Bottles are an interesting thing. On one hand, in AP circles, they’re shunned out of existence. On the other hand, for the majority of non-APs in the world, they’re ubiquitous and always present.
Which is why I wasn’t shocked (slightly horrified, but not shocked), when a cholov yisroel formula brand came out with their new “Toddler milk.”
Why was I slightly horrified, you’re wondering?
Because bottle-feeding is NOT the same as nursing - in very very many respects. And while nursing your baby into the toddler years has benefits for both you and them, taking a bottle is not beneficial for a baby past the 12 month mark - and definitely not for a toddler.
So here are the three reasons your one year old is ready to drop the bottle
While your young infant is capable of being sustained purely on a liquid diet (yeah, I know we don’t usually think of formula/breastmilk as a liquid diet!), as he hits the 6 month mark starting solids is important for his nutrition and oral development.
In order for him to be getting the nutrients he needs, he should be building his solids consumption steadily during the second half of the first year, and be getting much - if not all - of his nutrients from solid food.
If he’s formula fed, that will mean bye-bye bottles; if he’s breastfed, that will mean some breastfeeding during the day, in addition to 3 meals of solids.
While formula is the best alternative to breastmilk for a baby who needs it, it is highly processed and is simply not the best source of nutrition for a child who can be completely sustained on real foods. Giving your child real, Gd-made foods is far better for his body than formula.
Babies love to suck. And for good reason: they’re wired to enter the feel-good, sleepy, relaxed parasympathetic state when they suck. That’s super important for them as they enter the big bad world and need to suck to get their nutrition.
But… but when they don’t need to suck to eat (their tummies, teeth and bodies are ready for some real food!), then it’s not as necessary as it used to be. That doesn’t mean they don't’ still like to suck - they do! And it still makes them feel good and sleepy and relaxed.
Many older babies and toddlers who take a bottle are using it as a vehicle to fall asleep, or a prop. I often speak to mothers of babies who used to nurse to sleep, and then, when they weaned, that turned into getting a bottle to fall asleep.
But like all props, using a bottle to fall asleep is not a replacement for good sleep hygiene. It is important for your child to learn to fall asleep on his own (he’s going to have to eventually!), and making sure that all of the Good Sleep puzzle pieces are there is crucial to his long-term sleep success.
The irony of using a bottle as a prop is that it actually makes it HARDER to pull the bottle. Since sleep is such a sensitive and private activity, we often form an emotional attachment with our props/sleep buddies (don’t get me started on my pillow!).
That means that a toddler who uses a bottle as his prop doesn’t just have a bottle as his prop — he actually has an emotional bond with his bottle (as funny as that sounds). Taking the bottle away isn’t just going to mean learning to fall asleep without it, but it’s going to mean taking away his best friend and confidante.
You’re best off setting your child up for sleep success by ensuring he has healthy sleep hygiene before the 12 month mark, and pulling his bottle once he doesn’t need it anymore.
I can’t tell you why Hashem made us with a mouth that both speaks and eats, but the way He integrated their development is fascinating.
Beginning to eat solid foods at about 6 months helps a baby move her lips, jaw, tongue and cheeks in new ways, and are actually preparing her for speech (thought that’s likely the farthest thing from your mind when you feed your baby solids!)
But beyond that - studies have shown that use of a bottle (or paci) can be detrimental to your baby’s oral facial development, and can have detrimental effects on her speech development. And if she’s using the bottle to fall asleep — aside for the points discussed above, it can also cause early cavities from the pooling liquid.
Lots of such not good stuff, yaknow?
What questions do you have about dropping your child’s bottle?