How to wean your baby or toddler off the bottle

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
March 30, 2023
two babies lying

So your little one has come of age and now you are wondering how to get your toddler off the bottle. For a lucky few mothers, it will be as simple as going cold turkey. For the majority of you, it will be much harder.

Fortunately, there are many tips for getting your baby off the bottle. Work through the list below and eventually, you will have your baby drinking out of a cup in no time.

Start early

If your baby knows what a cup is and how it works then he will be much happier to drink out of it when presented with it instead of his baby bottle.

In the weeks leading up to the change over let your baby use the cup you plan on having him drinking out of in the bath. Let him hold it, pour water out of it, drink from it, even make a mess with it! By being familiar with the cup he will be much more likely to accept it when offered a drink from it.

Experiment with different cups

Babies are little individuals. You may need to experiment with a few different types of cups before your little one settles on one that he likes.

When introducing new cups, be sure to watch how your baby interacts with it. If he has trouble getting the liquid out or rejects the cup completely it may be time to try a new one. You may find the problem is as simple as your baby not liking the feel of the cup in his mouth.

Sippy Cups

Pink and blue baby sippy cups

So your baby loves the bottle and shows no interest in transitioning to cup. An interim solution is a sippy cup (a spill proof cup). A sippy cup is a lot closer to a bottle than an opened mouth cup and many babies will happily accept the transition without too much fuss.

Some experts advise against offering a sippy cup altogether. Instead, they recommend you leap straight into an open-mouthed cup. The logic behind this is that you will eventually need to ween your baby off the sippy cup as well, effectively adding an extra step to the entire weaning process.

Regular cups

Hello Kitty baby cups
Image Source: Flickr

Some babies are headstrong and simply do not like the use of sippy cups or trainer cups. In this case, you can offer them a regular cup. Plastic is preferable as you can be sure that this cup is going fall to over often.

To overcome the spills, only fill the cup with an inch or so of liquid. This way, if the cup is spilled, mess won't be a huge problem.

Some mothers report great success using a regular cup with a twisty straw. Kids love to watch the liquid spiral through the straw before finally entering their mouth.

Sports water bottles

Sports water bottle

So you have tried the sippy cup and regular cup without any luck? Some mothers say report great success with a sports water bottle. Just be sure to check that the bottle is BPA free as some products targeted at adults still contain these nasties.


It is a little secret that your baby loves to imitate the things you do. When introducing your baby to his new cup, make sure you have his attention before taking a mouthful from his cup. If your baby sees you drinking from his cup then chances are he will want to have a go too.

Your baby will learn the correct way to drink from a cup by watching your actions. You may need to repeat the action quite a few times before your little one learns the correct technique to drink.

If the incorrect drinking technique is used, your baby may give up drinking from a cup and request his bottle simply because he can't get the liquid out. If your baby can't taste the liquid despite his best efforts then this can be downright discouraging.

You can keep your baby attempting to drink longer by dropping a small amount of his drink onto the rim or mouthpiece of the cup. If your baby can taste the liquid, he will try harder to get more, spurred on by what he believes is the taste of success.

Let your baby choose his cup

You can get your baby agree to give up the bottle by including your little one in the entire weaning process, from start to finish. This method is particularly effective on older babies.

Start by letting your baby know that it is time to give up the bottle. Next, tell him that you are taking him to the shop for him to pick out his very own special drinking cup. Your baby will likely be thrilled by the thought of this.

baby drinking milk

Take your baby to a shop where there is a large selection and point to the different cups that he can choose from. If he points to bottles, gently remind him that he is a big boy now and drinks out of cups, like Mom.

When you get home, offer your little one a drink from his new cup. Your baby is much more likely to drink out of a cup that he has chosen out himself than any you pick out for him.

If you are on a budget, you could even let your baby decorate his own special cup using waterproof markers.

Use your child's favorite characters

You may be surprised to find that many of your little ones favorite characters come available printed on cups. From Dora the Explorer to Batman, there is bound to be a cup that appeals to your baby. Pictured above are just a few of the different designs available.

When your baby sees the cup with his favorite movie printed on the side you may find that his old bottle is now an afterthought.

Keep using bottles

Bare with me, it's not as crazy as it sounds. If your baby is reluctant to give up his bottle then keep using it for water. Reserve the cup for when offering your baby his favorite drink. Explain that he can only have this drink if he uses his big boy cup.

Eventually, your baby will associate the cup with a delicious drink and forgo the use of the bottle altogether.

The gradual bottle swap

Just like any addiction, it's very tough to quit cold turkey. Bottle feeding is very much a baby addiction. One way to wean your baby off his bottle dependency is to gradually cut back.

Let's say your baby was to drink three bottles of milk a day. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night. What you want to do is swap one of these bottle feeding sessions out.

Baby yougart face
Image Source: Flickr

Instead of handing your baby a bottle for his morning feed, take him to the table and offer milk out of a cup. He may be reluctant at first but with gentle encouragement, you should be able to get him to warm to the idea. Be sure to offer an explanation as to why this meal is served out of a cup such as "You're a big boy now and can drink out of a cup, just like mommy".

Keep offering the afternoon and night time bottles (unless your baby indicates that he wants the cup). A bonus of continuing the bottle for these sessions is that if your little one kicks up a stink that he wants his bottle in the morning, you can reassure him that one is coming later.

Continue on for a week before swapping the afternoon feeding over from bottle to cup. Repeat before finally cutting the night time baby bottle completely.

Have your baby throw out his bottle

If your baby is older you can have him throw the baby bottles in the bin. Explain to him that this is the start of your baby being a big boy and that bottles are no longer needed. While the gesture is largely symbolic, it will help your little one understand that these bottles are not coming back.

Out of sight, out of mind

When attempting to wean your baby, keep all spare bottles hidden. Be particularly mindful when cleaning baby bottles and leaving them to dry that they are out of clear view of your baby.

If your baby cannot see any baby bottles around your house, then he will be much less likely to ask for one at feeding time. Be careful as even a glimpse of a bottle can revert your baby back to requesting his drink be served in one.

Make the cup taste better

Okay, so this method is a little sneaky but many mothers report its success. This technique relies on you making the milk in the cup taste nicer than the milk in the bottle.

Fill your baby's bottle, half with milk, half with water and present it to your baby. Fill up your baby's cup with undiluted milk and present it to your baby alongside your bottle. Let your baby taste the cup first before tasting the bottle.


Repeat this for a few days before gradually adding more water and less milk to the bottle. Eventually, your baby will associate the bottle with foul tasting milk and want the yummy milk that comes in his cup.

A variation of this technique is to gradually fill the bottle with less and less liquid while filling the cup with more over the course of a week or two. Eventually, there will be hardly any liquid in the baby bottle and your thirsty infant will have to drink out of the cup.

Offer a reward

Make a deal with your baby that you will read him his favorite book or play his favorite game if he makes it through a day without his bottle. You can tailor offering a reward to suit your circumstance, it doesn't have to go a whole day without a bottle, it can simply be him successfully replacing an individual bottle feeding with a drink from a cup. Do what feels right.

Don't stress the mess

If you have made it this far raising your child then you will be sure of one thing; Mess is certain. Part of your baby learning to drink goes hand in hand with learning to clean up spills. Take a look at the picture below. This is your life now.

Make the most of it, if your baby is of older age, hand him a cloth or towel and let him use it to clean up water spills. You may be surprised just how much your baby enjoys doing this. While you may need to go over the area properly, teaching your baby to help with housework is never a bad idea.

If your baby is a chronic cup spiller you may need to do something a bit more drastic, such as a bath towel under the chair or on the table under his cup.

Cold turkey


This is going to require you to be a super strong mother. This method will stress you out no end but if you have tried every other method to get your baby to go from bottle to cup then this may be your only option.

Simply stop serving your baby milk (or any other liquid for that matter) in a bottle and only offer it in a cup. Your baby will whine. And moan. And scream. And squeal. Let him. Eventually, your little one will get hungry. At this stage, your baby will, albeit begrudgingly, drink out of the cup.

Sing praise

No matter which method you take, be sure to praise your baby for taking steps to wean off the bottle. Even if it is a single sip out a cup before returning to the bottle, a "well done" does not go astray.

Despite your baby's mischievous grin suggesting the contrary, deep down your little one seeks your approval. While you may not see immediate effects, positive remarks will make help make your baby's transition from bottle to cup much easier.

Be mindful that you may need to try a combination of the above weaning techniques in order to get your baby off the bottle.

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