As a new mother of an ever-changing 14-month-old, I am slowly discovering how quickly my little one changes. One minute she is crawling up on the couch and the next she is breaking down our baby gates. Even my recent trip to the pediatrician left me with a challenge that I have recently been struggling to overcome – weaning my little one off of bottles. Granted, my little one has only been on bottles for the past seven months (I was able to breastfeed the first seven months), but due to her increased amount of teeth, and the possibility of tooth decay and misalignment, we have gotten the official command to wean her off her bottles. This has led to one of our biggest parenthood struggle to date – our little one’s inability to sleep.
Our baby has never struggled to sleep in the past, sleeping 12 hours a night since the age of three months. Since we had chosen to do a mix of the Ferber method and the extinction method when we were sleep training, we would usually let our baby “cry it out.” Using these methods eventually led to our little one going to bed without a fuss (sometimes diving into the bed to go to sleep).
Now our little one has been on sippy cups since the age of six months, so, unlike a lot of families, our only problem was weaning off the nap time and nighttime bottles.
We discovered that the best way to wean our little one off of bottles was to create a new nighttime routine as well as slowly removing nap time bottles throughout the day. We began removing bottles first by taking away the morning bottle and immediately giving our little one breakfast. There our baby was able to eat breakfast and drink milk from a sippy cup instead of starting the day with a bottle. This took a few days and eventually we were able to break all pre-nap time bottles as well by giving snacks with a sippy cup right before the nap.
Our hardest struggle during this process was the nighttime bottle. We basically had to change our bedtime routine to bath, pajamas, cup of milk, brush teeth, story and then off to bed. Our little one didn’t comprehend that it was bedtime and the screams made me feel as if I was abandoning our baby, ignoring the cries for my comfort. It took a few days, and a lot of persistence, but eventually she began to understand our new routine. She was able to go to bed on her own and not fight us or cry.
My advice to new parents on this issue: keep at it. It’s going to be a struggle the first couple of days and even the first couple of weeks. The outcome solely depends on the consistency of the parents. You may feel like you aren’t meeting your child’s immediate needs for comfort and routine, but you are instead working towards the long-term goal of independence. Stick with it and your little one will be taking another big step into childhood.