Breaking the Nightly Bottle Habit
All babies have a Sleep Prop.
Think of it as something that “drives” your little one into Sleepy Town. It’s great to have a tool that can help with that, but what’s troublesome is when their body naturally exits this vacation. We wake up multiple times a night and know how to put ourselves back to sleep. Majority of the time we don’t even remember waking up!
For babies and children who haven’t learned independent skills yet, they depend on YOU to put them back in their Sleep Prop car and drift back to Sleepy Town.
The majority of babies have a bottle sleep prop.
But how do you know if YOUR child has this prop?
If your baby is over 4 months old and 14lbs, and takes one or more nighttime bottles, they have developed a bottle habit.
So, how do you go about breaking that habit??? Good question!
When you are in the process of bedtime routine, it’s fine to include the bottle. Knowing your child is going to bed on a full belly is important. To begin bedtime, you could start with a bath, and then pajamas and then her bottle and a story or two.
What you really want to avoid is giving her the bottle until she falls asleep or putting her in her crib with the bottle. You do not want your baby to fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth.
The reason for that is when she wakes up in the middle of the night she thinks she needs that bottle again to fall back asleep. If you rush in with her bottle and feed her to sleep or put it into the crib, she sucks herself back to sleep with the bottle.
Not only is that hard for her sleep strategies, it is also very damaging to her teeth that are coming in and her digestive system (babies should never have drink a bottle while lying flat). So, maybe start the bottle a little earlier in your routine.You can have a bath, then her bottle, then brush her teeth and then back for some stories, but you should be putting her into the crib awake and without a bottle.
My clients who work with me to break this habit are given concrete strategies to deal with our training time. It takes that long to guide her on the right track, and learning a new strategy for getting herself to sleep.
Again, once they are about 4 months/14 lbs, she really does need to start connecting the steps that are involved in putting herself to sleep independently so that she is not relying on that bottle! Otherwise, she will most likely keep waking for that bottle. If it’s not fixed it could go on well into the second year! So you really want to make sure you break this habit now.
It will take some time, but as you gently deny your child the bottle prop, you can go in and encourage her to find a new way to sleep. It is going to be better for her in the sense she is not falling asleep with the bottle and finding an independent way to put herself back down. It may take about two weeks, but it is definitely for the best.
If you have a little one using the bottle as a pacifier, let’s talk! It would be my pleasure to help you come up with a strategy to break this habit and get your baby sleeping 11-12 hours each night.
Your Pediatric Sleep Consultant