Did you know that if an infant uses a bottle for too long it may cause many problems for their future health and development? It’s a fact that problems with talking, decayed and crooked teeth, increased risk of infection, fussy eating, anaemia, constipation, tantrums and not wanting to grow up may all be affected by long-term bottle use.
During the first few months, babies have a natural sucking reflex; however as babies grow they need to learn how to make different movements with their mouth so that they learn how to speak and eat properly. Introducing a baby to a cup, rather than a bottle, allows the infant to start to learn how to swallow liquids rather than just sucking them from the bottle.
A good time to introduce babies to a cup is when they are offered their first solid food at 4-6 months old. The best cup to choose is a cup without a lid, as its use encourages babies to develop a sipping action when drinking. Failing this, the next best choice is a cup with a lid that allows liquid to flow freely from it. Cups with non-spill lids are not ideal as infants still have to suck liquid from them.
Once a cup has been introduced, bottle use should be reduced. Start by removing them whenever possible during the day. Then restrict them to before bedtime, feeding baby and taking the bottle away before sleep time.
Be patient and keep positive. Spills and accidents are part of the learning process. Don’t forget to give babies plenty of encouragement to learn how to drink from a cup. Remember, the aim is to make the changeover from bottle to cup by baby’s first birthday.
By Charlotte Johnston, Senior Community Dietitian, HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster.
For more information call Community Nutrition & Dietetics at (044 ) 9353220 or email [email protected].