Teach a baby to drink...
July 30, 2010 2:46 PM   Subscribe

One-year-old kid has minimal interest in sippy cups, outright refuses to hold her own bottle. We would like to remedy this.

Little baby gnutron is a fantastic, spunky one-year-old on the brink of toddlerhood. She loves feeding herself finger foods. However, she has shown very little interest in feeding herself liquids.

She has been mostly bottle-fed over the past year. She will play with her bottle, especially once she has emptied it, but has zero interest in holding the bottle while she is fed in mom or dad's lap. Any attempt to entice her to hold the bottle during feeding results in screaming. Clearly, she expects us to hold the bottle for her.

We have tried just about every variation of sippy cup and contents. Straw cup, no straw, formula, cow's milk, juice, water. She will play with a sippy cup and often drink a few sips of it's contents, but she shows no real interest in getting at what's inside the cup.

We would like to start the process of bottle weaning. I've already got her down to 3 bottles of milk a day instead of 4. But I can't imagine going any further until she willingly drinks from a cup. Part of me knows that she will get it eventually, when she's ready...but I would like to help expedite the process if possible.

Any suggestions or anecdotes about how you convinced your kid to drink from a cup or hold their own bottle?

Tangentially, she walks like a pro is completely bipedal, way ahead of most kids her age in that regard. I think a lot of her developmental energy over the past few months has been devoted to figuring out the whole walking thing.
posted by gnutron to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No toddler will starve themselves to death. If you want them to drink by themselves, stop holding the bottle. If they haven't have a drink after 2 days maybe think about resetting your target for this.
posted by GuyZero at 2:53 PM on July 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sounds like she's training you, not the other way around. Right now, when she screams, you stop trying and hold the bottle for her, which only reinforces that screaming is the way to get what she wants.

Put her hands on the bottle while feeding her and slowly let go. If she drops it, it falls, and let her scream for a minute. Pick the bottle up, put it back in her hands, and repeat until it clicks.

Yes, you're going to have to put up with some fits until she gets it, but such is the price of parenthood.
posted by chrisamiller at 2:54 PM on July 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

What's wrong with holding the bottle for her? Give her an open cup with a splash of water -- I liked the Steadycup but any small plastic glass will do -- and 'bottle-nurse' until she's done with it.

If she is wholly unfamiliar with the open-cup concept, start by letting her mooch out of your own drinks.
posted by kmennie at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2010

If she is wholly unfamiliar with the open-cup concept, start by letting her mooch out of your own drinks.

Yes. This has worked for all three of my kids. They were all uninterested in their own drinks, but would manage to work a giant full glass to sneak whatever I had. I had a 9 month old learn to drink out of a straw when I wasn't looking to steal my coke at a restaurant. Obviously, I don't mean give her coke, but even my water is always better than theirs.

There's also a straw thingy for bottles so that they can drink sitting up, if you haven't tried that.
posted by artychoke at 3:03 PM on July 30, 2010

My kid (now 15 months) did the same thing. We went cold turkey on the bottles and only offered her the sippy, the Nuby. She got over the lack of bottles in a day.
posted by sutel at 3:14 PM on July 30, 2010

Response by poster: She is definitely interested drinking from open cups. But she also interested in dumping them all over the floor (and herself). And then she'll get frustrated when we won't give her the cup. I guess persistence is probably the answer.
posted by gnutron at 3:16 PM on July 30, 2010

Have you tried a sippy cup without a valve? I assume you use the highest flow nipples on her bottles, and sometimes it is harder to get liquids from a sippy with valve than it is from a fast flow nipple. She could be frustrated with how slow the liquid is coming out of the cup.
posted by peep at 3:20 PM on July 30, 2010

If you are not germophobes, I found one of the best ways to get baby ambrosia interested in his sippy cup was to have a play date. At every play date I've been to, the other kid's sippy cup is always more appealing, and see another kid go after their own sippy cup often triggers unexpected territoriality. But you have to not mind kids sharing their sippy cups. I kind of figure that at a play date, everything gets shared regardless, but that might not work for you. It is, however, one of those times when you can use peer group behavior to your own benefit.
posted by ambrosia at 3:28 PM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just move to cups.

for future parental readers - start letting kiddo take sips from your cup early.
posted by k8t at 4:07 PM on July 30, 2010

Maybe sweeten the deal with a really cool sippy cup? Or a really cool straw?

But, after eight or so (foster and my own) babies and toddlers, I can say that you sometimes just have to let the kid scream. Hand bottle feeding her after she screams is just a positive reinforcement of that behavior in that situation.

If a sippy cup is the next developmental step for her, then just start offering her her drinks in a sippy cup. "You're not a little baby anymore. You need to drink from a big girl cup." Each meal offer it to her. If she declines it, reassure her that you are there and would love give her the sippy cup as soon as she wants it. Set it where she can see it and say something like, "That's okay. It'll be right here when you want it. Yummy juice!"

And if she screams for whatever you agree is too long, give her an appropriate logical consequence for screaming. "Your screaming is hurting our ears. We need to move away while you are screaming. But we'll be close by." Move just far enough so that she senses your withdrawal but (of course) don't leave her unattended completely. And when she stops screaming, come back. "I'm glad you quit screaming. I like to be able to eat with you."

And offer her the sippy cup again as above. Repeat as necessary.

Once you decide together on a course of action, apply it and stick with it. Give in even once and you create a variable reinforcement schedule which may make her scream longer to get her way the next time.

Don't worry, she will not die of thirst. She will drink things your way eventually if that's the only option offered. And if you are consistent and don't give in.

That said, maybe you can find some positive reinforcement for using the sippy cup? Maybe something that gives her the holding that she craves from the bottle feeding?
posted by cross_impact at 4:44 PM on July 30, 2010

I have found cups to be a fun part of parenthood - ignoring the learning curve for everybody involved.

Cups are way more interesting to them than sippy cups - that's because you use it. In your toddler's eyes, you have placed a higher value on a cup. Regardless, that doesn't mean she has the coordination to use it properly.

In our house (starting around the same time), we played drink with a cup. Sure, on occasion we put a little milk in the cup for him, but generally that involved spilt milk, a choking kid (not fun) and a necessary bath, but it satisfied his curiosity.

We moved the cup to the bath - in the context of rinsing his mouth after brushing his teeth. (We drain the tub and hand him a toothbrush with training toothpaste. He mimics us and we help him shake his arm to brush his teeth. At the end, he gets a small sippy cup of water, he takes a sip, sometimes coughs a little, and then pours a little for his hommies.

We also have begun the concept of dunking graham crackers in milk for a special treat - but only recently and he's 21 months.

Sometimes it takes a few different varieties of sippy cups - we've been through 2 or 3 different styles before we found one that he liked, and we've recently had to change styles because... he got bored of it.

Ultimately though, good luck. Every kid is different...
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:45 PM on July 30, 2010

I used to work at a daycare where this was an issue. I had three babies all just under a year who would not hold their own bottle.

I ended up giving them each one bottle at a set time and the rest of the afternoon the had to drink from sippy cups or I would put them in just a diaper on our linoleum floor with some water in a small open cup. There was plenty of dumping it on the floor but I preferred cleaning up small spills to holding the bottles for them, especially since I couldn't hold three bottles at once.

You mention she holds wants you to hold the bottle while in your lap. Will she hold it when not in your lap? It may just be the ritual of the thing that's making the transition hard.

My mom taught me to use a sippy cup by putting Spite in it. Frowned upon now but I liked it so much I started refusing other beverage containers in the hopes I could get the spite. It only had sprite every 3rd or so time. Intermittent re-enforcement really works.
posted by Saminal at 4:47 PM on July 30, 2010

It's not clear whether you've tried a normal/adult cup with a (short) straw in it. If not, try it. Baby Barclay started drinking from a cup with a straw at 6 months, and it's been really helpful. He also wouldn't hold his own bottle. This won't help at bedtime, but it's good for meals and other times.

I found that most sippy cups were too hard to drink from (you have to suck too hard), so we ditched the one or two that we bought.
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:59 PM on July 30, 2010

The family I babysit for is going through bottle weaning with a two year old, who's more stubborn and harder to train than when she was just a year old. We've started halving the milk in bottle with water and then giving her the sippy cup with full milk. The kid quickly realized that the good stuff was in her sippy cup and made the switch.

I agree with everyone that your kid will turn to the sippy cup before she even remotely risks suffering from thirst. cross_impact's advice would really help in the case of our full blown toddler, but most of it's far, far beyond the grasp of a one year old, who's still essentially a baby in respects to her ability to understand and appreciate logic. Your daughter is way too little to care about being a big girl or whether her screaming is hurting your ears. But if you're going to hardline this approach, definitely don't give in and hand feed the bottle when she starts howling.
posted by zoomorphic at 5:23 PM on July 30, 2010

Mine couldn't handle the sucking aspects of the sippy cup at that age. Apparently it's different from the bottle, and the valve system was making it too hard for her to get enough liquid out (any, in the beginning) to be satisfying/enticing. We ended up taking the valves out (they generally pop out if you tug from the inside). The down side for that was that they are then no longer spill-proof.

As for holding it: yes, the wrapping her hands around it each time you hand it to her worked for us. You might also check and see if she's understanding gravity. My otherwise bright, super-motor-advanced (walked unaided at 7 months) child was --AND STILL IS AT 3!-- a little stupid about how bottle/cup contents respond to gravity. If every time your bunchkin tries to hold the bottle to feed herself the liquid ends up at the bottom rather than coming to her through the nipple ...well, you can see where that might discourage her from wanting to hold the bottle to eat. Good luck!
posted by Ys at 6:46 PM on July 30, 2010

I'm going through this right now.

I refused to give the kid any more bottles after I realized that he would purposely turn it upside down and squirt it.

I gave him an excellent sippy cup, and he refuses to use it...when I'm looking.

I give baby the cup when he's hungry, and he cries for his bottle. I leave him alone with it...and he drinks it all.

Your kid is training you...its not that your child can't drink from it...the child just PREFERS not to.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:46 PM on July 30, 2010

"But she also interested in dumping them all over the floor (and herself)."

One suggestion I saw (but didn't use myself, though I still think it's a great idea) was to use shot glasses (ideally plastic ones) for a beginning cup-user to practice drinking from. Easier to hold and not much to spill when then inevitably spill.

(As for the sippy cup valves, Tupperware sells a sippy cup that's like the no-valve take-and-toss cups but sturdier ... I vastly prefer these.)

For bottle-holding, we had Mini McGee recline in the Boppy and helped him hold the bottle. At first he only wanted to hold one-handed. Then he got two on but we had to still use a finger to hold the weight of the bottle up. We tried to use as little of our hands as possible, and to do it NOT in our lap ... in our lap was snuggle time and he STILL expects us to hold his drink (he is 14 months and drinks exclusively from sippy cups with no problems ... unless he's snuggling, in which case it's clearly our job). If he let go, I'd let it fall, etc. At first I provided a fair amount of steadying and support, with less and less as time went by. It was also easier with a 5 oz. bottle than an 10 oz. bottle ... the big bottles were heavier and I think just a little overwhelming.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:05 PM on July 30, 2010

(I meant to say, Mini McGee was a late bottle holder because he was mostly breastfed, so he didn't get a lot of practice with bottles and thought we were nuts when we wanted him to hold it. There was definitely some brief despair that I'd be going with him to college to tip up his soda for him to drink.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 PM on July 30, 2010

Okay, so I can't remember the specific age. But, here's my story:

I was at an airport with my son, who has a twin sister. I was squatting, holding his bottle for him while he drank, with him sitting in his car seat (even though I was alone with him, this was our habit, because typically I'd feed both at the same time this way.) This is going on, and I look up, and there's a mother pushing her twins -- obviously younger than mine -- and they're happily holding their bottles!

Now, up until then, I'd assumed that they'd eventually outgrow the refusal to hold their bottles, but seeing this other mother's kids made me want to teach 'em the same thing. So I spend the next week, at every feed, doing this regimen:

1. Feed them one at a time, lifting their arms up above their heads. At first, they fought it (trying to pull 'em down), then they started letting me do it. Then...

2. Feed them one at a time, lifting their arms up above their heads, then bringing them back down on the bottle so their arms were adjacent (holding their hands together above the bottle.) That was easy enough, so...

3. Feed them one at a time, lifting their arms up above their heads, then lowering their arms to touch the bottle -- then letting their hands rest atop the bottle. By now they'd long since stopped pulling their arms away, so it was easy -- and so I let go of their hands.

Now this whole time I was still holding the bottle with the other hand, and a week or so had passed. So step 4: I started lowering the bottle, slowly. They'd get annoyed, and since their hands were there, they'd pull the bottle back up. Done!

From that point on, I'd set the bottles up, put their hands on it, and sit and watch them eat, helping them if they dropped the bottles. It was such a major luxury at the time!
posted by davejay at 10:25 PM on July 30, 2010

actually, now that I'm thinking of it, I think I pushed their arms up from below, by the elbows, rather than pulling them up by their hands. THe memory, it gets foggy after a few years.
posted by davejay at 10:27 PM on July 30, 2010

I still remember when I was 2 (I had very early memories) and my mom took me off the bottle completely. I got one bottle a night and every night, after that bottle, we went to the garbage can together and I threw my bottle away. She made it a very positive "you're a big girl now!" sort of thing.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:22 PM on July 30, 2010

My occupational therapist sister is very anti-zippy cup-something to do with it making it harder to transition to a regular cup or straw.

Just accept that it's going to be messy. If it's summer where you are, put baby outside in a diaper with a cup and let him figure it out. Bathtub is another good place. Our youngest has figured out a regular straw surprisingly quickly-having something yummier than normal the first time, like juice, can help.

Love the shot glass idea.
posted by purenitrous at 9:32 AM on July 31, 2010

Mmmm.... three times a day, lying in Mommy or Daddy's lap, all warm and comfortable and secure, drinking from a bottle that Mommy or Daddy has always held... what's not to like? It sounds like a perfectly delightful ritual to me, and understandable that baby doesn't want any details changed. Trying to modify this ritual or discontinuing it could be rather traumatic for her, if she equates it with consistency, well-being, physical closeness to Mom and Dad, and their love for her. You might try an alternative ritual that provides that, but doesn't require a bottle.
posted by exphysicist345 at 12:33 AM on August 1, 2010

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