[6 months +] A cup is a cup is a cup! Not! You can almost expect to spend a bit of money just finding the right cup for your little one. It is frustrating as even if someone gives you a recommendation for a good one, it’s likely you won’t be able to find that exact cup in the stores. And if you do, maybe it won’t suit your child.
First, let’s look at the basics of cup drinking.
When? Any time from 6 months on, even if it’s just providing exposure. At about 7-9 months, your baby should be more interested and able to take some water. That means if you are still breastfeeding, your baby need not ever drink from a bottle. And there is NO reason why your baby can’t drink formula or cow’s milk (after 12 months), or any other milk from a cup, instead of a bottle (you can have a particular one for water and another for milk).
Why? Drinking from a cup gives your child’s jaw a mini-workout. It moves from the more ‘immature’ action of suckling, with the tongue and jaw forward (as your baby would do on the breast or bottle) to the jaw having to grade and hold itself in place with tongue back in the mouth. Go on, pretend you are drinking from a bottle and notice where your tongue and jaw are and then change to a position for cup drinking.
This workout for your baby’s jaw and tongue position leads to stronger muscles for later chewing and holding itself in place for the different vowel sounds (try ‘ae’ vs ‘oh’ vs ‘eh’ vs ‘ih’).
But before open cup drinking stage, your child will most likely use a sippy or straw cup and even a pop-top.
You will most likely need to start with a sippy cup with a silicone mouth piece but even a young baby can learn to drink straight from an open cup (it’s just the spill factor that makes most turn to a closed cup). Give it a try! Don’t believe marketing – you do not need to buy a cup for 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 18 months, 2 years etc. Some babies can hold on quite fine without handles and others can go straight from a silicone mouthpiece to an ’18 month old cup’ without the need for the ones in between. Once your child is used to a soft mouth piece, you can move towards a harder mouth piece and then possibly to training more on an open cup. There are also cups that transition through several stages, with different attachments (more info below in ‘product review’).
The other thing is, cups bring a whole lot of plastic into your child’s mouth. Since BPA-free plastic is now being found to still be not-so-desirable (take a look at ‘Even BPA-free Plastics Leach Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals’), don’t forget to be on the watch for plastic alternatives, such as stainless steel or even protected glass. The plastic-free sippy cups can be pricey, but why not look out for stainless steel drink bottles as soon as your little one is ready (even at supermarkets).
Sippy vs straw? And then what?
- It is generally easier to teach your baby to drink from at first (silicone mouthpiece moving to harder mouthpiece). Note: the sooner you move to a harder mouthpiece, the less you will have to replace silicone tops that are easily chewn
- The sippy cup with a silicone mouth piece can actually still promote the jaw/tongue forward position, but is good practice for open cup drinking, allowing your child to practice tipping the cup, with hand to mouth action
- As your little one gets better at drinking, you can change to a sippy cup with a harder mouth piece which promotes keeping the tongue in the mouth (and thus jaw in a better position)
- There are plastic-free versions. http://www.shopnaturally.com.au/bpa-free-sippy-cups-baby-feeding-cup.html http://www.baby-bottles.com.au/p/8231028/earthlust-birds-bees-stainless-steel-baby-bottle-sippy-cup-birds-207ml.html
- Promote jaw/tongue back position – good for later speech
- Can be tricky to teach but some kids just get it, easier than a sippy cup
- Can be tricky to wash but may last longer than the silicone topped sippy cups
- Can be easier to keep leak-free than the silicone mouth pieces that can split and allow ‘spill-proof’ to pour out
- No plastic-free version (that I have seen), until your child can drink from an open cup…and then there are stainless steel cups and straws available
Pop top/sports top/drink bottle:
- These are generally the step after sippy or straw cup, but if you are struggling with the above, feel free to give them a go!
- Stainless steel varieties are readily available which prevent plastic chemicals from leaching into the water
Making it easier
Firstly, if your little one is struggling to drink from a cup, give it some time. Once they are really needing to take in more liquid (ie less milk feeds, eating more or hot weather), you might need to try some tips below to help them:
- start with a silicone top (you can even widen the hole if necessary) OR use a harder mouth piece and take out the valve
- use a very small cup, such as a medicine cup to introduce a tiny bit of liquid to your baby’s mouth
- some have claimed ‘take and toss’ cheap varieties have been the only way..
- when introducing a straw cup, use a short straw in a cup, a ‘lickety-sip iceblock straw’ or even cut the straw in the cup (your little one will then have to tip the cup but only suck a tiny bit to draw the liquid up)
Moving to open cup
Once your child has the hang of a sippy or straw cup (probably some time after 12 months), you can try them occasionally on an open cup. Think any small ‘cup’ like a medicine cup or round container. A smoothie can be easier for a child to manage as it approaches their mouth more slowly than water and they will ‘feel’ it on their top lip better too.
Here is a variety of ‘cups’ that I have used over the years with the boys. And sometimes the more novelty the cup, the more likely they are to try something new too (for example, fresh orange juice with all the pulp + barley grass & ginger!!).
Weego BPA free Glass sippy cup – I wish we had known about these when we bought all of our plastic cups (now knowing that any plastic can leach undesirable chemicals from them). However, most babies generally need to start with a softer mouthpiece before moving to a harder one that this sippy cup has. And you will have to trust that it will be easy enough for your little one to sip from without being able to test.
There is also a stainless steel variety that converts from a bottle to a sippy cup. More plastic-free varieties at baby-bottles.com.au http://www.baby-bottles.com.au/p/8231028/earthlust-birds-bees-stainless-steel-baby-bottle-sippy-cup-birds-207ml.html
Mag mag – 4.8 stars (from productreview.com.au) goes from teat towards straw cup with varying teats in between + handles, can easily buy replacement valves and keep the cup (a plus over others where you have to buy another whole cup)
Nuby No Spill Flip-It – 4.8 stars. no spill, easy to sip from, babies have mastered as their first cup (say 7 months old), straw and cup not so easy to clean
Take and Toss – 4.7 stars cheap, removable handles, no valve, will leak, will need to replace often as children can chew on the plastic
TommeeTippee Discovera two-stage drinker – I can’t remember where I bought this (maybe Target or Woolworths). It is the perfect step from hard mouthpiece sippy cup to open cup. The rim of the open cup has a good ‘lip’ on it for the child to feel their mouth on it. We have combined open cup drinking with this cup and stainless steel drink bottle (pictured above) for out and about for Master 20 months.
Of course, there are MANY other varieties I haven’t mentioned. I’ve stuck with the popular and the non-plastic varieties. Please leave feedback if you have found another brilliant cup that is worth sharing with others (and where you got it)! Thanks, Heidi 🙂