Sippy cups are used to train babies to drink from cups. A typical sippy cup is made of plastic and has a lid that you snap or screw on. It has a spout that prevents your child from spilling the contents of the cup while drinking. There are different models, with or without handles, featuring different types of spouts.
Sippy cups are effective in helping babies transition from nursing or bottle-feeding to drinking from regular cups. They can also be useful for improving hand-to-mouth coordination. In cases where a child has the motor skills to handle a cup but has yet to develop the ability to avoid spilling the contents, a sippy cup lets them use the cup without leaving a mess.
You may be wondering when the right time to introduce a sippy cup is. You may have to rely on your intuitive judgment. Some babies readily use them at the tender age of 6 months; some begin to enjoy them at one year. The American Dental Association advises parents to start their babies on the sippy cup by their first birthday to avoid tooth decay.
Transitioning to a sippy cup
Some babies readily take up the sippy cup whereas others need some time to get familiar with the idea. In a minority of cases, the baby may reject it. The following are useful tips for transitioning into a sippy cup.
• At first, go for a sippy cup with a soft spout that is pliable. Compared to a hard plastic spout, a soft spout would feel familiar to your baby.
• Train your baby to use it by helping them raise it to the mouth and tip it for the contents to come out. Stimulate the sucking reflex by touching the roof of your baby’s mouth with the tip of the cup’s spout.
• Don’t rush the baby. It is a good idea to put only water in the cup to avoid messes, at least until your baby learns the technique. Give it some time and try again after a few weeks.
• Shop around. Numerous sippy cup types are available, featuring different types of spouts. They are not costly items so you can let your baby try out a few so they can find the one they seem to prefer.
When your baby refuses the sippy cup
Babies can reject sippy cups for any of a number of reasons. Needless to say, using one is not compulsory. Many babies transition straight from nursing or the feeding bottle to a regular cup. Here are a few tactics you can try to encourage your baby to use the sippy cup.
• Before giving it to the baby, dip the spout of the cup into formula or breast milk. Alternatively, you can put the nipple of the feeding bottle in her mouth and then replace it with the sippy cup spout after the baby starts sucking.
• Halfway through feeding them using a feeding bottle, switch to the sippy cup. If they use a bottle, give her half the formula or breast milk from the bottle then give them the second half using sippy cups to prevent spills.
• Try a different type of sippy spout – Some cups take a lot of work to drink from because of the valve it uses to prevent spillage. If your baby finds it difficult to suck out the contents of the sippy cup, try using a sippy cup that does not have the valve or one that has a removable one.
• Work in reverse order – Start by training your baby to use the sippy cup with the lid off. Put a very small amount of liquid in the cup and help your baby raise and tilt it to drink. Once the child becomes familiar with the technique and understands that the cup contains a liquid, put the lid on (first without a valve, then with it) and leave it to them.
• Provide a straw – Some sippy cups feature inbuilt straws, which some babies prefer to the spout. Once they learn how to use the straw, using the spout should come naturally.
• Try other beverages –Some babies are picky about what they drink from a sippy cup. They may use it to drink juice or water, but not formula or breast milk. (Note: don’t give a baby who’s younger than one year juice, and for a toddler, limit it to half a cup per day.)
Teach your baby how to use it. Demonstrate it to them or have an older sibling drink from it in front of the baby. Making a little sucking noise can prompt the baby to start sucking at the sippy cup. Remember not to share a cup with your baby as you may transfer tooth-decaying bacteria from your mouth to theirs. Give them a clean cup.