before the 9 month mark.  I choose water because it's a better habit to establish than juice, and because it's easier to clean up the dribbles.  I fill the cup up, because it usually takes quite a while for them to learn to tip the cup high enough to get at liquid all the way on the bottom.  You can choose what ever type of cup you like - every child is different and will have one particular type that works better than others.  With 3 young kids in the house, I've learned that simpler is better - fewer pieces to lose!  Also, I personally detest straw cups, as they are next to impossible to clean. 

This should be a low stress endeavor - it's up to baby to figure it out on their own, and messes are no big deal.

11.5 - 12 Months: Introduce Cow's Milk
A week or so before baby's birthday, I start offering small amounts (1-2oz) of whole milk in a cup for them to get used to the taste.  I gradually offer a bit more each day (I typically start this on a weekend when I'm home to supervise and monitor for reactions), and slow decrease the amount of expressed breastmilk until the switch is complete!

Additional thoughts:
  • 12 months is considered the ideal time to wean baby from a bottle to a cup.  Because of that, I avoid ever putting whole milk in bottles - it seems like the easiest way to make a clean and painless break from the bottle.
  • Whole milk is a must for children until at least their second birthdays - not 2%, 1%, or skim. Young toddlers are still undergoing rapid brain growth and development, and the extra fats in milk are an essential source of the necessary materials for that busy brain.  Concerned about obesity in your family or child?  Teach your child healthy dietary habits - fruits, veggies, whole grains, and see that they get plenty of exercise!  Those habits are far more important than a few extra calories from whole milk.
  • Consider buying organic whole milk.  Yes, it's very expensive.  As for me, we generally don't buy organic foods, but I do buy organic milk for my kids between the ages of 12-24 months.  Milk is often listed high on the 'dirty dozen', foods that contain high levels of hormones and pesticides.  The higher the the fat content, the greater the amount of these substances that can be found in the milk.  Why not do everything you can to protect your tiny tot for at least another year?
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