Weaning your child off of breast milk or formula and gradually introducing solid foods is a unique stage of your baby’s development that comes with its own set of challenges.
You don’t have to deprive your baby from his favourite habit cold-turkey. Gradual weaning, over a few weeks or even months, is usually much more effective and generally less of a hassle for you both. Following the simple steps below will save you some 4 AM baby screaming scenarios, and make your life a little bit easier.
Step 1: They key is starting early. Communicate the change that is about to happen to your baby before you take any physical measures – it’s amazing how much they can understand at such a young age. Tell them about how they are big enough now to be able to eat food just like mum and dad and let go of the bottle. They might not be too happy about it, but at least they won’t be in for a shock.
Step 2: Starting at six months, change from a baby bottle to a sippy cup. You can do this for water first until your baby gets used to drinking from it, then transfer milk feedings to sippy cups too.
Step 3: Gradually decrease the number of milk servings you offer during the day and replace them with a meal. Find out more about how to introduce solid foods here. Start off with breakfast first, then lunch, and dinner. Trying to get your child to fall asleep without his bedtime bottle is usually the most challenging part, so you can leave that for last.
Step 4: Once your child turns one, mix one or two tablespoons of normal cow’s milk with your baby’s formula or breast milk. Gradually increase this amount until you are giving him only cow’s milk. Most babies do not notice the change in taste and can adapt easily.
Step 5: Reward and praise your child for every day and night they go without their bottle at first. This can involve treating them to a toy, but also just praising them and communicating how proud you are of them consistently.
The love affair between your baby and his bottle is a lot more of an emotional connection rather than the actual milk. If your baby feels safe, is comforted, and generally satisfied in all other aspects it will be much easier to break the habit faster and more smoothly.