When Should I Stop Giving My Baby a Bottle?

Many babies become quite attached to their beloved bottles. The bottle provides sustenance, of course, but the sucking motion can soothe your little one, too. That doesn't mean he should continue using a bottle into the toddler years, however. There are numerous health reasons why you should wean your baby from the bottle sooner rather than later.

Age Recommendation

Children have the ability to drink from a cup around 12 months, notes KidsHealth 1. Bottles are convenient for feeding newborns and infants because young babies aren't able to hold their heads up well enough to effectively drink from a cup. The bottle's nipple also mimics the shape and feel of a mother's nipple. But as your baby gets older, the bottle isn't as necessary. He should stop getting a bottle between 12 and 24 months, according to the American Association of Pediatrics 3.

Dental Problems

Sucking on a baby bottle -- especially while sleeping -- can contribute to tooth decay, according to the American Dental Association 3. The sugar in breast milk and formula can speed decay. When your baby drinks from a bottle, those sugars coat his teeth and combine with the bacteria in his mouth. When that happens for prolonged amounts of time, tooth decay is more likely. While your child's baby teeth will eventually fall out, taking good care of them now will ensure his permanent teeth come in correctly and help teach him the importance of good oral hygiene.

Obesity Risk

Even though the breast milk and formula you put in your baby's bottle are nutritious, continuing to drink from the bottle past age 1 can increase his risk of obesity later in childhood. A 2011 study published in the "Journal of Pediatrics" reported that children drinking from a bottle at age 2 were more likely to be obese at age 5 1/2 compared to peers who stopped the bottle sooner 4. Nearly 23 percent of children who used a bottle at age 2 were obese at 5 1/2 compared to 16.1 percent of children who were not drinking from a bottle at age 2.

Tips for Stopping

As your baby approaches his first birthday, begin weaning him from the bottle. Start by replacing one bottle each day with a sippy cup. Gradually replace the bottle with the sippy cup more often during the day. Starting slow will help your baby adjust to the cup, as well as say goodbye to the bottle in the weeks to come. Take your child to the store and let him help you pick a big-kid sippy cup. That will encourage him to use the cup instead of the bottle. Don't let your child take a bottle to bed, even if it's empty. That encourages his attachment to the bottle and makes it harder for him to give it up.