Conversations surrounding a baby's sleep are seemingly never-ending. We like to think that's because infant sleep is a great equaliser for all parents. So when you finally find something that helps your little one sleep through the night, it's normal to dread hearing it's something you shouldn't be doing.
One of these so-called magical sleep cure-alls is giving your baby a bottle at bedtime. But should you put a bottle in bed with your baby? Turns out, it's essential for a baby's development that you ask yourself that question and pay attention to the answer.
Getting a baby to sleep is one of the things that, as parents, we talk about most. "Is the baby sleeping through the night?" "How long does it take to put the baby down for bed?" "How many times are they getting up at night?" We wouldn't fault anyone for breathing a sigh of relief once a baby can feed themselves or soothe themselves to sleep with a bottle.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly warns parents against putting babies down with a bottle. Putting a baby down with a bottle can leave a baby associating food with sleep. We don't know about you, but that association isn't something we want to be instilling in my kids.
More concerning, however, is the higher possibility of choking and the probable damage to the baby's future teeth. According to the AAP, "Milk pooled in your baby's mouth can cause serious tooth decay, known as nursing-bottle caries."
The available recommendations are clear: putting the baby to bed with a bottle is a big no-no. However, if you've already started, Baby Center recommends a slow bottle weaning process to break the sleep association with the bottle. You can start by reducing the amount of liquid in the bottle at bedtime until your baby no longer relies on a late-night snack to soothe themselves back to sleep.
Because the soothing may be coming from the suckling rather than the liquid in the bottle, you may consider replacing the bottle with a pacifier. But, of course, if you choose a pacifier, What to Expect says there are pacifier pros and cons to consider as well.
For example, What To Expect highlights research linking pacifier use to a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but a potential con is an attachment your baby might have to the pacifier. After all, and just like having a bottle at night, the pacifier might be a tough habit to break, "especially once your baby turns into a more inflexible toddler," says What To Expect.
Bottom line? Families can and should do what's best for them, and keep in mind that what works best for one family might not work best for the family next door.
Experts often make different conclusions about various parenting decisions based on the same body of evidence.
This depends strongly on what school of parenting they are aligned with, of course, but when it comes to the health of your children's teeth, all experts agree: putting a baby to bed with a bottle is detrimental and should be avoided from the start.
You should never put your baby to bed with a bottle. Caregivers who hold their babies during bottle-feeding enjoy better nonverbal communication and emotional bonding with their children. And there are several health and safety reasons not to put babies to bed with a bottle:
- Your baby might choke. Babies who fall asleep while drinking from a bottle can draw liquid into their lungs and choke.
- Your baby's teeth may decay. When babies are put to bed with bottles or given pacifiers, sugary liquids pool around the teeth while they sleep. Bacteria in their mouths use the sugars as food and produce acids that attack the teeth. In the most serious cases, the front teeth can rot completely and need to be removed. (Learn more about oral care for your baby here.)
- Your baby may have more ear infections. A baby's ear anatomy is not fully developed. Drinking while lying down can cause milk to flow through your baby's ear cavity, which can cause ear infections.
Baby Nursery FAQs
Although it is normal for your child to nurse them to sleep, this is not a behaviour she is fostering. It is okay to bring your baby to sleep if you do not have a bad habit. Having a breast in his comfort zone is one of the best ways for him to relax and unwind. He takes this comfort when understaffed or sleepy.
The liquid from a bottle may enter the lungs of a crying baby and make them choke if they fall asleep while sipping on it. Also, as a child, your baby's teeth can decay. In sleeping, sugary liquids form around babies' teeth while resting in bottles or pacifiers.
According to the AAP, "Milk pooled in your baby's mouth can cause serious tooth decay, known as nursing-bottle caries." The available recommendations are clear: putting the baby to bed with a bottle is a big no-no.
Breastfeeding your child to sleep and for comfort is not a bad thing to do– in fact, it's normal, healthy, and developmentally appropriate. Most babies nurse to sleep and wake 1-3 times during the night for the first year or so.
Aim to get the bedtime bottle of milk completely out of your child's life by the time they're about 12 months old. It can be a tough habit to break, but rest easy knowing your baby doesn't need the calories in the milk.
Dangers of Bottle Feeding Your Baby in Bed – Make Sure You Follow These Precautions!
Not many parents realise the dangers of bottle-feeding a baby in bed. Read on to find out why you shouldn't put your baby to bed with a bottle in her mouth. These facts are not to frighten you away but to help you be aware of the harm that a seemingly innocuous task of bottle-feeding your baby in bed might cause her.
Danger of Choking
Bottle feeding in bed works very well for you and your little one. You can relax while your little one is propped up in his crib as you hold the bottle with a steady stream of milk gushing into his tiny mouth. But there is a glitch here – more potential danger.
Sometimes the liquid flows fast, and your baby is still tiny and cannot swallow milk at this rate. This is when there is a risk of the baby getting choked. There is also a threat of milk entering the wind-pipe or even the lungs, making the situation worse.
Danger of Suffocation
Are you using all those soft, brightly-coloured pillows as props in your baby's crib when you give him the bottle? Your little one might love playing with all those attractive colours when awake, but once he falls asleep, there is a risk that he might wriggle and shift and, as a result, bring all those soft props upon his face and nose, causing suffocation.
Risk of Tooth Decay
Tooth decay does not sound as scary as the previous two, yet it has its downfall. You wouldn't want your baby's smile to suffer. In addition, once he starts eating solids, you would want him to bite, munch, and chew all those power-packed nuts you stock exclusively for him.
Your baby might fall asleep before he swallows the last gulp of milk. The sugar in the formula would coat your baby's gums and tiny teeth. Of course, the teeth are only temporary, but according to the American Dental Association, they also provide space in his mouth for permanent teeth. You wouldn't want this space to be permanently damaged.
Risk of Ear Infection
An ear infection is painful and can make your baby cranky. He is helpless because he is unable to tell you about his aches. As a parent or caregiver, you might feel as helpless as him because you do not know why your little one is crying.
Did you know bottle feeding in bed is one of the primary causes of an ear infection? Sometimes, your baby might not swallow the milk down to the last gulp.
This last gulp of milk might pool inside his mouth, which might trickle into his ear, causing bacteria to get into his Eustachian tubes.
However, all these risks should not deter you from feeding your baby with a bottle. All you need to do is exercise a little caution and take a few preventive measures:
- Never let your baby fall asleep with the bottle in his mouth.
- Always wipe his mouth dry after every feed.
- Make sure the nipple hole is of the right size.
- Never forget to burp your baby after every feed.
Remember, bottles by themselves never pose potential hazards for your baby. The way the bottle is held and the way the milk gushes into his mouth creates risks for him and nightmares for you.
Follow the above steps and ensure that your baby is always well-fed and happy because these moments with your little one will never return. Make the best of bottle feeding and create a bond with your baby.
Do Babies Need a Goodnight Bottle
Giving your child a bottle before bed or when they wake in the middle of the night is appropriate when they're younger. Babies need formula or breastmilk for nourishment, and their stomachs are only the size of an egg around ten days of age.
By the time they're six months old. However, most infants don't need the nutrients and calories that they get from nighttime feedings. They typically consume enough throughout the day, getting their nutritional needs met.
But feeding your child, whether you're nursing or offering formula, is comforting. It helps them relax. You might be hesitant to give up the goodnight bottle because you will have to find another way to comfort them at night.
What's Wrong With a Goodnight Bottle?
Feeding your baby is one of the easiest ways to calm them down. That's why many parents resist taking it out of the bedtime routine. It works, and it works well. Having to spend long hours trying other soothing methods at night, such as rocking, bouncing and singing, is exhausting.
But what do you think will happen if you continue to use the feeding sessions to calm your child down? First, they won't learn other ways to soothe themselves to sleep. You won't get much sleep if your child continues to wake up for feedings.
Some of the issues with giving bottles at night include:
- Tooth decay
- Poor eating habits during the day
- Parental exhaustion
- Inflexibility when it comes to bedtime routines (meaning date night seems like it's never going to happen)
Completely understand–it's hard to figure out how to get your baby to sleep when you have a
tool that works. Did the same thing before we became sleep training experts.
At What Age Should You Get Rid of the Nighttime Bottle?
Every baby is different. While most infants are getting enough nutrients and calories during the day by six months, many can continue to rely on a bedtime bottle until about ten months. The longer the habit goes on, though, the harder it may be to break.
By the time your child is 12 months old, you should try to remove the bottle from the nighttime routine. Of course, it's a little different if your baby is nursing to sleep. But if you feel your baby is tied to the breast and you're having trouble getting anything done or getting decent rest because of it, it can help you with that.
Can walk you through the steps and help your child learn the skills they'll need to go to sleep and stay asleep no matter where they are or who they're with. You don't have to listen to your baby cry, and you and the whole family will finally sleep through the night.
Why Does My Baby Fall Asleep While Bottle Feeding
Your baby has come to rely on the bottle as a "sleep prop" to get to sleep. And here's why that's the problem. We all go through multiple sleep cycles when we sleep. So when we come out of one sleep cycle and go into the next, everyone comes to the surface of sleep.
As adults, we've had plenty of practice. So we know how to get ourselves back to sleep without knowing that we've had those brief wakings.
But right now, your baby relies on the bottle to get to sleep. So when she comes to those brief wakings, she will more fully start to wake up. She will realise that she didn't have what she fell asleep with.
The bottle is no longer in her mouth. And what is she going to do? She will begin to cry for you to come and put the bottle back in her mouth because this is the only strategy she knows until this point. She needs the bottle to fall asleep.
So by breaking this old way of sleeping and starting to introduce new, healthy, independent sleep skills, that's how we're going to get her to fall asleep a lot more peacefully and begin to sleep through the night!
We help walk you through 7 strategies that have helped me teach hundreds of parents how to teach their babies to sleep independently in my Free Download. All you have to do is type in your name, email address, and child's date of birth, and we will send you a PDF that you can download and access on your phone whenever you need it.
How To Break The Bottle-Feeding To Sleep Habit
The first step to breaking the bottle feeding habit is changing the bedtime routine. You could start with a bath. Then dress your baby in their pyjamas and sleep sack. My favourite sleep sacks are the Bitta Kidda and Kyte Baby. Give them the bottle once your baby is dressed, and then read a story or two.
We always have a white noise machine in the bedroom for extra comfort. We have a white noise machine in every bedroom. White noise can be great for you and your child when sleeping.
Several times throughout the night, you will be triggered to wake up in the middle of the night, which may trigger your "fight or flight" response and mess up your whole night.
For some children, noise can trigger them and trick them into thinking it is time to wake up. Avoid this by drowning out that sound and sleeping through the night.
Wide awake? Sounds a scary little, right? What do we do if she cries?
Gentle Sleep Training
Well, mama, it's time to start sleep training! Don't worry. If you follow the guidelines from Live Love Sleep, we will give you some strategies and a step by step plan to deal with the two weeks that it will probably take to get your baby on track and learn this new strategy for getting themselves to sleep.
Here's the good news. You don't have to let your baby cry it out! Not only that, but you don't have to leave the room. That's right. You can stay with your baby if you like. We use much gentler approaches to teach your baby the skills needed to break the nightly bottle habit and begin sleeping through the night.
But your baby needs to start connecting the steps involved in putting themselves to sleep independently to not rely on that bottle. Otherwise, your baby will most likely keep waking up for that bottle. It could go well into the second year, so you want to make sure you break this habit now.
You can be present and comforting as your baby learns how to fall asleep independently. Your baby will learn a new way to fall asleep, and they will start sleeping a solid night, which will be better for them. It may take about two weeks.