Bye-bye, bottle! 7 Tips to kick the habit.
Guys, t’is done… The great kicking of one epic toddler milk bottle habit has been done, and gone down into the parental victory history books. No more milk bottles in our house, or as my girl would say, “Mo’ more milkies!” Granted, this historic event happened long since I’ve even typed this up, but it was a momentous one for us. And, I mean anything that helps restore sleep and sanity back into a parent’s life is worth noting, right? Right.
But now, you may probably envision me with ragged face, and ripped clothes, with the toll of the bottle-battle all smeared across my worn-down body? Because, you may have assumed there was this battle that must have ensued between my toddler and myself over the mighty milk bottle, right? I mean, my two (almost three) year old toddler was starting to cripple our budget with the way she was flying through her formula, so anyone could be forgiven for thinking that it might have left me exhausted and scarred. But thankfully, that’s not the way it went down.
Granted, I think we laid a pretty good foundation to begin with. Firstly, I am super anal about kids’ sleep – did you know: society still actually underestimates the importance of sleep on children’s health and development. (A topic I’m pretty passionate about.) So along with that sleep utopia Mike and I aimed for, we tried to establish healthy sleep habits for our children. One of them being not using a milk bottle as a crutch for sleep – it’s just no good for their sleep or yours and certainly no good for their teeth if it’s formula milk in that bottle.
So, initially, our littles touches were certainly comfy there in sleep utopia. That is, until I started getting lazy, and instead of “feeding” her bottle bedtime bottle, I kind of left her to sort herself out, while I got bags packed for the next day, kitchen cleaned, researched for work, etc. (In my defence, she’s a real slow drinker, and I used to kill myself just thinking of all the million and one other things I could have finished already had I not been holding the bottle for her.) At first, while I cleaned the kitchen, I used to hear her toss her bottle across the room when she was done (‘cause apparently, that’s what normal people do when they’re done drinking…must be some sort of Russian ritual, perhaps) and 10 minutes later madam would be lights out.
However, there were some nights I missed the crashing sound of a plastic bottle hitting the wall the upstairs and I’d head up to find madam fast asleep with bottle still in mouth. I’d cringe at the thought of her teeth’s future and the “sleep crimes” I was committing, but my resultant productivity for the night placated me – and then vowed I wouldn’t do it again. But that was a lie, because two months later that’s how she went to sleep every night. And consequently demanded her milkies and refills thereof until she fell asleep.
I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but when you’re trying to prepare for provincial top management presentation the next morning, or meet your project due date, or finalize your research for your workshop the next day, or whatever, you end up doing just about anything to get that baba to sleep.(Am I right?) Even if you know the long term cons are gonna bite you on your bum soon enough.You know, the short-term sanity with long term consequences principle. It’s a repetitive theme throughout parenting – and yet we take the bate everytime. (well, almost everytime)
It’s so weird though, I never did this with my eldest. I couldnt be moved back then. And I thought I learnt my lesson well and proper then, but apparently baby number two wore me down. It never interfered with her nutrition though – thankfully- as she ate all her food during the awake times, and in fact, I thought, “extra vitamins from formula?Bonus!” But she ended up drinking so much milk come nap/bedtime that it also made all our nappy-free missions crash and burn. Anyhoo, seeing her sleep habits slip, not to mention my sleep and ability to operate optimally taking a massive knock, I was kicking myself for becoming so loose about it. I knew I had dug my own grave, but if sleep training taught me anything, it’s that it’s never too late to get yourself back out. So two to three nights later of mommy putting the principles back in play, and we were back on track to our sleep utopia.
But then madam was hospitalized with pneumonia back in May where she chose milk over solids, swiftly followed by our overseas trip to the States. And just like that our little Parker-Grace regressed into a litte baby. Whilst on holiday, she slept right next to me – no biggy, but if she could, she would sleep on me just like she did as a baby. She certainly tried. And more than that, she drank a bottle almost every two to three hours night. Fortunately, we were on vacation and could mostly sleep off our zombie shuffle activities.But dude, it was like having a newborn all over again. And was certainly not sustainable.
So soon after we got home from vacay, I still remember sitting in our first #CarseatFullstop team meeting feeling groggy AF from that whole milky night shift, and sharing with two other blogger lovelies there that Im gonna do it. Im going to kick the bottle habit for good. No cutting down. No weaning. No “only for naps and bedtime”. She was two and half years old, eating very well, but with the constant calls for milk at night,her sleep was in the toilet, so by the holy Mother of Megaton, it was time for that bottle to go.
When it comes to issues of breaking unhealthly habits with kiddums (like sleep and now milkies), I normally would choose a weekend that works for us and commence forth. But this time, with Parker’s moods slowly and obviously being affected by the broken sleep, along with Mike and my energies waning, and our ability to navigate our parenting and our demanding jobs fully present, rapidly disappearing, we decided to just clear our schedule one Tuesday evening and just do it. We were already boned mentally, so the sooner we did the better for all.
We implemented the sleep training principles that night. Yes, there was some (alot) of protest from Parker’s side that first night, and again a very quick protest(1 minute) later at 2am. But by day two her protest lasted only two minutes. And by the third, it was a quick whine of “but I wannnnnnnnnt it”, but that was pretty much the last. (Give or take a chance taker she’ll throw in a week or two later – which is normal.) Her sleep went back to normal, and the moods definitely swung back to normal happy Parky style. And just like that it was done.No more milkies up in this house!!! She eats even MORE now that the extra milk consumption is out of the picture too. And by Gaaaahd, saying that life got just a little easier from then on, is not an understatement.
So, how did we do it? Well, I’m not an expert, and there certainly are loads of resources out there from people who actually ARE experts, but what we did worked for us, and I’ll gladly share the principles with you here if it helps you and your little one:
NB! Obviously this post is not intended for children who still nutritionally depend on milk as their main source of nourishment. This is for those kiddums who are ready to move on from the bottle (whenever that is, is between you and your child’s paed)
Tips/Principles we used:
It may go without saying this, but I’ll say it in anycase: You’re not going to do this at the time that your child is unwell. Or perhaps dealing with another life transition or whatever. That’s just a recipe for disaster. So time it well enough where your child is healthy and you and your household can commit to it.
Even though we just bit the bullet on a Tuesday night, I would highly recommend you perhaps wait for the weekend, as the first two nights often are the most trying. And doing it over a weekend just takes the pressure off that early mornings to work or school may bring.
2. Cold Turkey:
Yes, many parents prefer the longer transitional type of change when it comes to things like getting rid of the bottle or dummy. I personally found that this often drags it out much longer, and can often confuse the child. It can often also wear on you, and if your child has a particularly strong attachment to the bottle for security, or depends on it for sleep, then using a gradual approach may be too agonizing for them. So the sudden removal of an item that has become a dependancy to your child, can be a bit jolting for your child and their resultant protests may be passionate at best, but it maybe the most effective (and quickest) approach. That’s defintely what works for us as a family.
3. Prepare: Before you go all cold turkey, do some prepping. That goes for both you and baby!
Set the scene for your child about how things are going to go, explain in a simplified way why the bottle has to go and talk about it. This might not stop the tears from flowing when you do eventually do it, but it does help your child deal better with the transition.
For yourself, know that things may get sticky. They also may not, and things may run surprisingly smoothly and easily. But either way, it’s best to ensure that you will be very present and patient no matter what, and that all those other things on your to-do list will have to take a back seat for a while, while you support your child during this transition. But know that it’s just for a while. In fact, a very short while. It’s a bit of a short term investment for long term benefits.
So to avoid falling for the temptation of caving in on that night that you’re just too tired, and your child’s protests are feeling just too much for you, mentally prepare yourself – remember why you are doing this. It’s not for selfish reasons: it’s for the betterment of your child’s sleep habits, and the knock-on effect that it will have on their brain development and thus, their moods too. Not to mention the health of their teeth. And not forgetting, for the betterment of your own sleep too – an exhausted, sleep-deprived and drained parent has little give. (“You can’t pour from an empty cup” vibes) The old saying of you need to take care of yourself to be a better parent is not untrue. So get your head in the game.
If you’re going to do this – cold turkey or slow transitional- then no matter how tired you are, no matter how far behind you are now running in that project, no matter how much you can “no longer take the whining”, stick to your guns.
One of the worst things you could also do, is to put the rules down about no more bottle and then to cave on it yourself. Not only would you now deem any previous efforts and possibly any tears useless and unnecessary, and leave your child confused, but you would also weaken future efforts to do it. Thus, possibly making it harder on everyone.
Have a set routine around naptime and bedtime. When a child knows whats coming next, it makes it worlds easier for them to go down. Any breaks in this routine – especially at the begining when you’re trying to establish it, often have a negative effect on your end goal. Be consistent with it. Similarly, any inconsistencies in your application of no bottle rules translate to “actually, there are no real rules” to your child.
So establish your plan, then stick to it 100%!
5. Do not enter into debate: This is utterly pointless. You know it. Your kids knows it. We all know it. And yet there you find yourself trying to explain it all in a logical fashion to your tearful kid – ’cause kids totally listen to reason amidst a tantrum. Not.
If you’re honest with yourself, then you’d know that all you’re really doing is trying placate yourself here, as you’re likely feeling some form of parent guilt (that train’s never late).
But in all honesty, your kid is not trying to negotiate with you, she/he just wants the bottle back. So, after one or two quick and short sentences to wrap up the situation, don’t enter into further debate. Whilst you, as the parent, lay on the love as thick as you want to, the topic is not up for discussion.
My suggestion would be something that’s short and punchy like, eg. “You’re a big girl now who doesnt need milkies anymore. Sleepy time now, night-night.”
6. Offer the cup:
So keep in mind, we’re not trying to kick milk drinking as such,it’s more the bottle habit, which in turn often leads to your child’s broken sleep, and excessive and unncessary consumption of milk. So if a some warm milk (cow’s or otherwise) is desired/part of the bedtime routine, offer it in a cup. Preferablly one that your child cannot lie down with.
Brush teeth post milk, to ensure no decalcification caused by the sugar of formula milk, and also to break any possible sleep association with milk drinking.
7. Out of sight, out of mind:
Possibly the worst/cruelest thing you could do would be to leave those bottles hanging around the house while your child is busy with this transition. Pack them up, and out of sight.
Granted, if you have another small child around who’s still on bottle as well, this cannot be avoided. So what may help would be a little bye-bye bottle ceremony where you make a huge hoo-hah about the bottle fairies coming to fetch your kiddums beloved bottie. We didn’t do this with either of our kids. In fact, with Morgan-Lee (our eldest) we just stopped giving her the bottle one day, and that was it – no pomp and ceremony. With Parker, however…well, this blog post happened thanks to Parker. So it goes to show, all kids are different, and you as the parent will have to feel it out as to what works best for your child. But hope that you found our tips helpful.
Now, getting your kid off the bottle habit does take some thinking, planning and commitment – and very often, some tears. But the silver lining to all of this is that if you remain consistent, and genuinely and fully stick to your own or a recommended plan, then it all works out perfectly. Not to mention, the fact that whilst a transition can be hard on everyone in the house, it’s actually short-lived, and in this case, has far reaching benefits for your child and yourselves, as parents.
Good luck, folks!X