This week’s question comes from Teresa.
“My 11-month-old goes to bed with a bottle and wakes for a bottle in the night. How do I break her of this habit?”
Good question, Teresa! When you put your baby in bed at night, it’s fine to include the bottle in her routine. 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 because if she wakes up in the middle of the night she thinks she needs that bottle again to sleep. If you come 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. 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. If you follow the guidelines in The Sleep Sense Program, I will give you some strategies to deal with the two weeks it is probably going to take to get her on track, learning a new strategy for getting herself to sleep.
You don’t have to leave the room; you can stay with her if you like, but 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. It could go on well into the second year so you really want to make sure you break this habit now, and then when she wakes in the night requesting a bottle, you’ll have to just decline that request.
You can go in, you can stay with her and “ride it out” basically, but she will learn a new way to sleep and she will start sleeping a solid night which will be better for her. It is going to be better for her in the sense that she is not falling asleep with the bottle in her mouth and so, it may take about two weeks, but it is definitely for the best.
Kim Rogers, M.A., is a certified infant and child sleep consultant. She has additional training in infant mental health from the hospital for sick children and maternal mental health from postpartum support international. Kim works with families in a one-on-one, highly supportive way to help them get the sleep they need.