Home Baby 3 proven ways to wean your child off the bottle

3 proven ways to wean your child off the bottle

by ines.wurbs@icloud.com

Eventually, most children drink from the bottle. At some point, it will be important for us parents to wean our children off the bottle again. The problem: Most of our children don’t want that.

There are 3 ways to wean children off the bottle:

  1. The hard way (no bottle from one day to the next)
  2. Tapering off (reducing the dose)
  3. Diluting (slowly converting to water)

All three ways have advantages and disadvantages. I will explain them to you in this article.

How long do babies need a bottle at night?

First, we have to distinguish between two bottles: 

  • Our babies get the bottle as milk food, as a replacement or supplement to breastfeeding. 
  • And the bottle that we give our mostly small children in addition to baby pap or normal food.

Babies need food every 2-4 hours. Most babies (about 90%) also at night. It stays that way for the first 3-4 months. During this time, the bottle or breast serves as the staple food. It is therefore not recommended to stop taking the bottle now. But even after that, babies cannot eat baby pap or anything else from one day to the next. They need to be slowly introduced to solid food.

From the 3rd month, however, a certain rhythm has also set in for our babies. However, since the stomach is still tiny and milk food in particular does not keep you full for very long. It is not uncommon for babies of this age to have gotten used to a 3-6 hour rhythm and after this time want or even have to drink at night. For us, that means getting up 2-3 times a night. 


When babies sleep 6 hours a night, it’s called sleeping through the night.

Of course, it depends a bit on how we parents define the night. Do I mean the time I sleep as a mom or the time my baby sleeps? In any case, the decisive factor is the mother’s sleep time. In the case of bottle feeding, of course, also the father’s sleep time.


By 6 months, babies keep waking up to feed. From the 6th month, babies no longer need any milk at night, purely from a nutritional point of view.

Weaning babies from the bottle at night

So, the art of weaning babies off the bottle is to shift the phase of the day when our children get by with less milk to the night. It is often recommended to feed them, particularly good night pap, i.e. semolina or oatmeal, in the evening. This satiates much longer than other pap. However, it is not advisable to wake your child up to feed him/ her again before you go to sleep yourself. This disrupts the sleep-wake cycle and is likely to lead to sleep deprivation in your child.

Here you can see the results of a Finnish study on staying asleep and waking up during the night as a guide. Sleep quality in children up to 24 months

Infant sleep quality

Source: Finnish institute for health and welfare

How long can I give my child the bottle?

This, of course, depends entirely on your attitude. In any case, it is recommended that children be weaned from the bottle at night by the end of the 3rd year of life, as it is bad for the teeth and can cause tooth decay.

Another issue that should certainly be considered here is the social aspect. If other children, especially those in late kindergarten age, notice that a child is still drinking bottles, this can certainly lead to teasing. For children, bottle-feeding is always associated with the term baby. Accordingly, the bottle can then definitely become a topic among children.

Of course, the bottle is usually a kind of substitute satisfaction for our children. They get the security they need by familiarly sucking on the bottle. Over time, our children have learned to soothe and relax. But there are many other ways for children to achieve this. 

It is up to you, as a parent, to teach your children different behaviors and practice with them. You choose the right time. It is your job as parents to support your child in this regard and to promote the development of adapted, age-appropriate skills. Of course, this depends heavily on your family circumstances and your child. Trust in yourself, as an expert for your child, when it fits well or when the right time has not yet come. 

Bottle weaning tips

The following tips should help you wean off the bottle:

Choose the right time

Choose the “right” time to quit. Times, when your child is exposed to increased stress, is not ideal. So, the birth of a sibling, going to kindergarten or daycare.

Even during family crises, you make things unnecessarily difficult for your child and yourself. In these times of upheaval, no big new steps should be introduced. The same goes for bottle weaning. Your child needs security and relaxation. If you like, you could also say that the bottle is the relaxation technique of choice for your child.

Of course, that doesn’t mean it should stay that way. But it is better if you choose a period in which your child can go about his stable, familiar routines and does not have an increased need for security and quiet.

Introduce other routines

In general, it is important for our children that their everyday life is shaped by routines and habits. You need secure anchor points in everyday life. In other words, things of which they know exactly what to expect and how they will work. This certainty gives them a sense of security. And that, as already mentioned, is a basic need. But these routines first have to develop and prove themselves.

They also need to be discovered by our children as a way to calm down and relax. The earlier you start, the better for your child. You can then use exactly these routines to wean yourself off the bottle. They serve as a substitute for the bottle.

Try to incorporate this into your everyday life during the weaning phase. So replace the bottle-feeding time with other familiar habits, like reading, singing, cuddling, or whatever your child enjoys doing and calming them down.

I have summarized more tips on the subject of routines for children in an article for you here.

Small tools for daily routines

To listen to in the evening:
Audiobooks are ideal for going to bed in the evening. These prepare the children for sleep, and by listening to the same story several times you create an anchor point that gives our children security.

Here I have put together a couple of Tonies for you: 
Lullaby Toni Fox: with lullabies for children from the age of 3 (I think it works well much earlier). My kids generally love the sleep tonies, and we like to take them as a bedtime announcement.
Lullaby Toni Mouse: this Toni is well suited for everyone who likes the show with the mouse. 
Lullaby, Toni Sandmann: here you have different songs and stories. But it is also suitable for 2-3 years. All are suitable for children. 

For cuddling and calming down:
I have also had good experiences with MyHummy. It is good for cuddling and, if desired, makes soothing noises for children. Every object that spends your child security is perfect for that purpose.

Children love to be successful. We parents can make good use of that here too. Especially when we want to break our child’s habit, it makes sense to reward them for their effort and success. And the best thing is when success is within reach for our child. And we achieve that well with reward boards. From an age of approx. 2 years, these are very suitable.

The hard way

Well, as you’re probably already guessing, the hard way is just to take the bottle away. 

It is best to set a time for yourself when you no longer give your child the bottle.

With this method, it is still advisable:

  • A kind of final ritual to do with your child and the bottle. Especially if your child is already in kindergarten age, a little ritual to say goodbye, as a conclusion, can help your child. This can look like throwing the bottle away together, cutting off the teat, making something funny out of it, or maybe putting the bottle by the window for the sandman/fairy or whoever takes it away in exchange for a little something.
  • Tell your child in good time what you are planning and justify it.
  • Explain to your child in age-appropriate language, but still honestly, why they are no longer getting a bottle. Possible reasons here can be: that you are worried about your child’s teeth because you feel it is about time, or because you want your child to eat more solid foods.
  • Be consistent with your decision. Despite the best arguments and a great farewell, your child will probably ask for the bottle. If you chose the hard way, you have to go through with it. Of course, if you start and then give in, it will be all the harder the next time you try.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantage of this method is certainly that it is quicker, and the topic is probably ticked off within a few days.

The downside is that your child will surely ask for it more often and may get sad or angry because he/she can’t have the bottle.

It is important to comfort your child as you do this, perhaps to distract him, but also to emphasize the need.

Let it fade away

This method relies on slowly decreasing vial availability. That means you can start with two aspects: 

  • Reduce the frequency. So only give a bottle twice a day instead of three times, at some point only once, and finally not at all.
  • Decrease the amount of milk. So, simply fill the bottles with less. First only fill in half the amount, when your child has gotten used to it again only half of it, and then at some point leave it out completely.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantage is that your child will slowly get used to less and so can gradually look for substitutes and discover other ways of calming down. In general, of course, this method meets with less resistance from our children.

The disadvantage is clear, that this is likely to take several weeks.


The dilution of the bottle contents is also praised by many parents. Depending on what you fill in, you can also prepare it with more water or simply dilute the milk or something similar with more and more water. Or just fill it with water. Many children then simply stop using the bottle “by themselves” because they don’t like it or only take a few puffs.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantage is that the teeth are at least not damaged by the milk or whatever you put in the bottle.

The disadvantage is that your child will probably notice the difference, and you will certainly encounter resistance. But you can also prepare yourself and think about how you want to react in such a situation.

How do I wean my child (from 12 months on) off the bottle at night?

Especially the bottle at night is a sleep killer for many parents, myself included. From the 6th month, our children no longer need food at night. They can “survive” without food for a long time now. But of course, it also became a habit. Our babies like sucking and the taste. As mentioned before, it calms them down.

Of course, you can also transfer all of the above methods to the night bottle without any problems.

An important tip that will make things easier for you:


Set the amount of the bottle filling the night before, and don’t get into the habit of refilling the bottle overnight if needed. Your child gets used to it and then demands it too.

In this case, it is better if you also use other routines to accompany your child back to sleep. Putting your hand on it, a short song, mobile, or something else that calms your child and, above all, that might help your child to calm down later.

Wean toddlers off the bottle

Bottles and pacifiers are prevalent sleeping aids for small children. The rhythmic sucking has a calming effect on our children; they fall asleep more easily and quickly.

In this case, it is of course particularly difficult to start the weaning phase. Your child will most likely protest against it. And because our children are tired in the evening and the control of their emotions is still in training anyway, this can lead to great anger and/or crying attacks, especially in the evening before falling asleep.

If your child is old enough to understand it, i.e. from kindergarten age I would say, you can try to work out a common substitute action in addition to the above methods, especially in the evening.

So: “We’ll leave out the bottle now, but what do you think if I read a little extra story” or of course other extras. You can also let your child freely make suggestions, which you then decide together if you both consider them suitable. You can also make small concessions to your child instead. In other words, allow something that they weren’t allowed to do before, but which is not of great importance for you, but is for your child.

For example, your favorite tractor or your favorite doll can now be taken to bed as a substitute for drinking from a bottle. Or: there is now an extra night light or the bed is redesigned with a small bed tunnel. Anything your child has always wanted to do with bedtime that you haven’t allowed yet is a possibility.

Be aware

Rewards have no place here.

Implementing behavioral changes is certainly exhausting and requires a certain level of control, but a reward for everyday things would be rather inappropriate. Praise is a better fit, but in this case, you keep reminding yourself of the bottle, which is of course also a disadvantage.


We parents are free to wean our kids off the bottle, but of course, it should be done following the preferences and temperament of our children so that we don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for our children and ourselves. Just run through the situation in your head, how the first day, evening, or night could go if you choose this or that method. Then decide on the option that seems most suitable for you and your child, and just give it a try when the time seems right for you.

Above all, you have to feel comfortable with the decision because you have to support your child and accompany it authentically in breaking the habit. This means that if you have doubts about it yourself, you will not be able to convincingly convey the need to your child, and you will not be able to withstand any resistance.  

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