Sucking is a primitive reflex for your baby that not only helps them to eat, but also has a soothing effect to help calm your baby down. This is probably why some babies might have developed the habit of a nightcap just before bedtime, right in the comfort of their own beds.
Why it is dangerous for babies to sleep with their bottles?
If your baby falls asleep with the bottle, milk might flow out and choke him accidentally. Small amounts of liquid could also find their way down your baby’s air path and settle in the lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory problems. There could also be instances where milk drain down his ear, predisposing him to a middle ear infection.
Some babies may be allergic to teats made from latex. Symptoms include hives, itching, stuffy or running noses. Latex allergy can also cause asthma symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness and breathing difficulties. (here’s how to choose the right teat for baby)
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics sucking a bottle for naps and bedtimes is associated with an increased risk of SIDS.
In any case, formula or breast milk needs to be thrown away after one hour. Leftover milk in the milk bottle might already be contaminated if baby should wake up from sleep and decide to continue drinking the milk.
Instead of suckling on a bottle to sleep, try other methods such as allowing your baby to self-soothe by putting him in his bed when he displays signs of sleepiness.
Sleeping with a bottle at bedtime is not encouraged because…
Using the milk bottle like a pacifier during nap and bedtimes may affect the growth and development of your baby’s jaws, tongue, facial muscles and alignment of teeth, which may, in turn, affect your baby’s appearance, speech and chewing.
If your baby is teething, sugar in milk will cause tooth decay in your baby’s mouth. Always make sure to clean your baby’s teeth before they fall asleep.
Your baby could also be laying in bed all night long with wet liquid against their skin and the milk could irate your baby’s skin, causing rashes, or some other skin issues.
How to quit sleeping with a milk bottle
It would be very difficult to teach baby not to associate the bottle with sleep when they are older at around 15 to 18 months. If your baby already falls asleep with a bottle at bedtime, it is best to help baby wean off the habit for both safety and practical reasons.
Here are two methods, which you might want to try:
To rid the habit of your baby having a bottle at bedtime takes time and plenty of patience, mummies.
- Dilution method
Gradually the contents of your baby’s milk bottle with water by about 10 to 20 percent each day, until the bottle contains only water. In all likelihood, he will lose his desire to have a bottle of water over time. There is still a choking and infection risk although the bottle will eventually contain only water, so do make sure to remove it before your baby falls asleep.
- Give adequate warning and stop altogether
Let your baby know approximately 3 to 5 days ahead that you will be stopping bottle use at bedtime. You can remind him a few times each day so that he will be aware of the situation. Stop giving your baby the bottle on the chosen day and impress upon him that that is to be the way moving forward. Your baby will likely be upset with this arrangement but persevere and assure him that you love him dearly.
Alternatives to sleeping with a milk bottle
If the milk bottle is used for soothing your baby to sleep, you can turn to other soothing activities to help your baby calm down before bedtime (here are some tips and tricks on getting babies to sleep!). For example, you can give baby a calming massage with baby friendly oils, snuggle with your baby or read his favorite book. Alternatively, you can show him how much of a grown up baby he is for drinking milk from a cup.
Encourage your toddler to drink milk from a “big boy’s cup” instead of using his bottle.
You are likely to encounter resistance, but build a new, loving routine with your baby. Over time, he will get over his habit of sleeping with a bottle.
Are you trying to transition your child away from drinking milk from a bottle at bedtime? Do share if you have been successful in your attempts.