How To Get Baby To Sleep Without A Bottle In Under 7 Days!

Author Image By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH •  Updated: 12/22/23 •  Sleep / Sleep Tips

Holding your baby and giving them the last bottle of the day before bedtime is a very precious moment for parents. It’s also loved by your baby… They’re warm, cozy, comfortable, full, and drowsy.

But as your baby grows up and no longer needs a feed before bed, giving up that final bottle can be very hard because it’s such a strong sleep association and may be the only way they’ll fall asleep…

Meaning the transition to a bottle-less bedtime can be a bumpy one. So here’s how to get baby to sleep without a bottle as quickly & painlessly as possible!

How To Get Baby To Sleep Without Bottle Featured Image

Key Takeaways

  1. Start weaning babies off their bedtime bottle around 6 months of age, but base the timing on your baby’s individual needs. The latest they should have a bedtime bottle is 12 months.
  2. Gradually reduce bottle usage – first at naps, then reduce the amount of liquid given at bedtime over a week. Replace with comforting alternatives like pacifiers, blankets or toys.
  3. Manage challenges like teething discomfort and night wakings with patience and alternative soothing techniques. Don’t immediately resort back to the bottle or it will prolong the process.

Why Do Babies Love Their Bottles At Bedtime?

It is very easy (and very normal) for babies to associate their bottles with falling asleep, and this can easily result in them loving their bottles at bedtime.

The act of sucking is soothing, and it will help your little one to feel secure and safe. This will be especially true for babies who are used to falling asleep while nursing or taking a bottle (also known as feeding to sleep).

Unfortunately, when a baby is fed to sleep, they rely on the bottle as a way to fall asleep and will have difficulty settling without it.

When to Start Weaning Baby off Their Nighttime Bottle

Weaning your baby off their nighttime bottle can be a challenging task depending on how reliant they are on it. However, there will come a time when they no longer need a bedtime feed to get through the night. 

So how do you know when it’s the right time to start weaning your baby off their nighttime bottle?

Most pediatricians recommend that you start weaning your baby off their nighttime bottle when they reach the age of 6 months. 

At this age, your baby’s digestive system is more developed, and they require less frequent feedings.

However, every baby is different, and you should base your decision on your baby’s individual needs. 

In my experience, babies are not usually ready to drop their bedtime feed before 6 months of age, and I’ve known many babies who need it for quite a bit longer. 

However, your baby should be weaned off their bedtime bottle by their first birthday to prevent tooth decay.

How To Get Baby To Sleep Without A Bottle At Night

If you are ready to wean your baby off the bottle and want to help them sleep without it, here are a few things you can try to help the process go more smoothly:

How To Get Baby To Sleep Without A Bottle

1. Give The Bottle Earlier In The Bedtime Routine

Tried and tested over the 40+ years of my nannying career, I have found this a very effective way to wean your baby off the bottle at bedtime. It works by giving your baby their bottle after their bath and before storytime instead of at the end of the routine.

This way your baby still has the comfort of a bottle before bed, but it isn’t associated with falling asleep immediately afterward.

2. Offer The Last Drink Of The Day In A Cup

Another favorite way of mine to wean babies off their bedtime bottles is to offer a milky drink in a sippy cup after the baby’s bath. You can then brush baby’s teeth and settle down for storytime before saying goodnight. 

Of course, you have to wait until baby is around 6 months old so they can hold a sippy cup… But once they can, I would continue to offer the milky drink in this way until they are up to 18 months old.

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3. Put Baby Down When Drowsy But Not Fast Asleep At Nap Times

Helping your baby to fall asleep without a bottle when they nap will also help with the weaning process. 

Practice putting your baby down to sleep at nap times when they are drowsy and not fast asleep so that they can learn to self-soothe and fall asleep independently.

You can try sleep training with a pacifier if you prefer.

4. Replace The Bottle With Other Associations

If your baby is struggling to settle without their bottle, you could consider replacing it with other associations. 

For example, you could try giving your baby a pacifier, a special blanket, or a stuffed animal to cuddle with at bedtime. 

This can help your baby feel comforted and secure without the need for a bottle.

My son had muslin blankets that he cuddled with until the age of 6, at which point, cricket balls became his obsession!

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5. Gradual Reduction Of Bottle Use

One straightforward way to get your baby to sleep without a bottle is to gradually reduce their use of it. 

Start by eliminating the bottle during naps and offering a sippy cup or regular cup instead. Then, gradually reduce the amount of milk in the bedtime bottle by an ounce a day over a week. 

6. Make The Bedtime Routine Comforting

In addition to gradually reducing the amount of milk you offer at bedtime, you can also ensure your baby’s bedtime routine is as cozy and comforting as possible: 

Looking to get your little one to sleep quickly and effortlessly? Check out my Bedtime and Nap Cheat Sheet and master the art of making daytime naps and bedtimes as seamless as possible.

Managing Bottle Weaning Challenges

Knowing how to get baby to sleep without a bottle isn’t always straightforward… And more than likely you will encounter challenges getting baby to sleep without their bottle. 

Here are the most common bottle-weaning challenges to be aware of, as well as my tips to overcome them as quickly and painlessly as possible:

Dealing with Teething and Discomfort

Babies naturally find comfort in sucking especially if they are in pain. 

If you are trying to wean your little one off their bottle at bedtime whilst they’re teething, you may find it better to wait until the offending tooth has emerged. 

You can ease your little one’s teething discomfort by massaging their gums with a clean finger or giving them a teething toy

If your baby is still struggling, you can talk to your pediatrician about using a pain reliever.

Either way, the best way to wean a teething baby off their bedtime bottle is to wait until their current tooth has come through.

Bottles and Tooth Decay

Bottles can cause tooth decay if they are used for too long. To prevent this, it’s important to wean your baby off the bottle by their first birthday. 

You should avoid putting your baby to bed with their bottle and make sure you include cleaning of teeth in the bedtime routine as soon as baby’s first tooth appears.

Ensuring Baby Eats Enough In The Day

Before you start the weaning process of getting your baby to fall asleep without their bottle, you must ensure they’re eating enough during the day to gain weight at a healthy rate

Offer regular meals and snacks, to ensure they are getting enough calories and nutrients. The last bottle of the day should become a drink that’ can be taken or not’s optional, not essential.

Here’s a rough calculation for how many calories your baby needs per day from milk or food:

For example, a 5-month-old baby that weighs 8 kg, should get 82 kcal/kg/day = 656 kcal/day 

Divide this total calorie intake by the number of feedings per day = 656/6 = 106 kcal/feed

108 calories per feed = approximately 150ml of breast milk = a 5oz feed.

105 calories per feed = approximately 130ml of formula milk = a 4.5oz feed.

Toddler Stalling Bedtime - Toddler Drinking From Bottle

Handling Nighttime Wakings Without A Bottle

If your baby is used to falling asleep with a bottle they will struggle to resettle when they wake during the night. 

So, during the weaning process, you will need to come up with some alternative ways to settle your little one.

Firstly, when your baby wakes up crying or fussing, remain calm. Panic and anxiety can be contagious, and your baby may pick up on your emotions. 

Instead, take a deep breath and try to comfort your baby with gentle touches and soothing words.

Secondly, try using age-appropriate alternative comforting techniques such as offering a pacifier, blanket, or stuffed animal to provide comfort and security.

You can also try rocking, singing, or swaying your baby to help them fall back asleep. But use these physical connections with warning… you may be swapping one sleep crutch with another.

If baby learns to fall asleep without a bottle, by falling asleep on you… You’ll have to teach your baby how to fall asleep alone eventually.

Finally, if you have just managed to wean your baby off their bedtime bottle then you will need to be patient with nighttime wakings. 

When To Speak With A Pediatrician

If you’re struggling to get your baby to sleep without a bottle, ere are some signs that it may be time to talk to your pediatrician:

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to your baby’s health. Speaking with a pediatrician can help put your mind at ease and ensure that your baby is getting the care they need.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting Baby To Sleep Without A Bottle

There were a few questions that kept popping up when I was writing this article, so if you want to learn more about how to get baby to sleep without a bottle, you’re in the perfect place. Here are the most frequently asked questions, answered just for you.

Q: At what age should a baby stop needing a bottle to fall asleep?

A: Most babies can learn to fall asleep without a bottle by 6-9 months old. However, every baby is different, and some may take longer to develop this skill. It’s important to start establishing healthy sleep habits early on to avoid creating a dependency on bottles for sleep. At the very latest, aim to have baby weaned off their bedtime bottle by 12 months of age.

Q: At what age should a baby sleep through the night without a bottle?

A: Most babies can sleep through the night without a bottle by 9 months old. However, some babies may still need feeding during the night until they are closer to a year old. Offering a dream feed before you go to bed can help get your baby through the night without waking.

Q: What is bottle mouth syndrome?

A: Bottle mouth syndrome is a dental condition caused by tooth decay and cavities from the sugar in juice or milk, leading to painful and costly dental procedures. It occurs when a baby is frequently given a bottle of milk or juice to fall asleep which is why it’s important to avoid giving your baby a bottle to fall asleep and to practice good oral hygiene.

Q: How to get baby back to sleep at night without milk?

A: There are many ways to soothe a baby back to sleep without resorting to milk. You can try singing a lullaby or giving baby a gentle massage. It’s also important to establish a consistent bedtime routine and to avoid stimulating activities before bedtime. If your baby is crying, it’s okay to comfort them, but try to avoid picking them up or feeding them unless it’s necessary.

Q: What can I use instead of a bottle at night?

A: Instead of a bottle, you can try offering a pacifier, a lovey, or a white noise machine to help soothe your baby to sleep. 

Q: Can I put baby to bed with a bottle of water?

Yes, you can put water into baby’s bottle for a nighttime comforter… However, this does not help baby learn to sleep without a bottle. Also, water may fill up a baby’s stomach and decrease their appetite for breastmilk or formula and too much water can dilute the salt content of a baby’s system and cause hyponatremia (low sodium levels).

Q: How can I prevent my baby from associating feeding with sleep time?

A: You can prevent your baby from associating feeding with sleep by establishing an independent yet consistent feeding and sleep schedule. Try to avoid feeding your baby to sleep and instead offer a feeding after their nap or at a different time in the bedtime routine. 

Q: How can I make baby drowsy without feeding?

A: You can make your baby drowsy without feeding by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and practicing good sleep hygiene. Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime and offer soothing activities like a warm bath or gentle massage. A consistent sleep schedule can help avoid overtiredness which will make it more difficult for your baby to settle.

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Author Image Bio
Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and a highly qualified childcare expert with over 40 years of experience as a Norland Nanny. She holds a BA (Hons) in Early Years Development & Learning (0-6 Years) and the prestigious Norland Diploma. Paula has worked as a night nanny, run a successful daycare center in London, and helped raise countless children using her tried and tested developmental and guidance methods.

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