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Fatherly Advice: How to Host a Baby Bottle Intervention

Fatherly's resident parenting expert offers advice on how to transition for the baby bottle, the best way to offer a fellow dad some advice, and keeping a level head at little league

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“Fatherly Advice” is a weekly parenting advice column by the experts at Fatherly. Need hard-won insights and scientific facts to resolve a parenting dilemma or family dispute? Email advice@fatherly.com. Need justifications for parenting decisions you’ve already made? Ask someone else. We’re far too busy for that nonsense.

 

Fatherly,

At a recent well-child visit our pediatrician told us told us that our daughter Amie should start transitioning away from her bottle, but we forgot to ask just how to make that happen. Is there anything special we should know about doing away with the baby bottle?

Ewan,
Mobile, Alabama

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I know how the battle with the bottle can go, Ewan. I’ve struggled to put it down myself. Your daughter also has a dependency to the bottle that you’ll have to help her out with. There are steps to do just that, though. Happily, far fewer than 12 of them.

First of all, it’s important to understand why your pediatrician gave you the advice they did. I assume Amie is somewhere around 14 months. She probably started eating solid food. So the milk (or formula) which was her primary source of calories is now supplemental. According to a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids who are still using bottle by 2 years old have a greater chance of experiencing obesity later in life.

With that in mind, your first step in helping Amie ditch the bottle will be a conversation, followed by a shopping trip. You’ll want to lean into the fact that she’s getting to be a big kid and needs a big kid cup. Help her feel proud about the transition. She’s moving up in the world! Then, she can go shopping with you for a new cup.

Here’s the thing about that cup. As much as you want your daughter to make the choice so she can feel agency. Look for a cup with a built-in straw rather than a flat nipple-like protrusion. The former will help her mouth develop appropriately for speaking. The latter, however, might delay proper speech by extending suckling-type mouth movements longer than is advisable. Whatever you choose, have a celebration after buying the cup. Let her decorate the thing so that it feels very much hers.

Now that you have the new cup, you’ll need to get rid of the bottle. That is, frankly, the harder part of the process. That said, there is two highly recommended way to go about making the bottle disappear. The first method is a kind of slow fading. Essentially you’ll begin to restrict bottle use towards narrower and narrow times and locations. Start by offering a cup during the time your daughter feels most secure. That will likely be during the midday feeding. After a week of that, you can begin offering the cup in the morning. Concurrent with this, you can begin to restrict bottle use to a certain location in your home, like the dining room table. Eventually, as the bottle fades, your daughter will grow to expect the cup and prefer it over the bottle.

Of course, you can also go cold turkey. But that doesn’t mean you simply take the bottle away and never mention it again. Instead, you will want to turn the last day of the bottle into a ceremony. So have a farewell party. Ask your daughter to help with the planning. The idea is to make saying goodbye to the bottle a special transition. It’s a milestone worth making a really big deal.

Will this transition be tough? Yep. Will it be doable? Absolutely. And if it gets tough, you can always hit the bottle yourself.

 

Hey Fatherly,

I’m a father of two and my buddy just had his first kid. He’s kind of freaking out about it. I told him about your website, but I’d like to give him advice based on my experiences too. Is there a way I can do that without sounding judgmental?

Thomas
Indianapolis, Indiana

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You were right in pointing your pal towards us, Thomas. So score one for you. As far as offering your own advice, know that it’s not the best idea to give it unprompted. I mean, I didn’t show up at your door; you wrote to me. It’s the same with your buddy. The problem with offering unsolicited parenting advice is that it can sometimes feel like criticism. The last thing a father needs while he’s trying to parent is criticism.

All that said, there is a sneaky way to offer unsolicited advice, which you can try if you’re feeling confident: Tell a story. The best way I know to get some sly advice in, is to use the phrase “I remember when …,” as in “I remember when I first started spoon feeding my kid and he wanted to play with the spoon. We started using two spoons and that seemed to work.”

You see? That doesn’t sound like advice. That sounds like an anecdote. You don’t seem pushy and your friend might take your lead. Easy peasy.

 

Fatherly,

My kid is 6 and he’s in coach-pitched little league. I try to be as supportive as I can at the games but sometimes I get a bit worked up. In fact, I was asked to leave a game by the coach the other day. It was embarrassing. I want to fix this.

Gregory
Burlington, Vermont

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The only time I was ever ejected from a game was while playing a “friendly” match of neighborhood cornhole with my buddies. I had it coming though after introducing the brilliant idea of Dikembe Mutombo style defense at the hole. So, I can feel your pain.

Look, I get, Gregory. Seeing your kid out there on the field can be nerve-wracking. You don’t want them to embarrass themselves or fail. In fact, you’d like to feel proud of their skill and accomplishments. It only makes sense. You love your kid.

But the thing is that the game is for them and not for you. Playing sports is meant to help kids build muscles and coordination. Baseball should be helping your kid understand teamwork and strategy. And it should also be fun. That’s what’s important here. You need to internalize the idea that your son’s success is not about hits, runs or great fielding; it’s about development. Beyond that, you need to understand if you are getting worked up, the game will stop being fun for your kid. They’ll likely burn out and just not want to play because why deal with the pressure? That’s probably not what you want to see.

So in order to work on fixing this, I’d like you to take the advice of sports psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor. This dude has worked with Olympians and he tells parents the should do exactly two things when they are at a game. They should say, “I love you, no matter what happens,” and give their kid a hug before the game. And when their kid walks off the field they should say, “I love you. Let’s go get a snack.”

During the game, you simply give your attention. No tips from the sidelines. No yelling at the coaches. Go ahead and cheer if you want, but that should be the extent of your involvement in the game.

I know this might be hard. It will take some willpower and you might grit your teeth a bit. But you won’t get kicked out of any more games and your kid will have a better time.