It is recommended that infants from the age of 6 months should be introduced to drinking from a cup and the use of a bottle should be actively discouraged after the age of 1 year. The number of young children using a feeder bottle after the age of 1 year is not known but it is recognized by health professionals as a ‘growing’ concern.
To obtain local information about the number of children using a bottle past the age of 1 year, what fluids were being offered and to assess parental awareness about when a cup can be introduced.
The study data was collected by questionnaire from 407 parents between June 1998 and January 1999. Socially disadvantaged groups were targetted for the sample group as well as care being taken to include a representative ethnic population.
Ninety-nine per cent of the study infants were below the age of 2 years, with the age range being 12–28 months. Thirty per cent were using only a cup/beaker, 8% of infants still used a bottle only, and 62% used both a bottle and a cup. Drinks/food other than milk and water had been offered from the bottle by 47% of respondents. More than 60% of the parents thought that the age at which the use of a bottle should be discontinued was older than that recommended. Only 18% thought a cup/beaker could be introduced as early as 6 months.
The results show that there is a need to actively encourage the use of a cup at an earlier age and to discourage the inappropriate and extended use of a feeder bottle. Barriers to change need to be addressed.