Sleeping with a bottle promotes tooth decay.

How to Get a Toddler to Stop Drinking Milk in the Middle of the Night

by Eliza Martinez

Does your toddler still take a bottle of milk to bed? It might be time to wean him from this potentially harmful habit. It not only interferes with adequate sleep patterns, but it could cause future dental problems and has been linked to obesity. It's easier said than done, though, as most parents will do anything at 2 a.m. if it means their toddler will just let them sleep. Experts differ on the best technique for weaning, but use the one that works best for you. Before you know it, everyone in the house will be sleeping peacefully -- at least until the next toddler nighttime drama comes along.

1 Gradually reduce the amount of milk you give your toddler. Over the next couple of nights, reduce his milk by an ounce or two. He'll still have something to drink, but you won't have to suffer through endless hours of his screaming for his milk. Keep reducing how much you give him until he is used to very little.

2 Mix the milk with water. Milk that pools on your toddler's teeth when he lies down is a risk of future tooth decay. For many toddlers, the sucking motion of the bottle is what he craves rather than the milk itself. Gradually add more water and less milk to the bottle until it's only water. He still gets to suck down a drink before bed, but the water is much better for his teeth. If you're very brave, try going cold turkey and switching to straight water instead of doing so gradually.

3 Give her a sippy cup. When your toddler realizes that she can still have a drink, but must drink it from a cup, she might decide it’s not worth it after all. Place a cup filled with water within easy reach in case she really is thirsty. Prepare for some resistance with this choice because your toddler won't get the same sucking satisfaction from the cup.

4 Offer your toddler a snack before bed. Serve a cup of milk with some crackers or toast and then follow through with the usual bedtime routines, including brushing his teeth, before putting him to bed. He'll have a full tummy and may be able to drift off to sleep.

5 Give him a different source of comfort, perhaps a new night light or a favorite blanket. What toddler turns down a trip to the toy store? Not yours, right? Take him to pick out a stuffed animal that he can hold and hug while he sleeps.

Items you will need

  • Sippy cup
  • Water
  • Stuffed animal

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images