Weaning toddler from the bottle

Child Life

March 09, 1997|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

How do you get a 2-year-old off the bottle without disrupting him or upsetting him? I'd like to hear from parents who have done it.

Georgia Campanelli

Canton, Ohio

The dilution solution does the trick for most toddlers without too much fuss. Watering down what's in the bottle helps children switch to sipper cups, which are much safer for a young child's teeth.

"The answer is shockingly simple," says Edward Christophersen, chief of behavioral pediatrics at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo.

Expect the dilution approach to take a few weeks. For starters, offer the bottle as well as a sipper cup at meals with the same liquid in each one, Christophersen says. After about two weeks, dilute the milk or juice in the bottle with an ounce of water. Add another ounce of water about every two weeks, and don't back down once you start.

"By the time the bottle is about 70 percent water, the kid will throw it away," says Christophersen, author of "Beyond Discipline: Parenting That Lasts a Lifetime" (Westport, $9.95). "I've seen kids actually throw the bottle across the room because they don't like the taste."

A slightly faster approach to this method worked well for Suzie Mazella of Buffalo, N.Y.

"My answer was to take the bottle with whatever the child is used to drinking and start substituting two ounces of water each time," she says. "Pretty soon they'll want to get rid of it altogether."

Parent Connie van Gross of Santa Rosa, Calif., skipped the dilution and went straight to putting water only in the bottle.

"Water is boring," she says. "Milk and other things should be presented in cups only. In no time they'll be setting that bottle aside."

Liz Romero of Virginia Beach, Va., told her girls that they could only drink from a bottle while sitting on Mom's lap. When walking around or sitting at the table, they had to use a sipper cup.

"They were so active they elected to drink from cups more and more often," she says.

Dentists and pediatricians recommend weaning children from the bottle between 12 and 18 months of age because of the danger of tooth decay, says Arthur J. Nowak, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

Bottles do the most damage at nap time and bedtime. When a child goes to sleep with a bottle of juice or milk, the rich liquid slowly runs across the teeth, eating away at the enamel. The breakdown of the enamel leads to cavities, says Nowak, a professor of pediatric dentistry and pediatrics at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

While some readers suggest letting children have the bottle until they are ready to give it up on their own, Nowak and Christophersen say the risk of tooth decay means the parent must not wait.

Nowak and Christophersen both say prolonged bottle use may have more to do with what's convenient for the parent than with what the child actually needs. A bottle is an easy way for a busy parent to put a crying 2-year-old to sleep, but the short-term comfort can cause long-lasting dental problems. An early trend toward cavities is tough to reverse, Nowak says.

Several parents found other ways to get rid of the bottle. Here are their ideas:

An out-of-town trip was the route Mary Wiersum of Madison, Wisc., took to get her 2 1/2 -year-old off the bottle. "I told her that we forgot to bring the bottles with us. She had so much fun with her friends during the road trip that she really did forget about them and never asked about it again."

Sany Nathanson of Sarasota, Fla., says she gradually decreased the number of bottles her son had each day, then gave the bottles away after three weeks. "Lovingly tell your child that he is no longer a baby and there are other babies that need his bottles," she says.

Leaving the bottles for the Easter bunny as a trade for goodies worked well for Vickie Giesel of Illinois. Santa Claus has solved the dilemma in other households.

The idea of letting the child present the last bottle to the garbage collector is a popular one among readers.

Can you help?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at (800) 827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2212 The Circle, Raleigh, N.C. 27608, or send e-mail to bevmillol.com

No new clothes: "My 6-year-old has only two outfits she will wear," says G.T. of Dallas, Texas. "She'll pick out new clothes she says she likes at the store, but when we get home, she says they're uncomfortable. Now she's also doing this with shoes. It means I waste a lot of money and have to do laundry every day. Does anyone know how to solve a problem like this?"

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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