Mom-to-Mom is a regular series offering real-life driven answers to your real questions about parenting and childcare.
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Q: My 18-month-old really loves his bottle. He drinks out of a sippy cup, but enjoys the comfort of the bottle before bed and when he first wakes up. He doesn’t suck his thumb, have a blankie, or use a pacifier. I hate the idea of forcing him to stop the bottle, but the pediatrician keeps making me feel like I’m doing something wrong. Also, my daycare center is refusing to offer my son a bottle, even though it’s how he falls asleep best. What do you recommend I tell my daycare and when did you stop giving the bottle? – Patricia, Ashburn, Va.
A: All doctors and parenting books offer guidelines about the best time to start your baby on solids, the best time to potty train, the best time to take away the bottle, the pacifier, etc. The important thing to remember is that these are guidelines. No two children are the same, so it’s impossible to have one set of rules for all children. I always hate when pediatricians make you feel like you are doing something wrong simply for not adhering to their timetable. The thing I always ask myself when confronted with one of these guidelines is why this recommendation is being made. Is it a safety issue? In the case of the bottle, this is a personal choice not an issue of safety. The truth is if you remove the bottle or the pacifier before 16- to 18-months it is much easier than waiting until they are older and more attached. But, just because you still allow your child to have a bottle once or even twice a day does not mean you are doing something wrong. My children all clung to their bottle for comfort until well past 18 months. I didn’t allow them to fall asleep with their bottle or take one to bed, but I did let them have one after dinner and if they were not feeling well. In many cultures, babies are allowed to use a bottle for years. This is not a crime, nor will it stunt your child’s growth. You just have to use commonsense. A child that has a bottle or pacifier hanging from their mouth all day long will take longer to speak. A child that depends on drinking the majority of their calories will be pickier about eating. A child that never learns to fall asleep without a bottle will be harder to put to bed. These are the reasons to transition your child, not because you feel pressure from a your daycare or doctor.
In terms of your daycare, if you adamantly disagree with their guidelines then you always have a choice to make a change. The question is whether this issue is a deal breaker for you or not. Is having your son give up the bottle while at daycare that much of a hardship? If so, is this hardship more about you or your son? I have found that children give up the bottle and pacifier much easier in my daycare. Parents are often surprised to see how easily their children let go of these things with me. Sometimes this is the incentive they need to also make the change at home. You will find that as parents we cling to these sources of comfort as much as our children (perhaps to extend their babyhood?). You will find if you make a decision to make a change and stick to it, you and your child will get through it just fine. Good luck! #MomtoMom
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