You can see the light. Your kids have hit a sweet spot and you feel like the fog is lifting. Your 18 month old is sleeping well (usually), eating most things, using some words and understanding many requests. Why mess with a good thing?! This same little creature is also given a bottle of milk to fall asleep with at naps and bedtime. This situation is far more common than anyone discusses because WE KNOW WE SHOULDN’T BE DOING IT.
A friend recently told me about a company that sells products with the slogan “Raising tiny humans is exhausting.” My immediate reaction was to order a mug, bag and shirt to round out my collection of things that fuel my strength on difficult days. It is exhausting. This stage of life is utterly exhausting. And because of that, we all do things we know we shouldn’t. It’s just easier.
I’ve seen everything at work. From families that should be showcased on a hoarding show to families who are stressed because their child is one day “late” to walk. I will never forget one home visit when I walked into the home of 2 well-educated parents and their cute little girls greeted me at the door. The 1 and 3 year old flashed me the warmest smiles, but all I could focus on was their black and brown front teeth. The oldest wouldn’t eat and parents were frustrated. In fact, the referral reason was for “picky eating.” I soon discovered that these girls were given a bottle at every nap and bedtime. Parents were worried that the girls were hungry at night. Unfortunately, the likely reason why the girls weren’t eating well was because their teeth hurt! The parents knew better but their worry about hunger and growth got the best of them.
The Canadian Pediatric Society and American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend discontinuation of bottle use between 12 – 15 months of age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends before 18 months. We know that kids who drink from a bottle while laying down are at greater risk for developing ear infections.. Milk can enter into their eustachian tube and become a little germ infested haven. We also know that prolonged bottle use increases the risk for cavity development.
Realistically, you may not be ready to completely give up the bottle and this is understandable. I appreciate the big family picture that needs to be considered.
Things you can do:
- at least stop an overnight bottle at this age. Unless there is a medical reason your child needs calories overnight, he is at an age where he should not be getting calories during sleep time. You can stop cold turkey, decrease the volume of milk you offer night by night, give water instead of milk in the bottle, or even water down the milk and increase the ratio of water each day.
- if you give your toddler a full bottle to fall asleep with in his crib, stop. At least separate the bottle from the crib to start with. Let him drink the bottle in the living room after bath. You may need to problem solve a different tool or prop for them to fall asleep with. This is a lovely stage to introduce a “lovey” (stuffie or small blanket).
- Make sure the last thing you do before bedtime is brush teeth!
Last thing. I need to confess.
As I was writing this post, my youngest stopped breastfeeding and came across a bottle my oldest was using for pretend play (filled with water). She started drinking from it and I figured I would put a little bit of homo milk in it so there was something to replace that post-bath breastfeeding time. Little did I know, she would love it and start requesting it vehemently. I gave it to her only to have to work on phasing it out. I limited the volume of milk right from the beginning depending on how much milk she drank over the course of the day. Now I’m living the recommendations I’ve listed above!!!