When is the right time to stop bottle feeds?
In general, babies should be weaned from the bottle at approximately 12 months of age.
There is a higher risk of tooth decay. Drinking from a bottle for a prolonged period of time can lead to a higher risk of tooth decay especially if babies are drinking while lying down. This is because the baby’s teeth are continuously in contact with sugars from milk, formula or fruit juices.
They may develop more ear infections. The vacuum created by sucking from a bottle causes negative pressure in the mouth which is transmitted to the middle ear causing fluid to build up. Increased fluid can cause hearing difficulties and infections which can also lead to speech and language problems.
Speech development may be delayed. At the age of 12 months, the movement of the tongue begins to evolve into a more mature swallow pattern than the movement that is used when sucking liquids from a bottle. The tongue is kept in a downward position for bottle feed swallows rather than lifted for the more mature swallow.
When children suck from a bottle for a prolonged period of time (after the age of 2) the mid-section of the tongue becomes quite strong and may therefore be used more often when producing speech sounds. When that happens, the tongue pokes through the front of the teeth which may form a lisp. Words may not sound crisp and precise. The tongue tip is then compromised for sounds such as [t, d, n, l] which are produced with the tongue tip behind the upper teeth on the alveolar ridge (the bump behind the upper teeth).
Soon after birth when your baby begins to breast feed, give him/her a baby blanket, piece of cloth, or a stuffed animal toy to touch at the same time. This will help during the weaning stage so that your little one will be comforted by the softness of these items (and of course by your loving touches and hugs) as he/she breaks away from bottle feeds.
You can either gradually decrease bottle feeds while increasing use of a cup or eliminate bottle feeds altogether. When your baby is able to drink from a cup and he /she is eating solid foods, it’s time to get rid of that bottle. Choose a cup that your child will enjoy using every day that has pictures of his /her favorite toys or characters. Once you toss out the bottle, you are on your way to the next stage of your little one’s development.