From time to time, I have the pleasure to work with a baby with special needs and helping them sleep independently. It’s always a real treat!
One question that often comes up is about the bottle.
After 1 year of age, babies no longer need a bottle, or milk/formula for that matter. Mothers who wish to breast feed after that age are very much encouraged to do so, but for those moms who formula feed or wish to wean there’s no real need to replace with a bottle.
Yvette O’Dowd, breastfeeding expert, explains that there’s no real evidence that continued formula use past 1 year helps to meet nutritional needs. In many cases, parents find that their child seems to be a picky eater or has a poor appetite.
That’s because they’re getting full on liquids!
Bottles are a common “sleep prop” and are being used way after the age of 12 months. Many babies and toddlers use bottle feeding as something that they need to fall asleep — just like you and I need a pillow and a blanket.
If your child has low mobility or cannot use their hands on their own, they will need you to keep putting the bottle in their mouth at night. That might require having to take them out of the bed, or bringing them out of the room. All of which will disrupt the quality of your child’s sleep. Some children who do not feel well may have similar problems.
For kids who don’t have mobility issues, it can still cause a lot of disruption. Your child many times a night will be waking fully, trying to find that bottle, and will get back to sleep. Or, if they need milk in that bottle they will call for parents. Even if they seem short, these disruptions can greatly affect the quality of your child’s sleep. And, it affects your sleep, too!
Long term bottle use can also lead to dental issues, like tooth decay. This decay is caused by natural sugars (including those in milk) clinging to teeth and eating away at tooth enamel. Dentists encourage parents to try and cut the bottle as soon as possible to prevent this issue.
And, your child with special needs is desperate for a good night’s rest —
Depending on your baby’s age and weight, they might still need a feed or two at night. If your child is older, but you pediatrician has advised you to keep a feed in, it’s best to follow doctor’s orders. However, if your baby is of a healthy weight by 6-7 months, they don’t actually need a night time feed any more.
If your baby has switched to solids, they will get better nutrition out of the foods they eat. Give your baby calcium rich foods like broccoli, leafy green veggies, and more. These foods have much more calcium per serving than milk or formula.
It can be a challenging transition, but a great one once you get there. In one of my toughest cases where the bottle had to be taken at night, the baby was getting up to 50 oz of formula! He would wake up every 1-2 hours asking for the bottle. Once parents finally took it out of the routine at night, their child stopped using the bottle completely, and started to eat 3 times as many solids during the day.
It’s a great achievement to graduate from the bottle — Let me help you get there!