Parents and caregivers want to know when they should start to serve their baby from an open cup. The answer is 6-months. It is around the time that baby can sit unassisted in their high chair, and they start showing an interest in solids. Keep an eye out for those signs. Then, introduce the open cup. Once baby can successfully take sips of water from an open cup (with a grownup holding the cup), they are ready for the next step, which is straw cups! This is usually around 6 to 9-months. Straw cups are great for on-the-go situations.
Next up, what should grownups put in the open cup? You can start with small amounts of water. Then you can try formula or breastmilk! Babies and young children do not need juice, unless for medical reasons (as prescribed by your doctor). You don’t need to offer more than 1-2 ounces of water for a baby at 6-months as we don’t want to displace their milk feeds. Drinking from an open cup at that point is merely practice. Around 9-months, you can offer up to 3-4 ounces of water, as it is helping them build a love for water. By 12-months onwards, they can have as much water as they want!
Open cups promote proper oral development. Learning to drink from an open cup strengthens mouth muscles (cheeks, tongue, lips), which then helps with eating, talking and allows the jaw to properly grow. Introducing open cups first is not only recommended by dentists, but also by speech language pathologists, dieticians, and occupational therapists. The oral development that open cups promote is important for so many skills. Open cups also encourage hand-eye coordination, independence, and will make weaning from the bottle (or breast) easier in the future.
Baby’s First Cup
It may seem counterintuitive, but the open cup is the first cup you want to introduce. Sippy cups can be skipped all together, as they do not promote a new skill, because it is the same swallowing pattern as the bottle. Sippy cups push the tongue down (much like the bottle does) while they drink, and continued use of this can cause delay in oral motor development. This why we recommend weaning from the bottle by 12 to 18-months and avoiding use of sippy cups. We need to teach baby to swallow by sealing their lips and resting the tongue behind their top front teeth – open cups teach this! This is called tongue tip elevation and is a very important skill for language, eating, and dental development! Also, exclusively breastfed babies do not need to learn how to use a bottle or sippy cup. Breastfeeding uses a suckling swallowing pattern much like the bottle, however, baby pushes their tongue UP to squeeze the breast between their tongue and hard palate (roof of mouth). This tongue elevation seen with breastfeeding is why breastfeeding has positive effects on oral development and does not need to be weaned at 12-months.
Things to look for in an open cup include a small cup with no rim. Extra features that can help baby include a weighted bottom to keep the cup from toppling over and a silicone grip for an easier hold. Grownups will want to start with a small cup with liquid filled close to the top of the cup. If you offer a larger cup, baby will need to tilt their head way back in order to get liquid from it, and this will be harder for them to do when they are just starting off.
Some Great Open Cups
Hippie Hype Open Training Cup
It has handles, which are great for learning.
ezpz Tiny Cup
This cup is silicone with a weighted bottom. My daughter and Lauren’s daughter both have used this cup.
Marcus&Marcus Toddler Training Cup
It has grips for easy holding.
Ikea Kalas BPA-Free Tumbler
These cups are affordable and have multiple colours that the child can choose from at meal and snack times.
Grownups…helping grow an independent drinker requires a lot of practice, patience, and spills! But, you can do it! The first thing is simply having baby learn to sip and swallow from an open cup while you hold it. Independent holding can come later.
Embrace the mess!
Baby’s Second Cup
We are going to do a whole other post on the second cup – the straw cup! Once baby can successfully drink from an open cup (with a grownup holding the cup), they are ready to learn the straw cup. This is usually around 6 to 9-months. Why? We know the amazing benefits of the open cup. But sometimes we need a spill/leak-proof option for on-the-go. This is where straw cups are great! As mentioned before, we are teaching baby a mature swallow pattern, where they place their tongue up behind where their top teeth are/will be (tongue tip elevation). This is important for proper oral development (dental, eating, speech). Straw cups promote this skill in conjunction with open cups. It is important that baby learns how to use both an open cup and a straw cup. Try to use an open cup the majority of the time, but still offer straw cups, so they can practice and master this skill!
Happy sipping, little ones!