Giving your child a bottle in bed? You may be putting them at risk for tooth decay, ear infections, choking and poor sleep associations

Posted by admin on September 11, 2019 in Current Research Findings Quick Facts

There is nothing like the feeling of independence both parent and child feel when a baby is able to bottle feed themselves.  It can be so convenient and easy to use the bottle to help your child self soothe to sleep.  But when you let your baby bottle feed themselves to sleep, while laying down in their crib, you are putting them at risk for tooth decay, ear infections, choking and poor sleep associations.

Tooth decay is not okay

Obviously no parent wants their child to have decaying teeth.  The problem with letting your child fall asleep with the bottle without washing or brushing their teeth off before falling asleep is SUGAR.  The sugar in any type of milk will decay your child’s teeth.  This is especially true for those children who fall asleep holding their own bottle and the milk is left to pool in their mouths.

Tip: If you let your baby hold their own bottle, take it from them before they fall asleep and wash off their teeth and gums to prevent decay

Tip: Try slowly replacing the milk with water until the bottle is filled with just pure water.  While this will help with tooth decay, a total weaning from having a bottle in bed is best in order to avoid ear infections, choking and negative sleep associations. 

Ear infections 🙁

No parent likes to see their child in pain and ear infections can be especially painful for little ones.  When left to drink a bottle lying down, milk can flow through the ear cavity causing painful ear infections.  While this is especially true when using milk or juice, pure water can also carry germs into your baby’s ear cavity causing infections as well.

Tip: Try to avoid letting your child drink anything while lying in their crib, if suckling is part of the their soothing routine you can offer a pacifier or let them drink their bottle sitting propped up

Choking Hazard

Parents, lie down in bed and then feed yourself some water, but you have to drink it all while staying flat on your back. Hard, right?  It probably makes you feel like you are going to choke. That’s because we are not built to consume anything while lying flat on our backs. While ear infections and tooth decay are serious side effects, choking can be deadly.  When a child is left with a bottle to fall asleep they can draw liquid into their lungs, causing them to choke.  While it might just cause them discomfort and coughing, the consequences could also be more serious.

Poor Sleep Associations

A big problem with letting your baby fall asleep with a bottle in their crib is the formation of a negative sleep association.  If your baby falls asleep every night with a bottle in their mouth, that bottle then becomes a crutch.  Children who depend on a bottle in bed to fall asleep will have a difficult time self soothing and will be less likely to put themselves back to sleep without that same crutch.  This means more disrupted sleep for both you and your baby.

Tip: Use the bottle as part of a soothing routine but put your child in their crib without the bottle.  Find another soother that is less habit forming but just as comforting. ie. a lovie or stuffed animal (only when age appropriate) The best gift you can give you children is the gift of sleep, help them learn to self soothe by forming positive sleep associations and habits from an early age.