The secret to Calm and Confident Parenting. An official Gina Ford website

From Bottles to Beakers
By Laura Simmons

Aren't babies wonderful? The way they seem to go from one day to the next constantly changing and learning new things about themselves and the world around them. I've really loved watching my babies grow from being totally dependent little creatures to fully-formed miniature people! Maybe that explains why I was so keen to progress both Rachel and Fraser from bottles to beakers and from purees to lumpy foods, as I am always excited to move them on to the next stage and see no reason to keep them as babies. That's not to say that I think that parents who continue to use bottles are subconsciously holding on to the baby stage. I think it's one of those things that parents often forget to do and, before you know it, you have a toddler who's having large bottle feeds twice a day and stubbornly refusing to drink out of a beaker or even refusing milk altogether once the bottles are taken away.

In order to help other members who want to make the move from bottles to beakers, this is how it worked for me and my little ones.

Six months

Rachel was having milk feeds from a bottle for about 2 weeks, after I stopped breastfeeding at 5.5 months. She'd always had expressed milk from a bottle at the late feed (which she dropped when she was just over 5 months, after commencing weaning at 20 weeks). As soon as she reached 6 months, I encouraged her to have her breakfast milk in a soft-spouted bottle-to-cup trainer bottle. Admittedly, she wasn't keen at first and for a few days I offered her all she would take in the new trainer bottle (normally 2-3 fl oz) and then gave her the rest in her baby bottle so she wouldn't be missing out on much-needed nutrition. By the end of the first week, however, she was taking all her breakfast milk from the trainer bottle. I continued with this plan, and by the end of the following week (6.5 months) she was having all her milk feeds in trainer bottles.
In contrast, Fraser had been mix-fed from birth and exclusively formula-fed from 4 months. I was a little concerned that this familiarity with bottles would mean he would be more resistant to change. I kept my approach the same however and, by 6.5 months, he too was taking all of his milk from the soft-spouted trainer bottles.

Nine months

By 9 months Rachel and Fraser were both used to having all their milk sitting in their highchair, holding it themselves using the handles provided. I'm a firm believer that babies of this age need to develop their independence and that not allowing them to exercise this desire leads to frustration and, in many cases, milk/food refusal.
Although they had both taken well to the new trainer bottles, I was very aware that the soft-spouts were not actually that different to a conventional teat. I was keen to continue our progress and work towards ditching bottles altogether. So my next step was to offer Rachel her morning milk in a hard-spouted beaker (without a valve) similar to the one that she would take water from. As before, she was a little resistant, and initially would only take a couple of fl oz of milk before refusing the rest. I appreciated that this was a learning process for her and gave her whatever she had refused in her usual trainer bottle, allowing her to make the transition slowly. I found that it was crucial to keep the trainer bottle well out of sight while offering the beaker as Rachel would immediately refuse the new cup if she could see her beloved bottle! Having said that, the transition went fairly smoothly and by 10 months she was having all her milk in a beaker with a hard spout. Result!

Fraser was less keen to make the change and initially refused point-blank to take his milk in the new beaker. This surprised me as he was happier to take water from a beaker than Rachel had been, at this age. Deciding that he perhaps needed a more gentle transition from bottle to beaker, I ordered hard spouts for the bottle-to-cup trainer bottles he was used to. Fortunately he approved of these! After a month of happily taking all his milk through the hard spouts I attempted again to make the move to a conventional beaker. By 10.5 months Fraser was having both his breakfast and bedtime milk in a beaker. Success!

Further thoughts and conclusions

As Gina suggests, the amount of milk taken did decrease when we moved from bottles to beakers. Rachel and Fraser both went from drinking 8 fl oz bottles to being content with having 5-6 fl oz milk in a beaker. Also, interestingly, both Rachel and Fraser phased out their 2.30 pm milk shortly after I introduced hard-spouted beakers. It was almost as if having to work at it and get the milk out of a beaker was too much work for milk that they didn't really want.

I also kept sterilising their trainer bottles and latterly their beakers, until they were each a year old and we made the move to cow's milk. The current evidence suggests that this is the safest way to handle any receptacle coming into repeated contact with formula milk.

Making progress from beakers: Rachel started drinking all fluids, including her breakfast milk, in an open cup around the time of her second birthday. Bedtime milk, admittedly, took a bit longer but by 2.5 yrs I encouraged her to give her 'baby cups' away to the newborn next door (cruel mummy!) and she's had all her milk in a 'big-girl cup' ever since. I intend to do exactly the same with Fraser later this year.

Finally, I think the main reason why moving from bottles to beakers has been so easy for us is that I started making the move at 6 months. It may seem early (when Gina recommends that bottles are phased out by a year) but I really think that it helped the transition. Also important was the fact that I kept persevering, even when they would only take a couple of fl oz at a time! As with all aspects of parenting, consistency is key!


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