You don't have to be perfect to be the perfect parent!

Sippy cups are temporary!

Sippy cups serve a purpose….temporarily!  Introduce a cup at 6 months of age, and the sippy cup should be transitioned to a straw cup about 7 or 8 months and a lidless cup by age 2.

There have been so many new baby product developments over the years…some very good, some not so much.  The sippy cup is one that has really changed over the last 20 years or so.  I can remember when the only choice for a sippy cup was the bright-colored Tupperware cups with lids!  Now you can go into Target or Wal-mart, or most any other store and search aisles and aisles of different sippy cups.  Ones with soft nipples, ones with hard spouts, ones that have handles, ones that have straws, character cups, valveless cups, disposable cups……you get what I am saying.  It would take most of us an afternoon and a small fortune to try to find the “best” cup for a child.

Sippy cups should be introduced to your baby when your baby starts solid foods.  With a solid food meal, your baby should try a few sips of tap water.  Much of the water will dribble down your child’s chin at first, but drinking from a cup is just like any other developmental task, it takes practice.  Sippy cups were meant to be transitional cups.  That means temporary!  Every day I see children aged 3, 4 and sometimes as old as 5 with sippy cups!  Drinking from a lidless cup is a developmental milestone that is important!  Children should be able to drink from a lidless cup with very few spills by age 3.  Here are a few tips on picking the best sippy cup, and why transitioning from it to a lidless cup is so important!

1.  Pick a sippy cup that has a hard spout that is NOT like a bottle.  Your child should be learning how to drink from a cup, not learning how to drink from a cup that looks and acts like a bottle!  Start using the sippy cup when your baby starts solid foods.  Start with water, and eventually put breast milk or formula in the cup, so your child learns that milk can come from something other than the breast or bottle.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are no longer drinking from a bottle by about a year.

2.  Pick a sippy cup that does not have a valve, or that has a valve you can remove.  Once again, your child is learning a new skill…sucking is old hat!  Your child needs to learn how to drink and control the flow of a liquid without sucking.

3.  Do not allow your child to drink juice or milk from a sippy cup all day long.  Your child will continually coat his or her teeth and promote decay, and will drink too many calories!  Water during the day, milk with meals, juice ( no more than about 4-6 ounces maximum a day) only occasionally.  The sippy cup will quickly become a comfort item like a pacifier or a bottle if your child carries it around all day.

4.  Encourage lidless cups at meals by a year.  Children who continue to suck on a sippy cup could end up with speech difficulties.  Sucking for too long can cause the mouth and oral muscles to develop poorly resulting in speech problems.

5.  Transition to a straw cup.  The introduction of a straw cup protects your child’s teeth when drinking fluids with a high sugar content.  The sucking motion on a straw also is different from the sucking motion on a sippy cup.  The tongue is placed differently when using a straw cup which prevents the poor muscle development in the mouth that comes with prolonged sucking on a bottle, sippy cup, pacifier, or thumb.

6.  Give up that sippy cup by age 3.  Children are developmentally ready for a lidless cup by age 3 if they have been given the opportunity to learn how to use it!  A good place to practice is in the bathtub…no worries if there are spills there!

So parents, let go of that sippy cup!  Allow your child to learn how to drink with a lidless cup.  Their teeth and their speech will thank you.  Relax, there will be a few spills, but there is no reason to cry over spilled milk!  🙂

Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.


American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

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