Transitioning from Bottle to Cup

by | Sep 14, 2020 | Feeding Therapy

“When should I stop bottle feeding and transition to a cup?” This is a very common question new parents have. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning from a bottle before 18 months. Prolonged use of a bottle can cause tooth decay, bite malformation, immature tongue placement, immature swallow, and cause your child to drink more milk then they need.

Pick a Strategy:

1. Cold Turkey:

The fastest way to remove bottle feedings is to remove the bottle from their daily routine. You can choose to drop one bottle feeding at a time or get rid of them all at once. This approach can be difficult for the child and parent and requires a lot of commitment. If your child questions the milk being offered in a new cup it is recommended that you give them proper reasoning (i.e. you are a big boy/girl and only babies use a bottle)

2. Gradual Change:

There are multiple ways to gradually change from a bottle to a cup. The first way is to introduce a sippy cup, straw cup, or open cup around 6 months or when table foods are first introduced. This will allow plenty of time for your child to become comfortable holding a different cup and learn how to drink from a different cup (this may take multiple cups and weeks to find a preferred cup alternative). You can then start to offer milk only in that cup and water only in the bottle. The second way to gradually transition is to water down the milk in each bottle (i.e. start with 4oz of milk and 1oz of water and increase to 1oz of milk and 4 oz of water). Allow a few days for each milk/water mixture to make the transition more gradual. This will decrease their interest in the bottle and you can then offer all milk in the preferred cup (i.e. sippy, straw, or open style). The third way is to reduce the amount of milk offered in each bottle and offer more milk in the preferred cup. The fourth way is to reduce the amount of bottles given per day. First eliminate the bottles that are not before nap/bedtime and encourage more table foods during those feedings. Save the bedtime bottle for last since it is often the most difficult for a child to give up. Also, establish a nighttime routine before removing the bedtime bottle. Between 12-18 months your child should not require a bottle at night, even though they may disagree. 

3. Timing

Many parents choose to introduce cup drinking when their child begins eating solids and drinking water around 6 months. If your child is still nursing at 12-18 months, skip the bottle entirely and go straight to a cup while weaning. During meals in a high chair, present the new cup and show your child how to use it. Because your child is most familiar with milk, it may be helpful to present your child’s milk in the cup initially before offering water. It can be hard but ignore any signs of resistance (fussing, tossing the cup, etc.) and give enthusiastic praise when your child attempts to use the new cup correctly.

How much liquid does my child need?” General guidance recommends no more than 16-24 ounces per day for children over 12 months to allow your child to also eat enough food and not fill up too much on milk. There are exceptions to this, please contact your pediatrician, dietitian, IBCLC, or feeding therapist for further information. 

If you have any questions about your child’s feeding development please call T.E.A.M 4 Kids to schedule an evaluation at our Surprise or Peoria locations. 


Megan Macilroy, M.S., CCC-SLP