5-year-old grandson risks tooth decay with continued bottle use
Ask the Pediatrician
My grandson will be 5 years old in August. In the afternoon he says, "I need a bottle." He drinks milk out of it. He doesn't drink milk from any other source. What do you think about this? His grandpa and I think his mom and dad should just say no more bottles.
I agree with Grandpa and Grandma. He is way too old for a bottle. It is recommended that parents begin taking away bottles at age 1 and be completely finished with bottles by age 2. This is based on several health and developmental needs.
Once children have the oral motor skills to chew and speak, they do not need to suck down their nutrition. It is better for them to eat a variety of foods and avoid filling themselves up with large volumes of milk. As teeth come in, it is important to begin phasing out bottles because the nipples place milk on the upper back side of teeth, which can promote the development of "bottle rot" or decayed front teeth. Finally, it is vital that children move beyond using a bottle for comfort: This is part of developing a normal independence.
When I speak to parents about their fear of giving up the bottle, two things are typically expressed. The first is that the child will not drink milk and there is a concern that this will adversely affect the child's health and growth. When the bottle is taken away, many children refuse milk. It is fine for children to take a few weeks, or even months, off from milk, as long as they are getting their protein and calcium from other sources. Most children will eat or drink yogurt, cheese, juices with calcium, leafy greens or chocolate milk as sources of calcium.
Once the child moves past his desire for the bottle, it is typically easy to reintroduce milk in a cup.
The second concern is that the child is losing a comfort source in the bottle and that sleep and behavior will be affected. This may happen. However, it is very important that the child learn to self-comfort using his or her brain instead of the mouth and stomach. It is part of the natural developmental process and your grandson is delayed because of this attachment.
I would suggest these parents gently tell their son that he is too old for a bottle and then set a date to get rid of it. Donate the bottles to a friend who just had a baby or take them to your local hospital nursery in an effort to ceremoniously say goodbye. Then reward him with a new "big-boy" activity, such as going to a new playground or riding the rides at your local fair.
Don't panic if he asks for a bottle even after he knows they are gone. If he didn't test you, he wouldn't be normal. Just reassure him he does not need it and offer him milk in a cup. There may be tears, but compassionately hold your ground; it is the best thing for him. This will not be the last time you have to be tough on your child; unfortunately, being "the bad guy" is sometimes part of being a good parent.
Dr. Pia Fenimore, of Lancaster Pediatric Associates, answers questions about children's health on the Ask the Expert feature at LancMoms.com. You can submit questions there or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.