At some point before your baby’s first birthday, you will probably be thinking about giving him a sippy cup. Maybe you would like to give him a little water, or perhaps you plan to pump your breast milk and would like to bypass bottles altogether, weaning your baby straight to a cup. You may just want to get your baby accustomed to a cup in preparation for the transition from formula later on.
But when is the best time to start?
Well, this varies widely from baby to baby. Some babies are interested in sippy cups from as early as 6 months, whereas others show no interest at all until much later. It doesn’t do any harm to offer your baby a sippy cup at any stage, although he may need a lot of help at first, particularly if he is very young.
There are many different styles of sippy cups on the market and it’s very difficult to recommend the “ideal” variety – as you know, babies have their own opinions and preferences about many things and sippy cups are no exception!
Some models have valves and require your baby to suck quite vigorously. Some babies – younger ones in particular – don’t get on so well with this type of cup and prefer a more “free-flowing” spout. While this may be a bit messy at first, it can get your baby used to the idea of what a cup is all about.
MY BABY WON’T DRINK FROM A SIPPY CUP!
This is very common — and many parents worry unnecessarily that their babies are somehow “falling behind” if they’re not using a sippy cup by their first birthday.
Be patient. It is not essential that your child drink from a sippy cup — supplemental water and juice are, in general, unnecessary during baby’s first year anyway.
Don’t compare your baby to others — all babies develop differently and “sippy cup skills” may not be your baby’s area of expertise!
He’ll work it out eventually – but in the meantime, here are a few tips to make the introduction of a sippy cup a little easier…
* If he’s struggling to get a drink from the cup but doesn’t seem to be able to suck hard enough, try removing the valve. Watch out, though, because the liquid will flow far more rapidly.
* Dip the spout into the liquid, so that your baby knows what’s inside. Don’t assume that he will automatically realize that a cup contains a drink!
* Demonstrate how to use the cup and display exaggerated enjoyment as you drink… so he really wants to taste some, too! Alternatively, have a sibling or little friend use a cup in front of him — babies are natural mimics and seeing a friend enjoying a sippy cup may provide just the incentive he needs!
* Don’t introduce the cup when he’s tired — if he’s thirsty, he’ll become frustrated and upset very quickly. Early in the morning, when he’s wide awake, is the best time to try.
* Try different kinds of cups and spouts until you find the one your baby prefers. For a first cup, many babies like soft, rubbery spouts, which feel closer to a nipple.
* Try using a feeding set with interchangeable spouts. Some sets feature bottles on to which you can attach a regular nipple OR a sippy spout. Your baby may be happier about trying the spout if the bottle looks familiar.
* If you are planning on giving your baby formula or breast milk from the sippy cup, then make sure you put milk in the cup when you introduce it to him. If you use water or juice, he may associate the cup with these drinks only — and then refuse to take milk from the same cup.
IMPORTANT: Allow your baby to use a sippy cup in moderation only. Don’t put him to bed with a cup of milk or juice as these drinks will “pool” around his teeth, leading to tooth decay. Always clean your baby’s cup thoroughly — particularly the valve, which can harbour bacteria.
SKIPPING THE SIPPY CUP
Some parents prefer not to use sippy cups at all — they’re certainly not essential and didn’t even exist when WE were growing up!
There is some concern among speech therapists that the extended use of a sippy cup can affect oral development and speech skills — and some parents just find these types of cups somewhat unhygienic, due to the need for scrupulous cleaning of the valves.
Some breastfeeding mothers have found that using the types of sippy cups that require vigorous sucking can cause their babies to latch on a little differently — sometimes painfully — as they become accustomed to sucking on the cup. If you are breastfeeding, you might want to consider using a free-flowing spout, or trying these alternatives to using a sippy cup…
* Some babies will readily drink from a regular cup, using a straw. If your baby is happy to do this, then cut the straw down to a length that’s easier for him to control. Remember — never allow your baby to walk or run with a straw in his mouth.
* Many parents find that “shot” glasses are perfect for babies (used under strict supervision, of course). The size is perfect for baby’s little mouth and hands — and, because it’s so small, there’s not much to spill if he tips it over!