Breaking your baby’s habit of relying on a bottle before sleep doesn’t have to be challenging. In fact, letting your baby have a bottle before she goes to sleep isn’t a bad thing. If you add this to her nightly routine, that’s perfectly fine. In fact, it’ll prevent her from waking up hungry during the night.
The problem begins when you give her a bottle to have until she falls asleep or allowing her to bring the bottle into the crib. If your baby falls asleep with a bottle and wakes up to find it next to her during the night, or if you bring her a bottle when she wakes up during the night, she’ll start to believe that she needs that bottle to sleep each night.
In addition to preventing her from learning to sleep on her own, that bottle can also damage her teeth. So instead of letting her have the bottle in her or crib or just before she falls asleep, give the bottle to her earlier in her bedtime routine. For example, you might want to give her a bath, then allow her to have the bottle, and then burst her teeth. This way, the bottle isn’t directly associated with falling asleep.
There are guidelines in The Sleep Sense Program that can help you develop strategies to deal with the two weeks or so that it will take to get your baby back on track. Learning new strategies to fall asleep isn’t easy, but repeated practice can help.
The most important thing is that your baby learns to sleep independently. This doesn’t mean that you need to leave the room at bedtime, but she does need to start connecting the steps that allow her to put herself to sleep on her own. Once she isn’t relying on the bottle, she’ll learn that she can fall asleep on her own.
Of course, it’s best to begin this training process sooner rather than later. The older your baby is, the harder it will be to train her to sleep without the bottle. Once she learns to sleep without the bottle, your nightly routine will become easier and you don’t have to worry about making sure she has this crutch to fall asleep night after night.