Bye-Bye Bottle

It's finally time. My child is old enough to be drinking from a cup; a sippy, if not an open-mouthed one. I reason that we've been making the switch for some time-after all, it is only milk that is served in a bottle. Juice comes from a sippy cup or a juice-box-we've even learned to get all of the juice out of the box without spilling or squeezing. But alas, it's time for us to change the way we consume liquids.

I've been trying for months to present milk in a cup. I even use a clear plastic one that lets my little lamb see the true color of what she's drinking. But she always frowns and puts the cup down, after tasting something that, in her mind, remains firmly associated with the original nutrition-delivery system.

It is interesting to hear complete strangers unabashedly holding forth on whether or not my chid ought to still be using a pacifier (they usually conclude that she shouldn't, and I go away guiltily vowing to rush her to an orthodontist to correct the supposed trouble I've caused). Then there are parents who swear their children never had any use for a pacifier, and preschools that offer the open cup at snacktime--is cup-drinking a learned social skill? Am I supposed to shame my child into moving toward it, or will she go there naturally as she develops?

It is said that cup-drinking should begin as early as six months. I'm ashamed. My child still cries for a binky. I did hear about a woman who breastfed her child until the age of five, and I couldn't help thinking there was something odd about nursing a child who was old enough to say clearly and understandably, 'Mumma. I'm hungry.'

This, however, is not breastfeeding. We're only serving milk in a bottle three times a day, and we're careful never to do it publicly, so self-conscious we are about the public perception of our feeding practices. The prevailing wisdom says that babies shouldn't have to give up the comfort and pleasure of the bottle until after their first birthday. Okay, we're well past that point. I'm aiming for sometime before the two-year mark.

So I don't pressure her to give up binky. We tried a few times, with little success. I gave in, and bought more of them so I can change them often and have one on hand for emotional-distress emergencies. Then the missing binky turned up in the car, and Little One was granted a few more weeks of sucking pleasure. This morning I made up a batch of bottles, and just as I was about to put the nipples on them, I promised myself that at some point this month, I'll buy sippy spouts instead.

Lin Wu is the mother of a sixteen-month-old girl.

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