We practice extended bottle-nursing (we too, by the way, are foster-adopt parents of children who have special needs). I am a big believer that many of the benefits of extended nursing apply when someone bottle nurses (which of course you and I differentiate from general bottle feeding). These benefits include bonding/closeness, which is oh so important when we are adopting, as well as additional nutrients particularly during common, periodic toddler hunger-strikes or periods when they obsess over one food in particular. The list goes on.
If you do a search on these boards, you will find posts from me as I was thinking about this exact question.
how old was your little one before weaned to a cup for milk?
ds is 26 months. By the time he had teeth, we would make sure to give him a rinse with a water bottle after his formula bottle (also Nutramigen, though not soy because he is intolerant), especially at night. This is especially important if you practice extended bottlenursing, as formulas contain more sugars than breastmilk. If you can, it is good to brush their teeth after the bottles, though we bottlenurse ds to sleep and he would not tolerate the brush at that time-- but we did get dentist approval on the water rinse method.
Over time, he slowly reduced the number of times per day that he bottlenursed. Eventually, he would take a bottle at bedtime, and also some overnight. Only very recently, we've begun giving him primarily bottles of water. He is accustomed to taking water from the bottle, so it just happened naturally overtime that we just didn't always need to mix up the formula for him. He does get a formula bottle if he specifically asks for it. I'd say at this point he has formula maybe about once a week. I do have to say though that since the switch to water, he does wake and ask for "bottlenursies" more frequently at night.
He has been drinking water from an open cup since he was quite young, maybe even about ten months. We have juice only very rarely, and of course never in his bottles. Milk is tricky because he is intolerant (he too had SEVERE reflux for an extended period-- though it is generally gone now). When we enrolled him in preschool, they required him to have a milk with lunch. Since he is evidently intolerant to cow's milk, goat's milk, and soy, and we don't believe that rice milk has enough nutrients (especially not milk-replacement nutrients) to justify the sugar in it, we were in a bind. We asked them to try offering him formula in a cup, but he refuses to take it in a cup (um, yeah, I get that...it is "mama milk" aka something he only has snuggled up to mama). The requirement, however, is that they offer it to him, not that he drink it, so it has worked out. Meanwhile, I have been half-considering reintroducing daily formula bottles, though I am not entirely convinced children "need" milk, only because he is intolerant to milk, cheese (at least in substantive amounts, though he does eat some), yogurt, etc., and we are a vegetarian family.
dfd is a different matter. She is fifteen months old, and had reflux that unlike ds' reflux, resolved in a timely matter. She also is able to tolerate cow's milk, and we do offer that to her, as well as water in cups. However, she is unable to coordinating drinking from a cup.
We have always done open cups with ds because sippy cups if used a lot can, for some children, contribute to speech problems and ds already has enough setbacks in that regard. Also we use an open cup because we subscribe to the Montessori understanding. However, we have tried everything and dfd seems to *need* sippy cups, if she is to drink from a cup at all, so with her, we do the sippy cups. She can *sort of* do a sippy...she tips it back and lets the water drip into her mouth...either that or tries to suck it like a bottle which leads to her getting frustrated and throwing it. I worry more about keeping her hydrated than getting some kind of milk into her.
I plan to let dfd self-wean, should she remain with us, as I largely have done with ds. However, I am a bit more concerned with her teeth, as she has not been tolerant of water bottle rinses-- she hates it when her bottles have water instead of milk. So with her we have actually just started mixing more water into her formula to get her used to it in a slow way (more and more over time) in the hopes that eventually she will allow for water rinses. This may mean that she weans herself off formula more quickly, I recognize.
Some days she has as many as four bottles, other days she only takes a bottle at bedtime. We follow her lead.
I would LOVE to know if there was any research somewhere to hand to WIC/EI to prove that a child, esp an SN child doesn't have to be weaned at 12 mos old (this is especially a peeve of mine since breastfed NT children have the recommendation from WHO for min 2 years to bf...why not bottle-nursed children??)
I am sorry I don't have a particular bit of research to share with you. What I can say is this.
I have shared in that same frustration.
I did some research and the primary place that the 12 months recommendation seems to come from is the dental implications. The risks and advantages to bottle feeding after 12 months seem to have been weighed as follows: Formula can reek havok on teeth, but (like children weaned from the breast at twelve months) kids can do okay nutritionally/developmentally if weaned from the bottle, wereas before 12 months it seems more statistically risky to wean (when they are not relying so much on solids).
This means that they did not take into account:
(a) That bottle nursing after 12 months might be dentally okay with precautionary practices including: bottleNURSING (many kids with baby bottle rot in the mouth walk around with a bottle in their own hands all day long), water rinses after bottles or more preferably, teeth brushing after bottles, etc.
(b) That even though kids, statistically, can do okay nutritionally/developmentally without formula or breastmilk after 12 months, there are benefits to extended bottleNURSING as I mentioned early in this post.
(c) That 12 months looks different from kid to kid. Some kids are walking by then, some aren't. Some are eating tons of solids, some aren't. Some kids are saying words, some aren't. Some have mature digestive systems, some don't. And so forth. Any strict age cut-off will be arbitrary as a result.
(d) That kids with special needs may need a different nutritional plan.
I'm getting a lot of pressure to wean him to a cup instead of a bottle from WIC and EI.
The EI developmental specialist ds and dfd see (who is also an adoptive parent) totally gets why we want to do child-led weaning and extended bottlenursing. She has been supportive of it.
ds' feeding specialist (a speech pathologist with specialization in feeding issues) was unsupportive of us continuing to bottlenurse (he rarely sees her now, so it is a non-issue currently). She felt that the bottles were contributing to his reflux, which is a valid concern. Her alternative was to give him thickened drinks in a cup. She'd take baby food, for example, and water it down just until it was drinkable, and then give that to him. We do a little more of that with cup drinking while he still had such bad reflux (it is almost completely resolved now), but we continued to bottlenurse if he requested it. I basically just resolved not to voluntarily share information with the feeding specialist about his bottlenursing. If she asked about it, I would downplay it. I felt like we considered her knowledge about his reflux, and struck an appropriate balance considering his needs holistically...I didn't need the repeating lecture to wean him cold turkey right then and there.
As for WIC, let me just say that if anyone should be supportive of their work, it is me. I am a former public health practitoner with a specialization in maternal child health. My education involved all kinds of WIC-related research.
However, though foster children qualify for WIC, it didn't take me long to decide not to take my children there (even though it means we have spent an arm and a leg on formula, particularly with the Nutramigen). It wasn't worth it, and besides, we couldn't get formula with lipil from them.
Our practices rely on different assumptions from those of WIC. For example, when ds was about four months old, I brought him in for a WIC appointment, at which time they said he was essentially getting too fat (Hardly! His weight and height were in proportion, both 90th percentile...it wasn't as if he was 30% percentile for height and 90th for weight). Then they looked at the intake sheet with his average formula intake (which is always a big estimation because he bottlenurses on demand and it can vary from day to day depending on how active he is, what he is working on, etc.) and they said, "Oh, this is probably part of why he is putting on so much weight. You are feeding him above the recommended amount. You should reduce what you give him." I held onto my belief that he knows what he needs, and sure enough, a few days later, he shot up in height (hardly any weight gain in comparison to what he got in height)! He was going through a dang growth spurt, and if I had followed their recommendations, the poor kid wouldn't have had the necessary calories.
WIC also has a finanicial interest in you weaning him, especially since Nutramigen is so expensive.
I simply don't do WIC. If a social worker was to ever ask about it, which hasn't happened, I would explain that the kids get weighed and measured at their well-baby visits, and that we don't mind paying for the formula. If we had gone over an extended period, I probably would have explained the same thing to the WIC worker and let them know that we were done.