What Sippy Cup Should I Offer?
Families today are on-the-go with places to go and things to do. As a mother of three who works full-time as a speech-language pathologist, I know how much mothers value finding a good sip cup for their toddler.
Let me preface this information by saying that sip cups are not necessary. Children can learn to drink from open cups with little liquid in them just as well as learning to drink from sip cups as an alternative to a bottle.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning children from bottles by 18 months. They recommend starting to offer cups or sip cups during midday liquid feeds around 1 year of age.
I recommend starting this process earlier. Much like a pacifier, bottles turn into emotional security objects rather than sources of nutrition between 6 months and 18 months of age (in my experience receiving reports from parents of young children during therapeutic intervention for feeding/swallowing when parents are having difficulty weaning them from bottles). A typically developing baby may start trialing small amounts of liquid from an open cup when they are sitting upright independently. This depends on each baby’s development. The timeline should not be straight across the board.
When a baby starts taking drinks of liquid from a cup, their mouth should be clear of all other food or liquid. Nosey cups or small shot glasses may be used to offer the first drinks of water to a clear and clean mouth. This way baby can learn to take a drink that is semi-controlled by a small circumference cup lip with a reduced flow. They may cough on the first few drinks, but if they are drinking water, this should not be a be a big issue. Our bodies are made up of water and it is more easily absorbed into our bodies from our lungs in the event that it “goes down the wrong way.” However, if the child is sick, has tooth decay, or has food in their mouth that goes down with the water, it may not just be water they are coughing on. It is important to keep a mouth clean that is learning to drink water so that the water does not carry bacteria or anything else with it down the wrong tube. It is important to not start with juice or milk when offering first drinks from a cup as these liquids will not be as easily absorbed into the body if they go down the wrong way.
Now that we know what liquid to start with – WATER. And to make sure our baby has a CLEAN mouth. AND that we can start with small, open cups for cup drinking. Now if we want to still offer a sip cup for those on-the-go trips or for the baby who just learned to start throwing EVERYTHING, I recommend the following for sip cups:
Offer a sip cup with a flush top lid.
If the child has difficulty sucking through silicone lid, you may be able to remove the lid by popping it off the top and using the cup as a “slow spill” cup (example: Munchkin 360).
DO NOT offer a sip cup with a hard or soft extended spout lid.
Transition lids may be required in certain circumstances, such as absolute refusal of sip cups. No one equipment piece works for all children.
Extended spout lids are similar to bottles and pacifiers in that they promote immature suckling pattern of tongue thrusting instead of tongue retraction for receiving liquid in their mouth. This promotes a safer, more mature swallow transition for promoting closed mouth breathing, facial bone development, and advanced tongue movement for speech-sound development.
We live in a society where new products are being released daily. My current favorite for transitioning to cup drinking is:
Munchkin 360 sip cup with flush top silicone lid, pictured here:
This cup provides the option to use a silicone lid for minimal spillage on the go; as well as to remove the lid and have a slow spill cup while seated at a high chair or booster seat.
I DO NOT recommend offering cups while babies or children are in their car seat or holding the cup running around. Especially while learning to drink a liquid from a cup, it is paramount for children to have supported seated positioning. What this means is having a 90-degree angle at the hips for sitting, 90-degree angle at the knees, and 90-degree angle at the ankles for support under the feet. This ideal positioning sets up a child for drinking and swallowing safely with no coughing or aspirating (liquid going down the wrong tube).
Lauren Tandy, M.S., CCC-SLP is a certified speech-language pathologist licensed in Idaho and Washington. She has a special interest in early intervention, feeding and swallowing issues, oromyofunctional disorders, and speech-language development. You may find more information at tandytherapy.com. Feel free to contact Lauren with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.