Teaching Your Child to Drink from a Cup

baby-and-sippy-cupTo prevent both tooth decay and overeating, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends transitioning from a bottle to a regular cup by 18 months of age. Many babies are responsive to using a cup between seven and nine months old — it’s up to you to determine when you think your baby is ready.

Tips for Introducing a Cup

  • Introduce a cup when your baby is not hungry, as she is more likely to be receptive to trying something new. You might even start with introducing an (empty) cup as a fun toy for your child to get used to handling.
  • Have your child sit in his highchair or at the table rather than a place where he is free to move around. Show your baby how to use the cup. Assist him in the motions.
  • Begin slowly. Try replacing your child’s least favorite bottle feeding with a cup. If she takes to it, gradually switch more bottle feedings with drinking from the cup.
  • Don’t give your baby an unfamiliar liquid; he may reject the cup simply because of the unfamiliar taste. Fill the cup with breast milk or formula — whatever he is used to. However, if your baby refuses a cup of breast milk or formula, try a small amount of water. He may prefer to associate the cup with a new liquid. (Do not serve juice or soda since they contain too much sugar.)
  • If you know other kids your child’s age who are using a cup, spend some time around them. Babies often mimic what their peers are doing, and your child may be inspired to drink from a cup just because her friend is doing it.

What Kind of Cup?

  • Many parents begin with a sippy cup, which has a lid and spout is intended for transitioning between the bottle and a regular cup. Don’t worry if your child refuses a sippy cup. Some kids move right from the bottle to a regular cup when they’re ready.
  • Choose a non-breakable cup that has two handles for easy gripping and a weighted bottom to prevent tipping. Add just a small amount of liquid to the cup until your baby has gotten used to drinking.
  • Your baby may have a preference for a specific type of cup. If he continues to resist drinking, try a few different styles. A soft, silicone spout sippy cup might make an easier transition than the hard, molded plastic spouts.
  • You can also find training cups with interchangeable lids that work with every stage of your child’s cup readiness.

Things to Consider

  • In order to get fluids from a sippy cup, babies have to work much harder then they are used to at sucking and this can cause frustration to build. If that seems to be your child’s problem, remove the valve that controls the flow of the cup’s fluid. The milk will be easier for your baby to suck through the spout, although it may lead to more drippy messes.
  • Breastfed babies are often slower to transition to a cup.
  • Remember: NO cow’s milk or soy milk until Baby is one year old.
  • Know that your child will not fully master the motor skills required in drinking from a cup until he is about two years old. Until then, expect plenty of spills! Continued practice with a cup will help Baby develop the necessary movements and coordination required.

Image: Beth Nazario/Flickr 



Donna DeForbes is a writer, designer and the force behind Eco-Mothering.com, a blog that explores ways to make going green fun and easy for the whole family. She is the author of the e-book, “The Guilt-Free Guide to Greening Your Holidays.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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