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My toddler gets a bottle of formula in the evening, as part of the bedtime ritual. At some point in time, we'd want to stop giving that bottle and stop using formula at all.

What is an effective method to do this?

Is it realistic to just stop giving the bottle one day? Or should the daily amount be reduced over a two weeks until nothing is left? Or should we replace it with water?

Ideally, we would want no more fluid intake in the evening to prevent future bed-wetting, so replacing with water could at best be a temporary solution. I have a feeling that an evening drink increases the risk of bed-wetting, though it would probably be naive to expect it can be fully avoided.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

We eliminated the evening nursing/bottle by gradually giving solid foods shortly before bedtime in its place and reducing the amount of fluid.

I don't think you'll be able to stop the bottle 'cold turkey' without replacing it with some solids, or you'll have a toddler waking in the middle of the night from hunger.

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Many kids will continue to use the bottle to help them fall asleep even though they aren't hungry. –  Lennart Regebro Jul 22 '11 at 13:45
    
@Lennart That depends on when the child had dinner. Our son gets his dinner at least an hour before the bottle, often two hours before, so he might well develop new hunger before breakfast. It's worth taking into account at least, even though I agree that over time the bottle becomes more of a mind habit than a meal. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 22 '11 at 14:03
    
I'll accept this answer because it seems most suitable and sensible in our case. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 26 '11 at 8:25

One way is to convince the kid that he/she is just getting too old.

You can do this by making some sort of symbolic act to notify this. Works with pacifiers too. In Stockholm people go to the petting zoo and stick the pacifier onto the fence at the to "give it to the small animals" who need it better.

Another way is to telling the kid that he/she is too old, and then doing something to the milk to make it taste bad, like for example having loads of salt in it. This worked on my baby sister, who when the gruel (cause that's what you have in Sweden) got disgusting concluded sadly that now she was too old. This was at 4years or so. She learned to fall asleep without the bottle quickly. This does seem a bit cruel, so I guess that would be only a last resort.

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+1 for the idea of diplomacy. However I would be very careful with the salt trick even though the amount of salt is probably no concern in itself. But it might have adverse side-effects, like not liking regular/"adult" food based on this experience, when that food has a discernible salty taste. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 22 '11 at 13:57

We had a really hard time getting our daughter off of the evening bottle, it got to the point that she would not go to sleep without it and she was rapidly approaching five years old.

Thinking about it, we both knew that it wasn't really about the milk, it was more about the feeling of security she got from two places:

  1. Suckling
  2. Routine

Suckling was something that we did not want to replace directly, so we focused on routine.

We decided that replacing the routine would be better, so at bed time we all drank milk or hot chocolate from mugs with (just) a few cookies for dipping. We called it our night time picnic and we did it consistently for several weeks.

After the third or so week, we only provided a mug of milk and dunking treats to our daughter, but increased the amount of treats by a few, which we encouraged her to share with us. By this time, the bottle was long forgotten, we had fun having guessing games to see which parent earned the treat before we all went to bed. We wanted our daughter to feel some sort of control in the transition and that worked.

Now I wake up most days complaining about a mug of milk going to waste. She has a small (now more nutritious) snack an hour or so before going to bed, the bottles are now gathering dust and will soon be packed away.

Each kid is of course different, but giving them some control over what they see as a major transitional process will usually work. After all, parental diplomacy is letting the kid have your way :)

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I like the idea of parental diplomacy although that's easier when the child is older (nearly 5yo compared to under 2yo). –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 26 '11 at 8:11

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